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Stop penalising workers who want justice

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Sixty-five civil society groups from around the world have condemned the appalling treatment of migrant workers by a latex gloves manufacturer in Klang. They are calling for stronger protection of the rights of migrant workers.

We, the undersigned 65 organisations, groups and networks, concerned about migrant and worker rights, are appalled at the treatment of workers at Maxter Glove Manufacturing Sdn Bhd (229862-H), at its factory at  Lot 6070, Jalan Haji Abdul Manan, 6th Miles off Jalan Meru, Klang, Selangor, Malaysia .

We are appalled at the dismissal of Thu Maung, a Burmese migrant worker, who courageously lodged a complaint at the Labour Department to claim his rights as a worker. Claiming worker rights by lodging complaints against errant employers at the Labour Department is the proper and legally recognised procedure in Malaysia . It is very wrong for employers to discriminate against and/or terminate workers who are
exercising their legal rights. It is also wrong for employers to discourage and/or threaten workers from seeking justice, when worker rights are being violated.

Maxter Glove Manufacturing Sdn Bhd is a subsidiary of Supermax Corporation Berhad. Maxter Glove Manufacturing Sdn Bhd is a gloves manufacturer that makes latex- powdered examination gloves, clorinated and polymer-coated latex powder-free gloves, nitrile gloves and sterile surgical gloves which are also exported overseas. Supermax Corporation Berhad is an established company, which according to their 2009 Annual
Report made an after-tax profit of about RM126 million.

On 23 March 2010, Thu Maung and another Burmese migrant worker from Maxter Glove Manufacturing Sdn Bhd lodged a complaint at the Subang Jaya Labour Department.  
Their complaints, amongst others, were that the employer:-

a. had wrongfully deducted levy, that employers have to pay when they employ migrant workers, from the worker’s wages,
b. had unlawfully deducted the medical check-up fees of RM1,000 from the worker’s wages,
c. had wrongfully withheld two months wages,
d. had failed to provide the migrant worker with accommodation,
e. had not been giving the workers one rest day per week,
f. had made the workers work overtime(sometimes up to 13 hours per day), and  also on public holidays and rest days, and had thereafter failed to  pay overtime wages and wages for working on rest days and/or public holidays at the statutorily stipulated rates.

On 23 March, Thu Maung and another had also lodged a complaint at the Malaysian Human Rights Commission (Suhakam).

On 12 April 2010, Thu Maung went again to the Labour Department in Rawang and gave a detailed complaint, whereby the Rawang Labour Department did record the complaint and forward the same to the Labour Department office in Port Klang, because they said that the Port Klang Labour Office, has the requisite jurisdiction since the employer,
Maxter Glove Manufacturing Sdn Bhd, is in Klang.

READ MORE:  Stop migrants' rights abuses in our backyard!

According to Thu Maung, after about one month since the lodging of the complaint at the Subang Jaya Labour office, company’s representatives started intimidating workers individually by asking them who had complained to the Labour Department, and whether they were also going to complain to the Labour Department. This form of intimidation of
workers is deplorable. This kind of actions by employers has the tendency of instilling fear and preventing workers from claiming their legally recognised labour rights.

On 28 April 2010, Thu Maung’s supervisor at the company, for no reason, suddenly asked him to return the worker’s pass and not to come back to work. Thu Maung was wrongfully terminated, and he verily believes that this was done just because he had complained to the Labour Department, and was perceived as the leader of the workers who wanted to claim their rights.

It is even worse when the worker is a migrant worker, for a termination will usually mean a cancellation of the work visa, and deportation back to their home country. This also would mean that they would not be able to even pursue their claims at the Labour
Department, Labour Courts, Industrial Relations Department, Industrial Courts and/or Civil Courts as the physical presence of the complainant and/or litigant is necessary for the continuation of process of claiming rights.

The practice of terminating, cancellation of work visa and immediate deportation is a blatant disregard of the laws in Malaysia that exist to protect worker rights.

Work passes in Malaysia allow workers to work only for a specific employer – and hence a termination would leave the worker with no ability to work and earn a living legally in Malaysia , while he awaits the determination of the process that may give the worker
justice. Cancellation of the work pass also makes his stay in Malaysia illegal, and he risks being arrested, detained and deported.

It is sad that the current laws and practices of Malaysia , which used to employ more than 2 million migrant workers have not been amended yet to ensure that workers who claim their rights are not wrongfully terminated and sent back.

READ MORE:  Foreign workers are human too!

