Malaysia: 49 groups object to govt's proposal for 20% salary deduction to serve as bond for foreign workers

Author: Charles Hector for 49 CSOs, Malaysiakini, Published on: 2 January 2019

"Migrant worker wage cuts to prevent runaways is forced labour," 31 December 2018

We are perturbed by the Human Resources Ministry's proposal for employers to deduct 20 percent of their foreign workers' basic salaries as a means to bond workers to their employers.

Minister M Kulasegaran said the proposal...aimed at preventing foreign workers from fleeing, and to avoid employers from incurring losses on investments to bring the workers in. 

...Mechanisms like keeping of part of workers' wages to prevent them from leaving their employers is wrong, and could be considered forced labour.

...[W]e call on the government to:

  • Abandon the idea of retaining part of the wages of workers "as a means to bond workers to the employer";
  • Repeal the provision in law that delays the payment of overtime, work on rest day and public holidays by a month. Workers should be paid promptly at the end of the month for overtime and work on rest days/public holidays;
  • Take action against employers that retain passports and/or visas/work passes of their workers, something used, amongst others, to prevent workers the freedom to leave employers,
  • Reduce the overtime limit of 104 hours in compliance with international standards, which should not be more than 48 hours a week generally;
  • Investigate independently allegations of human rights violations, and not make allegations or take retaliatory actions against human rights defenders, including media, that highlights such allegations;
  • Take prompt action against employers that violate worker rights, irrespective whether the violation is ongoing or happened in the past. Penalties in law for violation of worker rights need to be increased to deter the violation of worker rights;
  • Ratify Hours of Work (Industry) Convention, and preferably also the Forty-Hour Week Convention;
  • Ratify the Abolition of Forced Labour Convention. Malaysia, who ratified the convention in 1958 denounced it in 1990;
  • Ratify the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families;
  • Ratify all fundamental ILO and UN conventions;
  • Promote and protect human rights defenders, and enact legislation to prevent retaliatory actions against human rights defenders that highlight alleged human rights violations; and
  • Respect and promote worker and trade union rights in Malaysia.

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