KUALA LUMPUR, April 8 — The Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) has urged the government to take action against unscrupulous employers who leave their migrant workers unpaid and stranded during the ongoing movement control order (MCO) against the Covid-19 pandemic.
Its secretary-general J. Solomon said the Labour Ministry’s enforcement team must act to nip this problem in the bud, since such treatment of migrant workers has placed Malaysia in breach of all international labour standards and invites condemnation from the global community.
“The MTUC has already received more than 300 complaints from workers throughout the country claiming that they have been retrenched, asked to take a pay cut or forced to go on unpaid leave,” he said in a statement.
Solomon said this is only the beginning of a serious problem arising from employers who are using the MCO as an excuse to sack workers, thereby abandoning them after huge profits have been made while giving them a minimum wage.
He cited the most recent example documented by MTUC, which involved the termination of 32 documented migrant workers in USJ, Selangor who were employed by three small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
“After the MTUC-ILO Migrant Resource Centre of the Central Region team visited the Nepali, Bangladeshi and Burmese workers at their hostel located at the Taipan Business Centre on the second floor of a shop lot, it was discovered that they were not only left unattended in their hostel with no one to turn to, but also faced pay cuts for the days they did not work during the MCO.
“After interviewing them, we found that most of them were terminated from their employment without being paid their salaries from the time the MCO was implemented. They say the employer refused to tell them why the deduction was made from their salaries although the government had assured all that this would not happen during the MCO,” Solomon said.
The secretary-general also noted the workers were living in cramped conditions with poor hygiene, and expressed concerns this could trigger a Covid-19 cluster and lead to serious repercussions for the country’s health system.
“One of their biggest concerns is how they are going to survive here for the next month or two without salaries as they will not be able to go back to their respective countries with a worldwide movement restriction in place.
“The MTUC lodged an official complaint with the Labour Department in Putrajaya with details of all the workers including copies of their pay slips and work contract, with official promises that the matter will be looked into,” he said.
Adding that it is the MTUC’s duty to defend all workers irrespective of their nationality, Solomon said Malaysia is host to several million documented foreign workers, which could cause serious social problems if the government fails to prevent such abuses.
“Once left unattended with no income, food and shelter, they will have no choice but slip into the general populace and resort to unlawful activities to survive. In the worst case scenario, they could protest which could easily turn violent and lead to anarchy.
“We urge the employers to show humanity by making sure they have a decent place to stay and food to eat as long as they are here. MTUC also calls upon the Human Resources and Foreign Ministries to get the cooperation of the diplomats to help handle their workers in this extraordinary time,” he said.