The Malaysian human resources ministry in a proposal asked employers to deduct 20 per cent of the basic wage of the expatriate workers to discourage them from fleeing work and causing losses to the employers.
Malaysian news agency BERNAMA quoted human resources minister M. Kula Segaran as saying at a news conference that the proposal had been submitted to the National Labour Advisory Council last week for discussions with the stakeholders before finalizing it.
The deductions would benefit both the employers and the workers, he said at the news conference he called after holding a dialogue with 60 employers.
Kula Segaran said that the deducted part of foreign workers’ wages would be kept in the Social Security Organisation and returned to the expatriates when they leave Malaysia on expiry of their work permits.
A majority of the employers welcomed the proposal, he said, adding that the government did not set any timeframe for its implementation and left the option open to the industry players whether they would accept or reject the proposal.
He said the proposal was not new to the industry as it had been implemented in Japan and South Korea to addressing the issue of fleeing foreign workers.
Migrant rights activists in Malaysia and in other countries condemned the proposal saying that it might instigate the employers to exploit workers. When contacted, global migration expert and Netherland based Bangladeshi Diaspora organization BASUG chairman Bikash Chowdhury Barua told New Age that the proposal would curb workers’ right to choose where they would work.
‘As a member of the diaspora organisation, which is fighting to ensure the rights of the migrants, we on behalf of BASUG, strongly condemn such anti-workers arrangement,’ he said.
Malaysian human rights activist and North South Initiative executive director Adrian Pereira told New Age in a text message that the proposal does not address the root cause why workers flee work.
He also said that illegal deductions of salary goes against principles of Non Discrimination and is a form of Wage Bondage. ‘It will only back fire.’
Bangladeshi migrant right activist and WARBE Development Foundation secretary general Faruque Ahmed demanded transparent working conditions. Awaj Foundation director for migration Anisur Rahman Khan said the proposal of the Malaysian government might instigate employers to exploit migrant workers. Now eight lakh Bangladeshis are working in Malaysia.
The Penang chapter of Malaysian Trades Union Congress, in short MTUC, on Saturday expressed shock over proposal to deduct or withholds 20 per cent of the wages of migrant workers.
A press release signed by MTUC Penang chapter secretary K.Veeriah said that what the Minister ought to do was to investigate the underlying causes for which migrant workers leave their jobs.
Taking an easy way out can never be the answer. It would, thus, be appropriate for the Minister to take a holistic approach to the issues confronting migrant workers.
A piece meal approach would never serve the higher objective to understanding the issues confronting migrant workers, the press lease said.
These fundamental issues aside the Minister ought to have taken advice if the said 20% deduction is permissible in law. To the best of our knowledge Section 24 of the Employment Act 1955 does not permit such a deduction. His suggestion, to park such deductions with SOCSO, raises the question of whether there exist such provision under the Social Security Act?
Want stories like this in your inbox?
Sign up to exclusive daily email
More Stories from Foreign affairs