Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Revoke levy decision, govt told (FMT News, 5/2/2013)

Revoke levy decision, govt told

Priscilla Prasena | February 5, 2013 
A group of 67 organisations and trade unions want the government to stop employers from deducting wages of foreign workers to pay for their levy.

PETALING JAYA: A group of 67 civil society organisations and trade unions today expressed dismay over the government’s decision to allow foreign workers’ employers to deduct wages of the workers to recover the levy employers had paid the government to employ these workers.

The group also claimed that some employers have also been trying to avoid the obligation of paying minimum wages, which was not inclusive of overtime, allowances and other benefits.

“Some do it by re-structuring worker remuneration by including all other allowances, incentives and benefits to make up the RM900, which is very wrong.

“Some employers are making employees sign documents agreeing to these changes, whereby this is made easier when there are no worker unions. Workers generally have no avenue of complaint, or even choice in the matter especially when many now are employed based on short-term employment contracts.

“A refusal by the worker means a non-renewal or no new employment contracts when their contracts expire,” it said.

Workers in Malaysia received a minimum wage of RM900 for Peninsular Malaysia and RM800 for Sabah and Sarawak starting Jan 1, this year.

The group also claimed that to avoid paying workers minimum wages, the Malaysian government also allowed employers the right to apply for a delay in paying workers’ minimum wages, and vide Minimum Wages (Amendment) Order 2012 dated Dec 12, 2012, the government allowed more than 500 employers to delay paying workers minimum wages.

“What was blatantly wrong in this process was that the aggrieved workers or their unions were not given any right to be heard before the employer’s application to deny them their entitlement to minimum wages was approved,” the group said in the statement.

They claimed that the government in the past, on the application of certain employers, allowed them to make wage deductions or wage advances, contrary to the general provisions in law with the intention to allow employers to recover from migrant workers monies expended by employers to get migrant workers to Malaysia to work for them.

“This included sometimes not just a means to recover levy paid, but also all other costs incurred by employers to recruit and bring in migrant workers.

“Approvals were given by the government with no consultation or agreement of the worker or their unions. As of April, 2009, the Malaysian government stopped this practice, and made it clear that it is employers that have to pay the levy and they cannot recover the said sum from migrant workers.

“As such, this current move to make migrant workers pay the levy removes the very intention of the levy, which is to discourage employers from employing foreign workers,” it said.

Substantial debt

The group said if the government now wants to reduce the financial burden of employers who hire migrant workers, then rightfully the government should reduce or remove the levy – not shift the burden to workers.

“Migrant workers sacrifice a lot when they elect to come to Malaysia to work. They have to leave behind spouses, children, family and friends for Malaysian law allows them to only come alone and work in Malaysia, and they also are barred from falling in love and getting married during their employment period, which is usually for at least five years.

“They also end up incurring substantial debt when they come, for they have to pay, amongst others recruitment agents, most times these payments include both legal and ‘illegal’ payments.

“Whilst in Malaysia, they are bound to just one employer – having no right to change employers. When they claim rights, even through existing legal avenues, they generally are terminated and their employment permits are also cancelled depriving them the right to stay or work legally in Malaysia until their claims are resolved.

“The termination of these permits is done by the Malaysian government irrespective of whether there are outstanding claims or pending cases concerning the said worker’s rights. Until laws and policies are amended to protect migrant worker rights, naturally migrant workers become the preferred choice over local workers as they are certainly a more easily exploited class of workers,” the group said.

They called on the government to immediately rescind the decision made by the Cabinet to allow employers of migrant workers to recover the levy they pay the government by deduction of wages of migrant workers.

“We take the position that all workers, including migrant workers, are entitled to receive minimum wages, whereby this is the basic wage and should not include allowances, benefits and other work incentives.

“Employers should not be permitted to remove pre-April 2012 worker entitlements and benefits, being the date the Minimum Wage Order 2012 came into force, from existing and subsequent employment contracts,” the statement said.- FMT News, 5/2/2013, Revoke levy decision, govt told

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