The reimposition of levy payments by foreign workers has been criticised, with up to 74 local and international civil society groups and trade unions demanding that the decision be immediately rescinded.
Expressing dismay that employers are once again allowed to deduct wages to recover the levy, the groups said this will defeat the purpose of a minimum wage for foreign workers, who will lose what little increase they were set to enjoy.
“We take the position that all workers, including migrant workers, are entitled to receive minimum wages, whereby this is the basic wage. It should not include allowances, benefits and other work incentives,” said lawyer Charles Hector on behalf of the 74.
Hector, who represents Workers Hub for Change, has issued the statement together with Asia- Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development focal point on Migration, Pranom Somwong and former Malaysian Trade Union Congress president Syed Shahir Syed Mohamud.
“Employers should not be permitted to remove pre-April 2012 worker entitlements and benefits, being the date the Minimum Wage Order 2012 came into force, from existing and subsequent employment contracts.”
Among those who signed the statement are the Malaysian Trades Union Congress, Tenaganita, Suaram, National Union of Banking Employees, Tamilnadu Domestic Workers Union, India, Mission For Migrant Workers, Hong Kong, Centre for Human Rights and Development, Sri Lanka, Bangladeshi Ovibashi Mohila Sramik Association, and the Migrant Health Association in South Korea.
Citing a 2009 statement by then Labour Department director-general Ismail Abdul Rahim, they also said the decision to shift the responsibility of paying the levy from employers to foreign workers will remove the very intention of the levy, which is to discourage the employment of foreigners.
“If the government now wants to reduce the financial burden of employers who hire migrant workers, then rightfully the government should reduce or remove the levy - not shift the burden to workers.”
They called on the government to “end all forms of discrimination against workers”.
On Jan 30, Second Finance Minister Ahmad Husni Hanadzlah announced that the imposition of levy on foreign workers, first introduced in 1992, will be reintroduced with immediate effect.
He said the cabinet had made the decision in order to reduce the rising costs faced by employers, especially in the small- and medium-size industries.
He also claimed this would not burden foreign workers as the amount would be lower than the monthly salary increase under the minimum wage scheme. - Malaysiakini, 6/2/2013, 'Levy on foreign workers cancels out minimum wage'
See statement, which at present is endorsed by 75