Saturday, December 31, 2016

Samsung and Panasonic accused over supply chain labour abuses in Malaysia (Guardian)

* There is always the option to directly employ workers, so the using of workers supplied by labour suppliers('contractors for labour') is just a means to avoid employer obligations...When worker abuses is highlighted - so easy to simply turn around and say...' we did do it, it was the 'suppliers'..? The use of these workers supplied by labour suppliers is a PRECARIOUS EMPLOYMENT PRACTICE. It also results in DISCRIMINATION at the workplace - workers doing the same work end up with different wages and rights. It also weakens Trade Unions and can be said a 'union busting' practice. These 'supplied workers' working under the supervision of the workplace owners are not considered 'employees' of the workplace - rather employees of the 'labour suppliers', as such would not be able to enjoy even the benefits of Collective Bargaining Agreements which will only benefit employees of the workplace...

Samsung and Panasonic accused over supply chain labour abuses in Malaysia

Migrant workers making goods for the global electronics brands claim they are trapped and exploited in Malaysia
Samsung and Panasonic, two of the world’s leading electronics brands, are facing allegations that workers in their supply chains are being duped, exploited and underpaid in Malaysia.

The two companies have launched investigations into allegations of abuse made by Nepalese workers after a Guardian investigation raised multiple concerns about their treatment.

The men said they had been deceived about pay, had their passports confiscated and had been told that they must pay large fines if they wanted to return to Nepal before the end of their contract. They also claimed they were forced to work for up to 14 hours on their feet without adequate rest, and with restricted toilet breaks, in an attempt to settle recruitment fees of up to £1,000 – they said they had to pay this money to secure their jobs.

They said they felt “cheated” and trapped in their factory jobs making or assembling components for household electrical goods sold on the global market. 

“My heart is aching,” said one young man who works in a factory making Samsung microwaves. “I was not given the job I was promised. I am doing very difficult work. I haven’t got the salary they said I would get.”

The Guardian spoke to 30 Nepalese migrants making products for Samsung and Panasonic. Some of those working for Samsung are employed directly by the company, but the majority are hired through a labour supply company. The workers assembling or making parts for Panasonic are employed by subcontracting companies.

Both Panasonic and Samsung forbid their suppliers from confiscating passports or charging migrant workers recruitment fees. Yet all the men interviewed by the Guardian claimed they paid up to £1,000 to recruitment agents in Nepal to secure their jobs in Malaysia. They all also claimed that their passports were confiscated on arrival in the country, illegal under Malaysian employment law.

Workers said this restricts their freedom of movement and leaves them open to detention by the authorities.

Without their passports, the workers said they couldn’t freely leave their jobs and return home without paying fines equivalent to three or four months’ basic salary.

Both Samsung and Panasonic have said they are opening investigations into the conduct of their suppliers following the claims.

The use of labour supply companies and subcontractors is common practice for foreign firms making goods for export in Malaysia but is a system ripe for abuse, according to labour rights groups in the country.

Workers making Samsung products said they were threatened by supervisors at their labour supply company when they said they were unhappy with their work and wanted to return home. “They told us, ‘If you don’t work, or leave without paying, we’ll bury you in Malaysia,’” said one man.

Workers for the labour supply company used by Samsung also claimed they were deceived about the nature and conditions of their work. They said they had been forced to pay illegal fees by recruitment agents used by their labour supply company hours before they departed for their new jobs. Some said the salary they were promised in Nepal was higher than the pay they were now receiving in Malaysia.

“I wouldn’t have come here if I had known the real conditions and salary. I was manipulated,” said one man.

“[The labour supply company in Nepal] are using the name of Samsung to cheat people,” said another worker. “We have been cheated, but we don’t want others to be cheated.”

Other Nepalese workers said they paid between 90,000-115,000 rupees (£685-£875) to a labour recruitment agency in Kathmandu used by Samsung, despite a 2015 cap on recruitment fees set at 10,000 rupees (£75) by the Nepalese government in 2015.

“I paid 115,000 rupees, but the agent only gave me a receipt for 10,000 rupees. He told me that if I was stopped at the airport I should say that that is all I paid,” said one man working at Samsung’s microwave plant. “I knew the agent was cheating me, but what could I do?”

A spokesperson from Samsung said: “As a committed member of the Electronics Industry Citizenship Coalition (EICC), we comply fully with the EICC’s Code of Conduct and have found no evidence of violations in the hiring process of migrant workers hired directly by our manufacturing facility in Malaysia.
Once there is any complaint, we take swift actions to investigate.

“We are currently conducting on-site investigations of labour supply companies we work with in Malaysia and the migrant employees hired by these companies. If any violations are uncovered, we will make immediate corrective actions and moving forward we will suspend our business with companies that are found to be in violation.”

In a factory in the capital, exhausted workers making parts for Panasonic spoke of having to work week after week of 14-hour shifts to try to repay the money they gave to recruitment agents in Nepal. Some said they were still far off paying their debts 15 months after arriving in Malaysia. Others claimed they had been told by their companies they must pay the equivalent of three months’ wages if they left before the end of their contract.

“If I could find a way to go back, I’d leave right now but I am trapped by my debts,” said one Nepalese worker, who makes parts for Panasonic. “95% of workers here would do the same.”

Workers assembling Panasonic products in the southern city of Johor Bahru said that they sometimes only received 700 ringgit (£133) a month – half of what they were promised – after production slowed due to a lack of orders.

“We know our earnings are below minimum wage, but what can we do about it?” said one of the workers.

“We feel terrible because we have a big loan to pay back. You have to work for three years just to pay it off.”

Life beyond the assembly line is difficult too. In accommodation visited by the Guardian, workers were living in a grim hostel in an industrial area in Johor with 14 men crammed into one mouldy room. They all shared one broken toilet and two shower cubicles, which opened directly on to a cooking area with a single gas cooker.

In an emailed statement, Panasonic said, “Panasonic will conduct a full investigation into the claims made by the Guardian. We are taking these allegations very seriously and if, in fact, we discover that one of our suppliers has violated such laws or regulations, we will ensure and require them to take necessary corrective action immediately.

“We expect all of our suppliers to strictly comply with our CSR [Corporate Social Responsibility] policy and declaration. These expectations are outlined in Panasonic’s contracted terms and conditions with each supplier. We do not tolerate breaches of these terms.”

The workers interviewed by the Guardian also complained about conditions inside the factories.

“The work is extremely difficult,” said one worker at a Samsung electronics plant making microwave ovens.

“You get only 45 minutes in a 12-hour shift to eat, and seven minutes every two hours to drink water.”

Other workers making parts and assembling products for Panasonic said that they stood all day without decent breaks. One worker claimed they were only allowed to stop work to go to the toilet twice in a 12-hour shift.

The electronics sector in Malaysia, which accounts for nearly 35% of the country’s export economy, has faced international scrutiny for its treatment of migrant workers. In 2014 a report by supply chain watchdog Verité found that nearly one third of workers in Malaysia’s electronics sector are in forced labour, and called for wide reforms of the policies of foreign companies operating there.

“Brands working in Malaysia have to recognise that the standard operating procedure for labour contractors is debt bondage and this has ramifications,” said Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch in Asia.

“Taking someone from Nepal and putting them in a factory in Malaysia costs money, and if these costs are not being factored into the price of a phone, or a microwave or a speaker, then they are complicit in a system that expects the workers to suffer as a result.” - The Guardian, 21/11/2016



Tuesday, December 27, 2016

McDonald Malaysia - pekerja mangsa penindasan - lapuran Guardian?

Apa kuasa penguna? Adakah kita masih mahu membeli barangan daripada syarikat majikan yang menindas pekerja? Penguna barangan dan perkhidmatan ada ‘kuasa’ dan ‘kewajipan’ memastikan ketidakadilan tidak berlaku…

Workers for McDonald's in Malaysia say they were victims of labour exploitation

Migrant workers employed through labour supply firm allege they were deceived about wages, cheated of payments and had passports confiscated unlawfully

A McDonald’s logo is seen inside one of the company’s restaurants in Shah Alam outside Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian capital
A McDonald’s logo is seen in a restaurant in Shah Alam, outside Kuala Lumpur. Migrants say they suffered labour abuses while working in the firm’s restaurants in Malaysia. Photograph: Mohd Samsul Mohd Said/Getty Images
Workers at McDonald’s restaurants in Malaysia claim they earned as little as 60p an hour and were cheated out of months of salary, a Guardian investigation has found.

The workers allege they were subjected to months – and in some cases years – of exploitation by Human Connection HR, a labour supply company contracted by McDonald’s in Malaysia to provide workers to its restaurants in Kuala Lumpur.

The workers, who come from Nepal, say they had their passports confiscated, in contravention of Malaysian law.

They claim they were deceived about their wages and were charged additional fees when they arrived in Malaysia, resulting in a 25% deduction in their basic monthly salary. Over the course of working at McDonald’s, this equated to the loss of months of wages.

Unlike in its other major markets – including the UK and US – where McDonald’s operates through a franchise model, McDonald’s outlets in Malaysia are company-owned.

The migrants also say that their salaries were not received on time, leaving them unable to buy food or send money home to their families.

“We didn’t have the money to eat because we were not paid regularly,” said one man, adding that some workers went on strike earlier this year in protest at late payment of wages. “How can we go to work on an empty stomach? I thought it was a good company and I would earn good money. Now my life is damaged. I feel that I have no future.”

McDonald’s Malaysia said in an email that it had ended its contract with Human Connection. “At McDonald’s Malaysia, the welfare of staff is a top priority,” said the company. “Earlier this year, we became aware of certain circumstances relating to services provided by Human Connection HR which were not in compliance with our standards. As a result, we have terminated our contract with them.”

The investigation, which comes just days after the Guardian exposed allegations of abuse among migrants making products for Samsung and Panasonic in industrial zones across the country, sheds further light on the malpractice of some labour supply agencies used by major international brands in Malaysia.

“We were not given our salary on time,” said another Nepalese worker. “When we went to meet the managers of McDonald’s to complain, they usually said we were not employed by McDonald’s and they are not responsible for anything. One of my friends even went to the McDonald’s manager crying after he heard news of his child’s death [at home in Nepal]. He asked him to ask for his passport [from Human Connection, so that he could attend the funeral,] but the McDonald’s manager said that he cannot do anything. I would rather die than go back to work at McDonald’s. I will never work there [again].”

Migrant workers employed at McDonald’s Mid-Valley in Kuala Lumpur, seen here, claim they were paid erratically by the labour supply company that hired them
McDonald’s Mid-Valley in Kuala Lumpur. Migrant workers employed here (not pictured) claim they were paid erratically by the labour supply firm that hired them. Photograph: Pete Pattisson
The Guardian spoke to 15 Nepalese workers formerly employed at four McDonald’s restaurants in the capital, Kuala Lumpur. The men worked at McDonald’s at different times over the course of three years.
More than half said that they had been forced to run away from their jobs without their passports or back pay, entering the illegal work market in an attempt to make some money. This would leave them vulnerable to arrest and detention by the Malaysian authorities.

Others said they had been forced to pay their own way back to Nepal after their passports were not returned by Human Connection.

Some of the workers criticised McDonald’s for failing to respond to complaints of mistreatment by Human Connection while they were working in McDonald’s outlets.

They claim that they repeatedly informed the company about problems relating to wages, salary deductions and passports, but received no assistance.

“I complained about our salary to McDonald’s many times, and the branch manager … sent the message to McDonald’s headquarters,” said one worker. “[But] McDonald’s said they had already paid Human Connection.”

The manager of one McDonald’s branch that previously employed some of the workers claims that the company’s headquarters in Malaysia were informed about the problems the men faced: “The labour supply company withheld two to three months’ wages. The workers only had a photocopy of their documents, but they should have had the original with them. We are humans. We tried to help them with food, but you can’t do it all the time.”

During their time working in McDonald’s restaurants, the men claim they were paid less than they were promised in Nepal. In some of their contracts it states that they would not have to pay the foreign worker levy, a charge placed on companies using migrant labour in Malaysia that is often passed on to the workers themselves. Payslips seen by the Guardian show that the levy was deducted, however, equating to a 25% reduction in their basic wages.

The workers also claim that they had their passports confiscated by the labour supply company on arrival in Malaysia, a pervasive but illegal practice that ties them to their employer and denies them the freedom to leave their job or the country.

“The supply company took our passports, but they will not send workers back to Nepal or give our passports back,” said one man formerly working at a McDonald’s restaurant. “Even those who finished the three-year contract cannot go home because they don’t have their passports.”

Another worker said: “Even when it is time to go, the company does not return your passport. I don’t know why … I asked to go home, but the company said they will not send me back.”

The workers who chose to return home have had to pay the equivalent of two months’ basic wages to a middleman to arrange the documents and paperwork needed to get them back to Nepal without their passports.

“I expected to earn money here,” said one. “But I’m leaving with nothing.”

The men also complained about the conditions they faced in the accommodation provided by Human Connection while they worked in McDonald’s restaurants.

A hostel used by Nepalese migrants working at McDonald’s in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur
A hostel used by Nepalese migrants working at McDonald’s in Kuala Lumpur. The workers say up to 18 men shared the space, with most sleeping on the floor. Photograph: Pete Pattisson
The Guardian visited one squalid hostel with paint peeling off the damp walls. McDonald’s advertising banners were used as makeshift curtains. In one room, a McDonald’s trophy was propped up on a fan switch with “Best of the Best Kitchen Crew” printed on its base. At one point, the workers say, 18 men were crammed into the small flat, with most sleeping on mattresses on the floor. They shared one small, grimy toilet, which also passed as a washroom.

In a statement, McDonald’s said: “While local employees make up the vast majority – more than 90% – of our workforce, we sometimes work with established recruitment agencies which employ foreign workers, 
and sub-contract a number of them to McDonald’s in Malaysia. These staff members are employees of the recruitment agency, not McDonald’s.

“McDonald’s Malaysia made repeated attempts with Human Connection HR to investigate and verify issues of non-compliance shared by the workers, raising our serious concerns through both verbal and written correspondence. Because the workers are not employees of McDonald’s, our efforts to address the issues were unsuccessful, as were proposals for McDonald’s to assume responsibility for paying workers directly. 

In the interim, to assist, we authorised restaurants to provide food and provisions to workers affected while we worked to address the issue.

“Following the termination of our contract, the workers remain employees of Human Connection HR and as such we understand that they will either return to their home country or be redeployed to other businesses.”

Human Connection did not respond to a request for comment on the worker’s allegations.

Aidan McQuade, director of Anti-Slavery International, said businesses must no longer hide behind codes of conduct but should instead take proactive measures to ensure they are not profiting from exploited labour.

“The great tragedy about this kind of exploitation is that it is actually easy to fix,” he said. “Companies operating and profiting from their business in places like Malaysia can’t say that they are not aware of the issues facing migrant workers there. They need to take a proactive investigative approach to ensuring that, if they use labour supply companies, those companies are adhering to the law and corporate codes of conduct. It’s time for this to stop.”
  • This reporting is supported by Humanity United