February 20, 2024

Malaysia wants to slash migrant wages

From Freedom United

Migrant workers in Malaysia are facing a new threat: the government wants to deduct 20% of their salaries in a move to prevent them from running away from their employers.

Shockingly, Malaysia’s Human Resources Minister M Kulasegaran believes this is ‘win-win’ for both workers and employers. Yet this plan moves Malaysia in the opposite direction of stopping bonded labor and violates fundamental labor rights.

Migrant workers who have done absolutely nothing wrong do not deserve to be punished.

Act now to reject 20% wage deductions

“If workers are given a decent wage, decent work environment and a decent life, why would the employers fear their workers running away? That’s a vital question that needs to be answered,”[1] said Glorene Das, the executive director of Tenaganita.

Migrant workers in Malaysia — largely from Indonesia, Nepal, and Bangladesh — often owe thousands of dollars in exploitative recruitment fees. Taking away one-fifth of their income will make them even more vulnerable to debt bondage, a form of modern slavery where workers are forced to work to pay off a debt.

The Malaysian government says workers’ wages would be held by the Social Security Organization, and that they can claim them when their work permits expire and they leave the country.

On the verge of tears, Mahesh, a Nepali factory worker, said that he already struggles to support his mother, wife, and children back home on his $250 a month salary.[2]

He is over $1000 in debt to recruiters, and the threat of losing 20% of his wages is especially cruel and unwarranted.

“I have a family, and I have to eat and survive here…What should I do?” he pleaded.

Take action to support migrant workers in Malaysia

But as well as reducing already meager wages preventing some workers from leaving, this proposition would open the door for abusive employers to cancel the work permits of migrant workers who speak out, making it extremely difficult for them to retrieve withheld wages.

Send a message to Minister Kulasegaran: migrant workers’ hard-earned wages are no bargaining chip.

In solidarity,

Joanna and the Freedom United team

Joanna Ewart-James
Executive Director, Freedom United
[1] https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2018/12/16/activists-slam-proposal-to-deduct-foreign-workers-wages/?fbclid=IwAR127ZvFPE-6W7NvPSGCgjQkBLSZfezB3MImGvWDutKsx9Wo6u72PGKc-kI
[2] https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2019/01/23/revealed-condom-supplier-nhs-british-high-street-accused-shameful/

For more on this story and to sign petition go to: https://www.freedomunited.org/advocate/malaysia-end-debt-bondage/?trk_msg=0FNGEGS6DQ5KP5TK1VDJ31G6E4&trk_contact=037FSGUJ91I19DOFIHRSCHO86K&trk_sid=HH0071EJ96R3M6450E6QI6M3OC&utm_source=Listrak&utm_medium=email&utm_term=Take+action+to+support+migrant+workers+in+Malaysia&utm_campaign=FU-EN-07FEB-2019-MALAYSIA-NAT-ACTIVE&utm_content=FU-EN-07FEB-2019-MALAYSIA-NAT-ACTIVE

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