Monday, March 11, 2013

700 Migrant Worker protest in Muar on minimum wages - Why is the Labour Department not acting?

When worker rights are violated, the government and most media is not bothered or interested to report. Even, when the workers protest or picket - whereby one of the intention of such actions is to highlight the workers plight, get public (and government) attention - Rightfully, the Labour Department(Human Resource Department) should have immediately rushed over to investigate and resolve the issue. Here, the complaint was allegedly that the workers did not get their minimum wages or was related to the implementation of the minimum wage, which by law, they were entitled to receive as of January 2013.

In Muar, it is reported in the Sinar Harian(the report was in Malay), that workers' protest started on 7/3/2013 involving about 700 workers, many being migrant workers. [See 700 ratus pekerja protes isu gaji minima - hari ke-4 keadaan menjadi kecoh - MTUC kena segera bertindak..]

The protest apparently continued on 8/3/2013. 9/3/2013 and 10/3/2013. On 10/3/2013, a small group of about 20 workers allegedly entered and brought out the production manager. Allegedly, 3 supervisors tried to get the manager back - and some little violence allegedly happened. "..The incident reportedly left the unnamed production manager and three supervisors with light injuries and bruises...."The police were reportedly called in to assist, but the workers had already dispersed by the time they arrived.

BUT...let us look at how the media reported this, especially the headline, ...Sinar Harian's headline reads, : 150 pekerja mengganas [150 workers terrorizes], and Malaysiakini's headline read 'Strike by foreign workers turn violent', and I would consider these biased against workers - Let us not forget WHY the workers started protesting - it was because of what they alleged their employer did. Maybe, the media must be more careful in the future and ensure their titling is fair to all... Why do the media not report the name of the company in their reports? I wonder

Reported were that the police came but where was the officers from the Labour Department(Human Resources Department) from the Ministry of Human Resources? Was this not a labour issue issue of minimum wage? The absence of the Labour Department is indicative of the failure of the current government - there seem to an apparent disregard to workers' plight and issues, a disinterest in ensuring that employers do not violate the law and worker rights, and here a lack of concern about 'Industrial Harmony' - when the main players in resolving the matter should have been the Labour Department officials... 

Now, we know that the police are investigating, what is the Labour Department doing? If the workers action was caused by the employer's disregard of the law and worker rights - that eventually forced workers to the street - who really is to be blamed if things turned bad. It is the government(i.e. the Labour Department not the police) that should have rushed to resolve the issue...The problem today is even if information is given to the Labour Department, some officers just do not act...and in some cases,  even when the Labour officer goes to the factory to investigate - some employers hinder the investigation by not allowing the Officer meet and talk with effected workers...etc - and the current law is so weak, for this kind of breaches of law, the sentence imposed against employers is a mere fine (a small fine) and this in fact encourages bad employers to just continue breaking the law... How many employers are being taken to task (i.e. Charged in Court) for not following the law on Minimum Wages

What does this BN government expect workers to do when employers break the law, and the government does nothing ...or acts too slow...many a times not even prosecuting but just giving employers another chance...'go do not do it again...OR never mind, we will give you an extension so that you do not have to pay workers minimum wages now.... ' . It is this reality that forces workers to protest...picket...strike or even get violent - WHY? Because many workers' perspective is that the law and avenues of justice is too slow, inaccessible, biased in favour of employers, etc 

HOW MANY EMPLOYERS ARE FACING LEGAL ACTION BY REASON OF NOT PAYING MINIMUM WAGES IN JANUARY 2013? Tell us...assure us the people that the Government is seriously taking action against such employers...and will ensure all workers entitled to receive minimum wages as of January 2013 will receive them or what is owing immediately... I have yet to see the Minister come out with any such assurance...have you?

Strike by foreign workers turns violent

1:57PM Mar 10, 2013  
A strike involving 150 foreign workers at a factory in Muar reportedly turned violent when a group of them stormed the manager's office last Friday.

Malay-language daily Sinar Harian reported today that the 3pm incident was believed to be caused the workers' dissatisfaction at the management for delaying the implementation of the minimum wage laws, which came into force in January.

The incident reportedly left the unnamed production manager and three supervisors with light injuries and bruises. The victims were described to be in their 30's.

The daily also quoted the factory's management saying that it hopes to resolve the matter internally, while Muar district police chief Mohamad Nasir Ramli reportedly said the incident would be investigated under Section 147 of the Penal Code for rioting.

Workers refuse to work 

The strike reportedly started on the day before, where some 700 workers refused to work at the factory in Parit Jalan Industrial Zone. There were no untoward incidents that day.

However, a group of about 20 people reportedly stormed the management office and started dragging the production manager, according to an eyewitness identified only as ‘Ahmad'.

Three supervisors tried to intervene but were punched and kicked.

"The situation got worse some of them threw stones and shattered many windows. The management tried to dissuade them from continuing to assault the manager, but were unsuccessful.

"Instead, things got even tenser," Ahmad reportedly said.

The police were reportedly called in to assist, but the workers had already dispersed by the time they arrived. - Malaysiakini, 10/3/2013, Strike by foreign workers turns violent

No comments: