Sunday, June 27, 2010

Exploited abused workers building Malaysia's new Palace?? Shameful that UMNO-led BN government is allowing this...

Workers building the new palace for the Malaysian King are being exploited...this is an embarrassment. (see media reports below.)

UMNO-led BN government is, I believe, really pro-employer pro-big businesses ....and not pro-workers. Over the years, this government has, by their actions and omissions, demonstrated that they are  not concerned about worker rights or welfare. Under present laws and policies, it makes it so easy for employers to not only exploit workers.. but to get away scot-free. This applies to all workers in Malaysia - both local and migrant workers. We have a law that when a unionized worker gets wrongfully terminated by the employer, that worker is no longer a member of the union - and as such cannot hope for the assistance of the workers' union at the time the worker most needs it. [The Malaysian Trade Union Congress have been long campaigning for a repeal of this unjust provision in law.]

Labour suppliers....sub-contractors...outsourcing companies... - this has all made workers weak...unable to unite against a common employer. Further, it also 'blurs' the worker-employer relationship as currently enshrined in labour laws... ["...more than 1,000 migrant workers from Indonesia, Bangladesh, Nepal and Vietnam hired by more than 130 sub-contractors..." This means less than 10 workers per 'employer', in fact  about 7.69 per 'employer' - is this number even enough to form a trade union? Divide...and oppress.

In the construction industry, it may make sense having to sub-contract different parts of the contract, i.e. one for the electrical people, one for the water/sewage systems, one for the elevators/lifts, one for those doing the tiling works, etc... but sadly the same thing is happening in the factories as well. 

The factory owners...or the main contractor...just turns around and say that they are not the employers...and that they own no obligations to the sad workers. What about occupational health and safety...? 

Living conditions of workers - Malaysia still does not have any law that stipulates the minimum standard of temporary housing for workers at construction sites... or even housings that is provided by employers in factories..for workers (migrant workers usually)... Why don't we have a regulation/law stipulating minimum housing standards...and food requirements? We have needed such laws for a very long time now...

Even, when there are laws stipulating worker rights - what happens when the worker tries to claim his/her rights  - they lose their jobs... and, in the case of migrant workers, they may even get arrested, detained and deported without getting paid their wages, etc... [Unscrupulous employers call the police, RELA...and they come arrest the migrant workers. Why? Because the migrant workers cannot show their passports and/or their immigration work passes...as their employer (or sub-contractors...or agents) are wrongfully holding on to these documents. Since the worker is a trouble maker for claiming rights, the employer just do not go get them out...and they languish in the detention centers,...sometime even get whipped...and deported.]. See recent media statement about this:- STOP PENALIZING WORKERS WHO WANT TO GET JUSTICE - MAXTER GLOVE SHOULD REINSTATE BURMESE MIGRANT WORKER WHO COMPLAINED TO LABOUR DEPARTMENT

Shouldn't Labour Department officials be making spot-checks at places of work to ensure that worker rights are being protected...and that employers are following the law. They do not generally ... but if they do, then more likely workers may get their rights reducing the risk of being terminated..discriminated against when they themselves go and make the complaint.  Now, in this palace case....the Minister has assured us that he will investigate. Will they?


KUALA LUMPUR: Many foreign workers hired to build the new RM800mil Istana Negara claim they have not been paid over the last three months despite working seven days a week.

Living in fear and frustration, the workers alleged they were exploited and cheated and held to ransom by their employers because many of them do not have work permits.

There are more than 1,000 migrant workers from Indonesia, Bangladesh, Nepal and Vietnam hired by more than 130 sub-contractors who are involved in the Jalan Duta palace project.

Most of them stay in kongsi or long wooden houses near the construction site.
Eating sparingly: Workers having a meal at a stall in the kongsi during lunch time. Some claim they only have one meal a day.

According to workers interviewed by The Star, some employers threatened to call the police when they persisted in asking for their wages.

Several workers even claimed they were harassed by the police and Rela officers and that their possessions like mobile phones, cigarettes and canned drinks were confiscated.

When contacted, Human Resources Minister Datuk Dr S. Subramaniam said he would ask the Labour Department to investigate the matter and take immediate action.

Indonesian Punawi, 32, who does plastering work, said he had not been paid for five months and barely had any money left for food.

“I only manage with one meal a day and that’s because the foodstall owner allows me to eat on credit. My work permit has expired and I don’t have RM3,000 to renew it,” he added.
Jatim, 37, said their employer would hold back their wages for three to four months and they would subsequently be paid a month’s salary.

Some employers, he claimed, would extend loans of RM50 to RM100 per week to the workers, leaving them in debt.

Jatim’s wife, Salimah, 32, who lives with him at the kongsi near the construction site with their five-month-old baby, said they often lived in fear of police raids.

“Each time there is a raid, I grab my baby and run. Some of us have to spend the night in the jungle to escape the authorities.”

Brickfields OCPD Asst Comm Wan Abdul Bari Wan Abdul Khalid said the last police raid took place several months ago to flush out illegals squatting in the jungles.

“Perhaps another agency was involved in the recent raids. If the allegations are true, the workers can come and see me and I will do what I can to help,” Wan Abdul Bari said.

Bukit Aman CID Director Comm Datuk Seri Mohd Bakri Zinin said police would take take stern action against the employers if the workers’ claims were found to be true.

“We will also investigate the workers’ claim that policemen roughed them up during raids,” he said.

He urged the workers to come out of hiding and lodge police reports in order for justice to be done. - Star, 27/6/2010, Migrant workers claim they’re being held to ransom by bosses

KUALA LUMPUR: Many foreign workers hired to build the RM800mil Istana Negara claim that they have not received three months’ wages from some project sub-contractors.

There are over 1,000 migrant workers hired by 130 sub-contractors working at the project site.

The Star, responding to an SOS call, visited the site in Jalan Duta and found the workers living in frustration and fear as many do not have work permits or cannot afford to renew their permits which have expired.
Foreign workers seen at the construction site of the new palace in Kuala Lumpur recently. The workers allege that they are being exploited and held to ransom by their employers because many of them do not have work permits. — SAMUEL ONG / The Star

The project’s main contractor, Maya Maju Sdn Bhd, said it is the responsibility of the sub-contractors to pay their workers.

The Human Resources Ministry has asked the Labour Department to investigate the matter and take immediate action while the police has asked the workers to come forward to lodge complaints. - Star, 27/6/2010, Foreigners hired to build palace claim they have not been paid
KUALA LUMPUR: The main contractor for the new Istana Negara project claims it is the responsibility of the sub-contractors to pay their workers.

When The Star visited Maya Maju Sdn Bhd’s site office in Jalan Duta, Kuala Lumpur, project manager Abdul Razak Mat Yunus said they paid their contractors on time and it was up to them to pay their workers.

Maya Maju’s contract is worth almost RM650mil, while the building of an elevated highway to the main entrance of the palace, awarded to Ahmad Zaki Sdn Bhd, costs RM130mil.

Abdul Razak referred the matter to the Public Works Department, adding that only the department could give an official comment on the issue.

At the PWD site office, construction manager Aidzil Adzahar Ahmad, however, said Maya Maju was responsible for the workers and the department was merely overseeing the project on behalf of the Government.

“It is their project,” he said, adding that he was unaware of workers being abused and not getting paid.

Human rights lawyer N. Surendran said these migrant workers were “tied” to their employers who would hold on to their passports.

“Such workers do not have much say or means to complain if they are not given what has been promised to them,” he said.

He said that if a worker dared to question his boss, his employment could be easily terminated and he could be sent back to his home country. The worker, he said, would have spent a lot of money to come here to work.

“Many are desperate to earn money and help their families back home. For fear of deportation, they are forced to abide by the circumstances that they are in.”

Although, the Malaysian labour law also applies to foreigners, there is always the practical problem.

“They are put in a tight situation. Lodge a complaint and the employer cracks down on you, terminates your employment and you’re sent back to your country. So there is no real protection.

“Eventually there is no one to turn to and that is why workers put up with the conditions they are in.” - Star, 27/6/2010, Firm: Workers usually paid by sub-contractors

1 comment:

Ashvin said...

So bloody typical. The Human Resources Ministry asks the Labour Department while the poor foriegn workers try to protect their bollocks from being squeezed harder. Another Signature of 'Project Apa Nama'.Where is this (my) country heading to?