KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 8 — The Ministry of Human Resources this evening hailed the mediation outcome in which a recruitment company was compelled to pay just half of backdated pay owed to 733 Bangladeshi workers as a “success”.

The ministry in a statement issued this evening called the negotiations a “landmark case” that would set a powerful precedent that could hold foreign worker hiring companies accountable if they fail to secure employment.

It did not say if criminal proceedings would be brought against the company despite allegations of fraudulent practices.

“The success of this proceeding is a landmark case that will set a precedent in other labour-related cases because it involves migrant workers who are brought in here through legal means but are not given jobs once they arrive, and then neglected,” the statement said.


“Employers who are found guilty will be blacklisted by the authorities and the balance of their quota (for worker intake) will be cancelled,” it added.

The Johor Labour Department (JTSKM) on Monday directed MuliaOne Energy Sdn Bhd, the recruiters who brought over 700 Bangladeshi workers to Pengerang, Johor, on the pretext that there were jobs there, to pay RM1.03 million in backdated pay to all of them as part of an agreement reached during mediation between the two parties.

The workers had initially sought RM2.1 million in unpaid wages and filed the case with the JTSKM, acting on the advice of officials from the ministry. Minister of Human Resources Steven Sim had pledged to provide assistance and act tough against the company.


Malay Mail was told that the workers were not legally represented, and their inability to speak in English of Bahasa Malaysia meant the recruitment companies were able to steer the negotiations to their favour.

“The settlement announced today is a heavily negotiated settlement whereby destitute Bangladeshi workers, heavily in debt and without independent legal representation, have been coerced by their awful situation into accepting less than half of the lost wages owed to them,” said Andy Hall, an independent migrant rights activist who has followed the case closely.

“The workers have also seemingly been provided no compensation for their ongoing suffering and current situation of debt bondage akin to modern slavery or forced labour.”

Activists who work with the workers said they came out of the negotiations short-changed, and called the mediation a sham that could encourage fraudulent recruitment companies from continuing to exploit an industry human rights groups said is comparable to human slavery.

Malay Mail was informed that the workers in Pengerang still face intimidation and abuse by their current employers, even as they have been moved into new and more decent workers quarters. They were previously forced to squat in a vacant building without much food and water.

A group of them alleged that some of the Bangladeshis who attended Monday’s mediation have been missing since.

“Some workers allege they either have been abducted or had run away,” said an activist who asked not to be named for fear of reprisal by the company.

Malay Mail could not independently verify the information.

The Johor Labour Department could not be reached for comment.