Abusers of foreign labour don't deserve your ringgit

NOVEMBER 30 — You would think that by 2017 we would have cracked down on foreign labour agencies and their misdeeds.

Instead, foreign media continues to report on the cruelty endured by foreigners who come here desperately hoping to earn enough to send back home.

The Guardian reported on the misdeeds of a firm supplying foreign labour to, among others, McDonald's.

Of course, some people would question the facts of the reporting. Why believe a few Nepalese labourers, who might just be trying to milk sympathy and compensation?

The reality is that the abuses the HR company are accused of are very common: seizing passports, withholding pay, misrepresentation of actual working conditions and compensation.

Yet why do workers from Nepal, Bangladesh, Cambodia et all still fall for the honeyed lies from recruiters? Because they are desperate enough to want to believe. In countries with limited employment opportunities and widespread poverty, earning pennies in Malaysia still seems like a better deal than earning nothing at home.

The stories in the Guardian article not only made me want to cry, but put me off eating McDonald's, possibly for life.

Because now, when I see a McDonald's burger, I won't just see the greasy junk food masquerading as sustenance. I'll also see a Nepalese man weeping, begging his manager to help him get his passport back so he can fly home for his child's funeral.

So yes, I'm boycotting McDonald's where once I would laugh at the various claims that the franchise was supporting Israel and using Palestinians as burger meat. Because I know the latter claims are fabrications but it is the truth that the company knowingly used contracted labour from a company that mistreated its workers.

McDonald's should have reported the firm to authorities and stopped using its services as soon as the abuses came to light. That did not happen. Why? It's hard to say.

What is certain is that I will no longer use the services of any firm that mistreats its foreign labour or finds evidence of mistreatment but does little to nothing.

I cannot justify eating cheap food or buying cheap products if that means that the price is some stranger's suffering. The exploitation of foreign labour has to stop and if not now, when? In a world as fast-changing as ours, don't discount the possibility of someday our offspring working as human exports for cruel, penny-pinching masters.

It's the 21st century; no one, least of all Malaysians, can make any excuse for slavery.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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