Monday, March 08, 2010

Government should proactively ensure that 'retrenched' workers get their wages/benefits - many are still waiting for the employers to pay.

Many workers are still waiting for their wages to be paid by companies/bosses who cease operations and delayed payment of back-wages (and benefits) by reason of the economic crisis. Some are waiting for 6 months wages...some for even 12 months wages. 

The shut-down of factories and workplaces, which is said to be temporary, also means that even the managers and the bosses are not coming in, and the workers may be cheated as many of these are relying only on 'verbal' assurances by the company.

For migrant workers, the problem is even greater. Now, some of the agents and/or employer's rep are asking them to go back to their home country, and they tell these workers that their outstanding wages/benefits will then be send to them. How? Some say that they will pay through their local agent, etc... - There is a great risk that these workers will ultimately be cheated of their wages/benefits unless the Malaysian government, in the form of the Human Resources Minister (or the Labour Department) steps in now to create a procedure...system that will ensure that these workers will not be cheated of their wages/benefits.
For many of these workers, it is not just the question of their basic wages, but also overtime allowances.

For workers, that are month wage earners, they are entitled to the full monthly wage irrespective of the fact that the companies only provided work for some days of the month. For many of these factories, before the factory stopped operating completely, the workers had to work only on a certain number of days per month. According to law, the workers will still have to be paid their full monthly wages - unless there was any agreement whereby the workers agreed to be paid for the days that they work only. But, rightly this 'agreement' would be invalid, and they should be paid their full monthly wages. 

Migrant workers, by reason of the work passes/permits suffer even more - since the current law restricts their employment to just that particular employer. At this time, the government must come out with a new policy that allows migrant workers in this situation, just like local workers, the freedom and the ability to seek alternative temporary wage paying employment wherever they can. 

Wages should be paid completely before migrant workers are sent back to their home country. In terms of fixed term contract workers, like migrant workers, they should be paid at least their basic monthly wages for the remaining uncompleted term of their contract if they are to be prematurely asked to return to their home country.

What the Minister of Human Resources (Labour) should do NOW?

* Get all these workers to come in to the Labour Departments, and determine the amount of wages/monies due and payable by the employer.

* Get the employer to come in as well. If the employer does not attend the meeting with the Labour Department, an order should be issued stating clearly the amount of monies die and payable to these workers.

* Copies of these orders should be given to the workers, and also the Employers - and thereafter, as usual, the Labour Department should try to enforce this order and give the said money back to the workers.

* If the monies due and payable could not be returned to the workers before they leave, the Labour Department must get details of the workers (or their family members) bank account in their home country, and undertake to transfer the said monies to the workers as soon as the Labour Department recovers the monies.

* The Labour Department must also sent to the Official Assignee copies of the Order, and details of the total sum due and payable by companies to the workers. Payment to workers should be the first priority, in the event the company is wound-up (or their employers made bankrupt). At present, the workers are waiting, relying on promises, for their wages/benefits but we do not know whether other people to recover their debts are taking legal action against the company, including winding-up and bankruptcy proceedings.

If no safeguards are put in place now, many workers will be cheated of their wages/benefits. Companies may be wound-up...sold, etc and the workers will still be waiting.

The Minister...the Labour Department must get pro-active in this matter to prevent workers being cheated. They cannot sit in their offices waiting for these workers to come to them. Adverts, Banners & Education Campaigns needed now. Seek out the workers... and help them.

Many of these are women workers, and this being International Women's Day, they should be protected and not cheated by employers and agents. 

Migrant workers, who have already incurred great debts and expended a lot of money in coming to Malaysia should be given a special attention. 

It will be easier for local workers still in Malaysia to chase and claim their rights - but the Migrant Worker, back home in their home country, will certainly find it near impossible to claim their rights.

Malaysia brought them in to exploit their 'cheap docile labour', and we hope that caring Malaysia would not cause them to be cheated of their wages, and thus further exploited. Employers really should be required to deposit at least 6 months wages of their migrant workers with the Malaysian government as a security measure - so that at least, they could get some money when employers abscond or become bankrupt/wound-up.

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