Friday, September 05, 2008

REAL protection of rights in law will end abuse of workers

There are 2.2 million foreign migrant workers in Malaysia today, and our government again and again talks about reducing the number of migrant workers....but alas, it is just talk.

Every year, we have this large scale crack-downs and deportations - and then we have the employers here and there talking about labour shortages - and the doors are re-opened for more foreign migrant workers to again re-enter the country.

The arrest and deportation exercise, I believe, is to appease the local Malaysian people. So much of our money is wasted.

If only, the employers, and not the poor workers, were targeted - not only would money be saved but also the employment problems may be resolved.

Previously, employer companies had to apply for permission to employ migrant workers. After they obtain the requisite permission, they then proceed to get the migrant workers, and enter into employment agreements with these migrant worker. The sending countries usually have standard agreements that must be used - and these agreements very clearly specify rights and obligations.

Then some years back, the government started allowing 'outsourcing companies' to bring in foreign migrant workers. These companies do not have jobs for these workers - so many migrant workers who had paid so much money to agents, for fees, etc end up in the country only to find that there are no jobs - no employers - no wages. Some of these 'outsourcing companies' just abandon them... If there are no jobs, the workers would not get their 'work permits' (Pas Lawatan (Kerja Sementara), etc...)

When in desperation, the migrant workers seek their own employment, and get arrested by them RELA gangs, charged, convicted, whipped and deported..

Very little is done to these guilty 'outsourcing companies' - and even if these companies were blacklisted - all their shareholders/directors need do is set up a new company and get back into business...

Things that should be done is that we need to get rid of these outsourcing companies - and insist that the local employer company have to enter standard employment agreements with their workers before bringing them into the country.

There must be laws making it very clear that it is the employer that has to pay for everything, including levy and all other fees, and the worker's wages are not subsequently deducted by the employer who try to get back all the fees/levy he spend for the worker.

The law is clear about lawful deductions - and that does not include levy, fees, etc - and the Human Resources Ministry must ensure that these 'unlawful' deductions currently practiced by some are stopped.

And if outsourcing compnaies are allowed to continue to exist, they must be made liable to pay the migrant workers they bring in the agreed monthly salary every month, irrespective of whether they find these workers jobs or not. And, if they cannot find these workers job, these companies should be required in law to pay these workers as compensation at the very least salary for 24 months, and to also pay for their travel back to their home country.

Migrant workers must also be given the right to change employers - etc..

Many employers go for foreign migrant labour because they can 'control' them - in fact treat them like 'slaves'. If they are unhappy, it is so easy to just revoke visas, and get them arrested and deported... When migrant workers go to the Labour Department to complain about non-payment of wages, etc - employers so easily can get rid of these workers completely.

Even if migrant workers are tortured, they have at present no choice of leaving this employer and going to another - their only options now is to suffer quietly with their current employer OR be ready to be sent back... Remember, many migrant workers took loans to pay all the fees/charges to come over here to Malaysia to work. So, going back is not an option.

It is their reality that allows employers to abuse them and deny them of many rights, and this must end.

At present, there are remedies in law - but the problem is that the system and practice now makes it near impossible for migrant workers to get these remedies. For local workers, it is easy, because they could be working for another whilst they pursue justice against their former employer..

Unless, they are allowed to work with other employers (or at least stay in proper shelters with food and board provided as is practiced in Hong Kong), the dismissed employee with no income is and will continue to be a victim of human rights.

If there is going to be amendments to the law, then the rights of migrants and their access to remedies of justice must be addressed.

With regard to domestic workers, their current exclusion in law (the Employment Act) from the enjoyment of the basic rights/protection accorded a a worker in Malaysia must be removed.

In fact, there must also be provisions in law as to their rights considering the very nature of their working environment. They should have to work for no more than 8 hours per day. They should have the freedom of movement - and the right to communicate with the outside world. They should have at least one day off per week....

If the government does this, employers will really review their current practice of employment of migrant workers. It is the ability to exploit and control that makes many local companies prefer the employment of foreign workers rather than local workers.

Also, we need a basic minimum wage - which shall be applicable to both migrant and local workers..

Employment Act to be amended to reduce dependence on foreigners

PUTRAJAYA: The Employment Act and the Workers' Compensation Act will be amended to reduce the dependency on foreign workers.

Human Resources Minister Datuk Dr S. Subramaniam said the amendments are expected to be tabled in Parliament by December after getting the go-ahead from the Cabinet.

With the amendments, employers would be required to notify the ministry of vacancies and justify the need to employ foreign workers about one month prior to submitting the application for foreign workers, he said.

He added that outsourcing companies have to register with the ministry the exact number of workers that was needed to ensure there was no glut in the country.

