As a minimum wage law goes into effect this month in Malaysia, the Malaysian Textile Manufacturers Association (MTMA) is asking the government to allow its members to reintroduce a lower-paid probationary period for foreign workers. 

Companies in the textile and apparel industry commonly place new employees under a 3-6 month probationary period during which they receive a salary 30% lower than their full wage, according to MTMA chief executive officer Andrew Hong.

However, a separate government decree last year banned probationary periods for foreign workers on temporary visas. Now this has combined with an increase in minimum wage to MYR900 (US$270) this month for workers on the Malaysian peninsula.

Hong said the industry is being unfairly squeezed as a result. "Since they don't allow the foreign workers to have a probationary period, we're incurring higher costs on workers we're not sure are suitable for the job or are still on the learning curve," he said.

Hong added that local Malaysian workers still have to undertake a lower paid probationary period, creating an unequal environment. "It's not right," he said. "We have to create a level playing field for all the workers."

The human resources ministry has announced it plans to reassess the minimum wage law in June or July. It has not responded to MTMA's request for reviving the probationary period for foreign workers, according to Hong.