Whilst there is a clear provision in the Industrial Relations Act 1967, that is section 5, which explicitly prohibits employers (or persons acting on behalf of employers) from discriminating, threatening, dismissing or acting negatively against workers who are interested in forming, joining, and/or encouraging other workers to join trade unions, there is no similar clear provision in law protecting workers who want to claim their worker rights through the Labour Departments and other available avenues. As an example, section 5(1)(c) and (d) of the Industrial Relations Act 1967 is as follows:-

(1) No employer or trade union of employers, and no person action on behalf of an employer or such trade union shall –

…. (c) discriminate against any person in regard to employment, romotion, any condition of employment or working conditions on the round that he is or is not a member or officer of a trade union;

(d) dismiss or threaten to dismiss a workman, injure or threaten to njure him in his employment or alter or threaten to alter his position to his prejudice by reason that the workman –

(i) is or proposes to become, or seeks to persuade any other person to become, a member or officer of a trade union; or

(ii) participates in the promotion, formation or activities of a trade union; or…

There should be a similar clear provision in law that will prevent employers from harassing, threatening, discriminating and/or dismissing workers that claim their worker rights using existing avenues of complaints and remedies. The act of employers impeding, dismissing (or threathening to dismiss) workers who claim their worker rights should also be made an offence with a hefty fine. Workers should also receive a significant sum in exemplary damages, over and above their claim. Deterrence is needed to stop this unhealthy practice of employers violating worker rights, and preventing them
access to justice.

In the case of Thu Maung, we call for the immediate reinstatement of Thu Maung without any loss of benefits.

We call on Dato’ Seri Stanley Thai, Executive Chairman cum Group Managing Director of Supermax Corporation Berhad, to ensure that the wrong done by their subsidiary, Maxter Glove Manufacturing Sdn Bhd, to Thu Maung and other workers in the said company is ended, and that all workers are paid forthwith what has been wrongly deducted from their wages, monies that have wrongly been withheld returned, outstanding overtime payments, and that all legitimate claims are settled.

READ MORE:  What lies beneath the disregard for migrant labour laws?

We call on the government of Malaysia to do the needful, including enacting laws that will deter employers in Malaysia from exploiting workers, and also protect workers that claim their worker rights from the negative acts of repercussion and/or ‘revenge’ by some bad employers.

We also call on the government of Malaysia to ensure that all migrant workers can continue to stay and work legally in Malaysia until their cases in the Labour Department, Labour Courts, Industrial Relations Department, Industrial Courts and/or Civil Courts, and appeals thereafter are completed.

Charles Hector
Pranom Somwong

For and on behalf of the following 65 organisations

  1. Aliran, Malaysia
  2. Alliance of Health Workers Philippines
  3. Arakan League for Democracy (ALD-LA-MALAYSIA)
  4. Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD)
  5. Asian Migrant Centre (AMC)
  6. Asian Migrants Coordinating Body-Hong Kong (AMCB)
  7. Association of Indonesian Migrant Workers in HK (ATKI-HK)
  8. BAYAN   USA .
  9. BOMSA, Dhaka , Bangladesh
  10. BUGKOS
  11. Burma Campaign , Malaysia
  12. Burma Partnership
  13. Canada-Philippines Solidarity for Human Rights ( Vancouver , BC Canada )
  14. Center for Japanese-Filipino Families
  15. Clean Clothes Campaign -International Secretariat
  16. Committee for Asian Women (CAW)
  17. Communication Union of Australia (Vic Branch)
  18. Empower, Chiang Mai
  19. Filipino Migrant Centre
  20. Frank-Hubner-Scholl Resistance Movement of the White Rose
  21. Free Burma Campaign Singapore (FBCSG)
  22. Friends of Burma, Malaysia
  23. Gabriela -Taiwan
  24. IMA Research Foundation , Bangladesh
  25. Institute for National and Democratic Studies of Indonesia ( INDIES )
  26. Interfaith Cooperation Forum
  27. KAFIN-Migrante (Saitama)
  28. Kafin Migrant Centre, Japan
  29. Labour Behind the Label, United Kingdom
  30. MADPET – Malaysians against Death Penalty and Torture
  31. Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC)
  32. May 1st Coalition for Worker & Immigrant Rights, USA
  33. Migrante Aotearoa New Zealand
  34. Migrante B.C. (Canada )
  35. Migrante Denmark
  36. Migrante Europe
  37. Migrante International
  38. Migrante-Middle East
  39. Migrante Nagoya
  40. Migrante Taiwan
  41. Migrante UK
  42. Migranteng Ilonggo sa Taiwan
  43. National League for Democracy [NLD (LA)], Malaysia
  44. National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (NNIRR), U.S.
  45. Network of Action for Migrants in Malaysia (NAMM)
  46. PAN Asia and the Pacific
  47. Parti Rakyat Malaysia (PRM)
  48. Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor (EMPOWER)
  49. Persatuan Masyarakat Malaysia & Wilayah Persekutuan (PERMAS)
  50. Philippines Australia Union
  51. Philippine Society in Japan
  52. PINAY (Filipino Women’s Organization in Quebec )
  53. Pusat Komas
  54. Rights Jessore, India
  55. Shan Refugee Organisation, Malaysia
  56. Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM), Malaysia
  57. The Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants (APMM)
  58. The Best Friend Library – Chiang Mai, Thailand
  59. The Hong Kong Coalition for Free Burma Campaign
  60. Think Centre Singapore
  61. United Indonesians against Overcharging (PILAR)
  62. United Filipinos in Hong Kong
  63. Workers Hub for Change (WH4C)
  64. YASANTI, Indonesia
  65. ZOMI National Congress- Malaysia
The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

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