Forced Labour? Bonded Labour? - well, when Malaysia raised the levy payable by migrant workers to RM2,500 on 1/2/2016, the amount payable monthly will be more that RM200, and with many migrant workers earning RM900 per month(Minimum Wages), will now be earning less than RM700-00, and that is so unjust.
Hence, to survive, these migrant workers will be forced to work overtime. Malaysian laws, as it is, provide for a very unjust legal overtime limit of 104 hours - meaning for every working day, workers can be made to work an overtime of 4 hours - meaning they could be working 12 hours every working day. - See earlier post - OT - workers in Malaysia have a choice to refuse? Reduce draconian OT limit of 104 hours/month to 50 hr/mth Interestingly, the Malaysian government is said to be thinking of increasing OT limits even further.
LEVY should be paid by employers choosing to employ migrant workers rather than local workers - it acts as a DETERRENT to employers. That was the object when migrant workers levy was introduced. Labour Director-General Datuk Ismail Abdul Rahim was quated saying that, “…The rationale behind getting employers to bear the levy was to discourage them from employing foreigners…” [Star, 16/4/2009]
But alas, some employers were recuperating the monies spent for levy and other expenses, by getting permission of the Director General of Human Resources to give workers higher than permitted wage advancements OR higher wage deductions, and then recovering vide these advancements and/or deductions the monies employer spend on migrant workers including sometimes the levy. Finally, 0n April 2009, the Malaysian stopped this practice - making it very clear once again that levy was to be paid by the employer not the workers.
Then with the coming of Minimum Wages, and responding to employers of migrant workers that their cost had increased, on or about January 2013, the government changed their position saying that now migrant workers will have to pay the levy amount ( see earlier post -KSIEWTSM makes it 74 saying No to Wage Deduction to recover Levy Payable By Employers
Annual levy payable for a Migrant Worker before was - Manufacturing sector (RM1,250), Construction sector (RM 1,250), Plantation sector (RM590), Agricultural sector (RM410) and Services sector (RM1,250 – RM1,850)(rates as checked on November 2014). Now, as of 1/2/2016, levy payable is RM2,500(manufacturing, construction and service sectors) and RM1,500(plantation and agriculture)
Now there are only two categories. The first is for those in the manufacturing, construction and service sector. Here each worker will be charged the new rate of RM2,500. "For those in the plantation and agriculture, which come under the second category, the rate is RM1,500, per workers." Zahid said domestic workers were exempted.
In brief, levy payable has doubled for construction, manufacturing and service. For plantation and agriculture, it seems to have gone up higher.
Most unjust for foreign workers already here and working now. They came on the basis of the representation as to their financial obligations (levy, work permit, medical insurance, etc) then when they decided to come to Malaysia to work, and many came to Malaysia for work for 3-5 years. To suddenly be imposed with a new obligation of having to pay themselves the Levy in 2013, and now to have to pay even more is most unjust.
Unlike, local workers, these migrant workers have incurred many other expenses even before they came which resulted in the taking out of loans, etc (estimated about RM5,000 or more), and are now to be burdened even more financial obligations is grossly unjust.
They are bound by contracts, and early return to their home country is problematic and not an option to many - if they elect to do so, they may lose out on entitlements like travel home cost, etc.
For many, they have no choice, and are stuck - forced to work under ever increasing unjust conditions...(see also post, which states levy rates applicable in 2014, and I believe, there was no change until now) - Unjust to compel Migrant Workers in Malaysia to pay higher rates for healthcare in government hospitals?
Note also that the declining value of the Malaysian Ringgit, seriously impacted them - see earlier post -Dropping Ringgit - Migrant workers worst affected now, but soon all in Malaysia may experience the same?
Hence, in the name of justice, if there are to be new financial obligations, it rightfully should ONLY apply to new migrant workers coming in to Malaysia after this. Then, they will be coming to Malaysia, fully informed on all their obligations, financial and otherwise.
As it is the growing number of undocumented workers, may be because of all these restrictions and financial obligations imposed on the documented migrant worker. As it is contract substitution has always been a problem - what was promised and agreed to before they decided to come to Malaysia to work, and what happened in Malaysia when they started working was different, not just in terms of wages.
It would be good for the Malaysian government to transparently tell us, how many of the undocumented migrant workers in Malaysia came in initially as documented migrant workers? It would also be good to know why other migrant workers chose to come to Malaysia to work as undocumented workers - rather than coming in through the proper channels as documented workers?
Now, the reason why they come to Malaysia to work is clearly because there is work here - and there are so many Malaysian employers who are willing to risk employing migrant workers.
While Malaysia's Federal Constitution guarantees equality to all PERSONs (not just citizens) in Malaysia, and even its Employment Act has a specific provision making it illegal to treat migrant workers and local workers differently (see section 60L Employment Act 1955), the guarantee for equality. And, worse still the violator is not the Employer, but rather the Malaysian government.
For migrant workers, access to justice is certainly a problem - to complain normally results in speedy termination and the cancellation of work permits. While most government departments, tribunals and labour courts require the presence of the complainant for the complaints procedure to proceed, migrant workers who lose their right to remain in Malaysia on cancellation of their permits, are forced to leave the country - and justice is not done. Violators of the law easily escape. This is happening not just in labour cases but also criminal cases.
Now, the financial problems facing Malaysia now, should be blamed on the Barisan Nasional government under the Premiership of Najib Tun Razak. A good government, would have foreseen problems, and had in place measures to overcome it. But sadly, this government's solution is transfer the burden to Malaysians, workers and now migrant workers. Subsidies were removed, a new Goods and Services Tax was introduced shifting the burden of collecting these taxes from point of production to the the retailer and the consumer, toll rates have been increased, workers being asked to 'save less for the future' and spend money now policy, increasing levy payment obligations of migrant workers, Interestingly, no proposal to reduce peoples' representatives (Members of Parliament, Senators, ADUNs) wages/allowances that was just increased a lot, or reduce the number of Ministers in a very large Cabinet, ...
RM2.5 billion expected from new foreign workers’ levy rate system, says Zahid
The deputy prime minister said today the new rate would come into effect beginning tomorrow, February 1.
Previously, he said the foreign workers were charged different rates were based on the sectors where they worked such as manufacturing, construction, service, plantation and agriculture.
"Now there are only two categories. The first is for those in the manufacturing, construction and service sector. Here each worker will be charged the new rate of RM2,500. "For those in the plantation and agriculture, which come under the second category, the rate is RM1,500, per workers."
Zahid said domestic workers were exempted.
According to statistics, he said there were now some 2.135 million registered foreign workers in the country.
"Our Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had in his 2016 national recalibrated budget speech touched on this restructuring.
"This is in accordance with the development in the country's economic scenario and that at international level."
He said the government needed to come up with the new rates as the foreign workers were also enjoying various benefits such as subsidised prices for food and other necessities, which were only meant for the country's citizens.
"They are enjoying our good infrastructures too but we are also acknowledging the vital roles they play in our nation-building and to our economy." – Bernama, January 31, 2016.