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Saturday, February 02, 2013

MTUC blast government's decision to allow employers to deduct wages to recover levy from migrant workers

January 31, 2013
 
KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 31 – Malaysia’s largest labour group lashed out today at the administration for reinstating a 21-year-old levy on foreign workers, a policy it said discriminates against migrant workers and said it will file an official complaint on the move with the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

But separately an employers group backed the Cabinet decision to reinstate the levy, saying it will profit the country by boosting job opportunities for locals and reverse an annual RM2 billion cash outflow.

“Government’s sudden reversal of its policy requiring employers to pay the annual foreign worker levy is a great injustice against migrant workers,” the Malaysian Trades Unions Congress (MTUC) secretary-general Abdul Halim Mansor said in a statement today.

He noted that the federal government had four years ago decided to collect the tax it introduced in 1992 from employers instead of from workers, in a bid to cut dependence on foreign labour.

Abdul Halim said that at every stage of deliberation, the National Wages Council and the Cabinet had intentionally decided that the new floor wage plan, which was supposed to take effect from the start of this year, was to apply to all workers “including two million migrant workers, so as to demonstrate to the world that Malaysia does not practise discrimination against migrant workers”.

He said the human resources minister had also told the ILO that all labour laws and legal safeguards in Malaysia applies to all workers irrespective of their country of origin.

In reality, the policy was not so, Abdul Halim said.

“The new minimum wage rate does not apply to domestic workers. Does the new ruling on levy apply to them as well? he asked.

He claimed that up to 75 per cent of today’s workforce consisted of migrant workers.

“This new policy shows the government’s declaration that they are keen to reduce dependency on migrant workers, is hollow and most insincere.

“MTUC will submit an official complaint to the ILO on this matter,” he said.

Abdul Halim also accused the MCA, the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) Chinese partner in the coalition, of worsening the situation with its repeated calls to strip away lodging and transport coverage for migrant workers after imposing the levy.

The levy for foreign workers was introduced in 1992 and had been fully paid by the workers until 2009 when the government decided to shift the burden to employers in a bid to stem the flood of foreign labour pouring into the country then.

Malaysia’s workforce is about 13-million strong and over four million foreigners are holding jobs here, Deputy Finance Minister was reported saying today in The Star Online news portal.

Malaysia’s rising unemployment rate fell below the three per cent mark last year but hundreds of thousands of graduates churned out annually from local higher education institutions remained jobless.

A 2011 survey by Southeast Asia’s top online recruitment firm Jobstreet found a whopping 64 per cent of employers said they rejected the fresh graduates because the job seekers had asked for unrealistic remuneration during the interview.

Another 60 per cent of employers polled said they were forced to turn down the graduates due to bad attitude, personality and character.

But the bulk of foreign workers in Malaysia are employed in unskilled jobs such as in the construction and plantation sectors, which are shunned by locals, many whom prefer white-collar positions in line with the government’s pursuit of transforming the nation into a knowledge-based economy and leap into the ranks of the high-income countries.- The Malaysian Insider, 31/1/2013, Claiming foreign worker levy a discrimination, MTUC to complain to ILO

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