There had been cases where outsourcing companies had brought foreigners into the country first without ready jobs and had later placed them with jobs, he said.

"Outsourcing companies will be regulated based on this new system," he told reporters here on Thursday after a meeting with Home Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar at the Home Ministry to discuss matters pertaining to foreign workers in the country.

Dr Subramaniam added that housemaids who were earlier exempted from insurance coverage would be included to get protection from their employers as part of the planned amendments.

"Maids were earlier given exemption because we thought employers would automatically take care of their welfare but now since it has been found to be otherwise, the exemption clause would be removed," he said.

Dr Subramaniam also said that he was discussing with the Ministry of International Trade and Industry to give his ministry two years notice prior to the setting up of factories to ensure there was a pool of trained locals to fill vacancies.

The ministry, he said, had the database of unemployed and skilled Malaysian workers as well as conducted skills training to meet the local demand and to maximise the availability of local workers.

Syed Hamid said both ministries were working hand-in-hand to reduce the number of foreign workers in the country from the current 2.2 million to 1.8 million by the year 2010 as planned under the midterm review of the Ninth Malaysia Plan. - Star, 4/9/2008,Employment Act to be amended to reduce dependence on foreigners



The migrant workers are being exploited by employers mainly because Malaysian government advocate low wage policy. Pro-capitalist government of Malaysia is supportive to this policy to compete for FDI from multinationals and even local companies. Laws and regulations are formulated to protect this exploitative policy for the benefits of capitalist. This profit oriented companies will not fulfill the fundemental needs of workers.

The trade unions should play crucial role in campaigning for the rights of migrant workers or workers generally. They should also organise more workers (including migrant workers) into unions. Build links with progressive trade unions or workers movement in other countries. We need a fighting and democratic unions. Only strong workers movement/organisation could defeat these draconian laws and policies.


Anonymous said...



read on

What's the Meaning of 'Freedom'? .... But don't ask a politician!

by Rep. Ron Paul

"Man is not free unless government is limited. There's a clear cause and effect here that is as neat and predictable as a law of physics: As government expands, liberty contracts".

- Ronald Reagan

We've all heard the words democracy and freedom used countless times, especially in the context of our invasion of Iraq. They are used interchangeably in modern political discourse, yet their true meanings are very different. George Orwell (picture above right) wrote about "meaningless words" that are endlessly repeated in the political arena. Words like "freedom," "democracy," and "justice," Orwell explained, have been abused so long that their original meanings have been eviscerated. In Orwell's view, political words are "often used in a consciously dishonest way." Without precise meanings behind words, politicians and elites can obscure reality and condition people to reflexively associate certain words with positive or negative perceptions. In other words, unpleasant facts can be hidden behind purposely meaningless language.

As a result, Americans have been conditioned to accept the word "democracy" as a synonym for freedom, and thus to believe that democracy is unquestionably good. The problem is that democracy is not freedom. Democracy is simply majoritarianism, which is inherently incompatible with real freedom. Our founding fathers clearly understood this, as evidenced not only by our republican constitutional system, but also by their writings in the Federalist Papers and elsewhere. James Madison cautioned that under a democratic government, "There is nothing to check the inducement to sacrifice the weaker party or the obnoxious individual." John Adams argued that democracies merely grant revocable rights to citizens depending on the whims of the masses, while a republic exists to secure and protect preexisting rights.

Yet how many Americans know that the word "democracy" is found neither in the Constitution nor the Declaration of Independence, our very founding documents? A truly democratic election in Iraq, without U.S. interference and U.S. puppet candidates, almost certainly would result in the creation of a Shi'ite theocracy. Shi'ite majority rule in Iraq might well mean the complete political, economic, and social subjugation of the minority Kurd and Sunni Arab populations. Such an outcome would be democratic, but would it be free? Would the Kurds and Sunnis consider themselves free? The administration talks about democracy in Iraq, but is it prepared to accept a democratically elected Iraqi government no matter what its attitude toward the U.S. occupation? Hardly. For all our talk about freedom and democracy, the truth is we have no idea whether Iraqis will be free in the future.

They're certainly not free while a foreign army occupies their country. The real test is not whether Iraq adopts a democratic, pro-Western government, but rather whether ordinary Iraqis can lead their personal, religious, social, and business lives without interference from government. Simply put, freedom is the absence of government coercion. Our Founding Fathers understood this, and created the least coercive government in the history of the world. The Constitution established a very limited, decentralized government to provide national defense and little else. States, not the federal government, were charged with protecting individuals against criminal force and fraud. For the first time, a government was created solely to protect the rights, liberties, and property of its citizens.

