Friday, September 29, 2023

Hauling up employers for forced labour not enough, say groups(FMT) - fines and compound payments go to the government, not to victims of forced labour.


Hauling up employers for forced labour not enough, say groups

The groups note that fines and compound payments go to the government, not to victims of forced labour.

A group of NGOs and trade unions said the government ‘generally claims that allegations of forced labour in the country are baseless’.

PETALING JAYA: Twenty NGOs and trade unions have urged the government to ensure that workers who fall victim to labour offences are justly compensated.

The groups noted that compensation for victims of labour offences can be dealt with at the same proceedings during which their employers are hauled up to face the law.

“Fining or even imprisoning employers is simply not enough. (The government) must ensure workers, including migrant workers, are justly compensated by the perpetrators of forced labour,” the groups said in a statement.

Among the signatories were Aliran, North South Initiative, Persatuan Sahabat Wanita Selangor, and the Sabah Timber Industry Employees Union.

International groups such as the Japan Innocence and Death Penalty Information Center, Serve the People Association (Taiwan) and Women of Color/Global Women’s Strike (US) were among other signatories to the statement.

The groups said that while there have been numerous allegations of forced labour in the country, the government “generally claims that (the) allegations are baseless”.

They added that such perpetrators seldom get prosecuted for their actions.

The groups noted that earlier this month, human resources minister V Sivakumar said RM2.17 million in compounds and RM242,000 in fines were meted out to 128 employers since Jan 1 for various labour offences, including illegal wage deductions.

“However, the minister failed to state how many workers were victims of forced labour practices and whether they have been justly compensated,” they said.

“Fines and compound payments go to the government, and not to the victims.”

It noted that Section 426(1A) of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) provides that the court can order the convicted to pay “…compensation to a person who is the victim of the offence committed by the convicted accused in respect of the injury to his person or character, or loss of his income or property, as a result of the offence committed…”.

The groups said a similar provision could be inserted in the Employment Act 1955 and other labour laws.

It added the Employment Act states that where an employer has been convicted of an offence relating to the payment of wages, or any other payments payable to an employee under the Act, the court before which he is convicted may order the employer to pay any payment due to the employee in relation to that offence.

However, the groups said this does not extend to other forced labour or worker rights violations. Further, this can only happen if the perpetrator is charged and convicted in court, not to those who were offered compounds and not charged in court.

“Adequate (and) just compensation can also be awarded to victims of forced labour and other worker rights violations in the same proceedings, without requiring victims themselves to go after the convicted perpetrators alone to get justice.

“At least, then, victims of forced labour will get some compensation after the court convicts forced labour offenders, (but) still retain the right to get further compensation, if they so desire, through other civil remedies.” - FMT, 22/9/2023

See Media Statement - 

FORCED LABOUR POLICIES AND LAWS, WITHOUT ENFORCEMENT AND ENSURING VICTIMS JUSTICE IS USELESS - Laws that allow excessive overtime makes Malaysia party to propagating forced labour(20 Groups Media Statement)

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