Coronavirus: Some Malaysians in limbo over their job status in Singapore

Childcare teacher Jessie New and her son Jackson returned to Johor in April, but her husband remains as he risks losing his job if he leaves. PHOTO: JESSIE NEW

SINGAPORE (THE NEW PAPER) - Her husband remains in Singapore even though she has returned to Johor with their three-year-old son after the boy's social visit pass expired last month.

Malaysian Jessie New, 31, is expecting her second child in July, but she risks being in the midst of a quarantine when the baby's due if she were to cross the Causeway.

Her husband, who is 27, fears he will lose his job as a chef at a fine dining restaurant here if he goes back to Malaysia to be with his family.

Speaking to The New Paper on Thursday (May 21), Ms New, a work permit holder, said the biggest fear now is over her husband's job, after the announcement on Tuesday that the ban on dining-in for restaurants would not be lifted after June 1.

"(My husband) was prepared for a two-month closure but definitely not three months or more," said Ms New, a childcare teacher here who has been telecommuting from her home in Johor.

"We are worried he'll be retrenched if the restaurant keeps making losses, and it is so hard to find a job now... He misses us but he has to stay in Singapore to keep his job."

The circuit breaker will be formally lifted on June 1, when about a third of Singapore's workers will be able to resume duties at their workplaces.

Priority will be given to critical sectors and businesses that operate in settings with lower transmission risks. Besides no dining-in at restaurants, retail stores, bars and cinemas will remain closed.

Ms Aarathi Arumugam, president of the Malaysian Association in Singapore, said many Malaysians working in food and beverage and retail outlets here have been trying to find part-time jobs but to no avail.

She said: "Some were put on half days, while others have been on unpaid leave since April. They need part-time work but no one's hiring them because it is more of a hassle to employ work permit holders.

"It is really a question of 'how long is a piece of string', because these guys were waiting for June to come, but now the timeline is in even greater doubt."

Some companies say they are doing everything they can to hold on to their Malaysian workers even as Singapore's economy reels from the pandemic.

Ms Serene Ang, chief executive officer of Foodtech F&B Ventures, said her group, which runs the likes of Menya Kokoro and Emma Soft Serve, is determined not to let go of any of its staff, including 15 Malaysian workers.

She said: "We should not be firing during this difficult period. Instead, we have arranged online classes for our employees and intensified cross-training so that they can be deployed at different outlets."

Gain City had more than 100 Malaysian employees who travelled daily to Singapore for work until Malaysia's movement control order (MCO) took effect on March 18. A spokesman for the electronics retailer said the company has housed more than 50 of its Malaysian employees.

Many of its workers have also done double duty as drivers or delivery workers to help cope with a surge in online orders, he added.

A spokesman for bookstore chain Popular said it has also provided lodging for its Malaysian staff affected by the MCO.

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