Any government coercion beyond that necessary to secure those rights was forbidden, both through the Bill of Rights and the doctrine of strictly enumerated powers. This reflected the founders' belief that democratic government could be as tyrannical as any King. Few Americans understand that all government action is inherently coercive. If nothing else, government action requires taxes. If taxes were freely paid, they wouldn't be called taxes, they'd be called donations. If we intend to use the word freedom in an honest way, we should have the simple integrity to give it real meaning: Freedom is living without government coercion. So when a politician talks about freedom for this group or that, ask yourself whether he is advocating more government action or less. The political left equates freedom with liberation from material wants, always via a large and benevolent government that exists to create equality on earth.

To modern liberals, men are free only when the laws of economics and scarcity are suspended, the landlord is rebuffed, the doctor presents no bill, and groceries are given away. But philosopher Ayn Rand (and many others before her) demolished this argument by explaining how such "freedom" for some is possible only when government takes freedoms away from others. In other words, government claims on the lives and property of those who are expected to provide housing, medical care, food, etc. for others are coercive?and thus incompatible with freedom. "Liberalism," which once stood for civil, political, and economic liberties, has become a synonym for omnipotent coercive government. The political right equates freedom with national greatness brought about through military strength.

Like the left, modern conservatives favor an all-powerful central state? but for militarism, corporatism, and faith-based welfarism. Unlike the Taft-Goldwater conservatives of yesteryear, today's Republicans are eager to expand government spending, increase the federal police apparatus, and intervene militarily around the world. The last tenuous links between conservatives and support for smaller government have been severed. "Conservatism," which once meant respect for tradition and distrust of active government, has transformed into big-government utopian grandiosity. Orwell certainly was right about the use of meaningless words in politics. If we hope to remain free, we must cut through the fog and attach concrete meanings to the words politicians use to deceive us.

We must reassert that America is a republic, not a democracy, and remind ourselves that the Constitution places limits on government that no majority can overrule. We must resist any use of the word "freedom" to describe state action. We must reject the current meaningless designations of "liberals" and "conservatives," in favor of an accurate term for both: statists. Every politician on earth claims to support freedom. The problem is so few of them understand the simple meaning of the word.


Anonymous said...

When you read below, you will derive a scenario where Malaysia has employment laws that protect the capitalist and also the employers in Malaysia. Only the rich and powerful can afford legal expenses. Many law makers are feeling complacent and perhaps mentally incarcerated in their own unique ways believing that it is never good to have laws to protect the employees as it will hinder productivity and growth, a common reason given by everyone who loved the notion of humiliating their employees in order to gain control over them.

My only wish is that one day, we will be matured enough to stand up and such unacceptable abuse by employers and companies by their higher dominant position will not be tolerated. Hopefully one day, Malaysia can be mature enough to be in a position to execute Antitrust Laws as in the developed countries.

To start, there is more than one tier should one view issues regarding employment in Malaysia. For simplicity sake, there is the below RM1500 (union) monthly salary category as well as the above RM1500 (non union) monthly salary category. Much protection is for the lower (union) income group of employees.

I need to further stress here that anyone above RM1500/month or in a managerial position does not share any protection even though they fall within the current employment act.

For example in case where an employee has been unlawfully terminated, this person has 60 days to file a complain and any time after this period, no request will be entertained in Malaysia’s Industrial Court. Upon receiving this complain, the traumatized as well as jobless employee will be called along with employer for reconciliation purpose witness by a labor department personal. Here, the labor personal has no authority what so ever except giving mere suggestions to the employer to reinstate this person back. Failing which this labor personal can also suggest a “golden hand” shake for the betterment of both parties. If both parties cannot come to an understanding, this matter will be brought up to the Human Resource Ministry in Putrajaya for approval and later to be sent to the Industrial Court.

Now this is the tricky part. What happens if the HR Minister did not approve this case? This so called employee has to employ a lawyer to contradict the HR Ministry’s decision and it will cost him or her at least RM 50,000. So, it’s like good bye to this employee in most cases.

What happens when the HR Ministry approves the case to be submitted to the Industrial Court? Then it will take at least a few years when this case appears in industrial court bearing up in mind that most financially equipped companies can appeal after appeal to make sure the employee loses out in the end.

What happens when the employee wins the case in the industrial court and the company decides to appeal this case? Then most likely it will take another few years before it can be settled in court. Many cases will take between 3 to 8 years to be settle and the sad part in that the maximum payout is only 24 months, in which the so called employee has to bear lawyers fees, the emotions going to court and so forth. Please also remind ourselves that in our system the employees may not have the financial capabilities to go through this process as compared to the employers who are using their company’s expenditure.

A sad day for all unlawfully terminated Malaysians to endure in.