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Delaying minimum wages to migrant workers is discrimination

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This Minimum Wage Order discriminates against migrant workers by delaying their entitlement to minimum wages to 31 December 2013, points out Charles Hector.

minimum wage

On 28 May 2013, just after the 13th General Elections, the new Minister for Human Resources, Richard Riot Anak Jaem, caused to be issued Minimum Wages (Amendment) Order 2013 (P.U.(A) 165 to be gazetted.

This Order discriminates against migrant workers, by delaying their entitlement to minimum wages to 31 December 2013. While local workers get pay increases to at least receive minimum wages, migrant workers would not.

This is a violation of universal principle of equal pay for equal work. It goes against the core principle of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) that is against any form of discrimination in respect of employment and Article 23(2) of the UN Declaration of Human Rights that clearly states that “everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work”.

It also goes against the Malaysian Federal Constitution, in particular Article 8(1), which guarantees equality to all persons, noting also that this is a guarantee not just to citizens but to all persons, and that certainly includes migrant workers in Malaysia.

Section 60L of the Employment Act 1955, worded in the same spirit of equality, specifically provides redress to migrant workers (foreign employee) if “he is being discriminated against in relation to a local employee, by his employer in respect of the terms and conditions of his employment”, and the same right is also accorded to the local worker.

The Minimum Wages (Amendment) Order 2013 enables SMEs (small and medium enterprises) and about 40 other companies to delay payment of minimum wages to migrant workers.

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Now, medium enterprises, by definition are businesses having a “sales turnover between RM10m and RM25m OR full-time employees between 51 and 150”. These certainly are not small employers or businesses, and there should be no reason why they cannot pay minimum wages of RM900 to all their workers.

Let us not forget that migrant workers are also affected by the same increase in cost of living. Further, they are also burdened by other financial obligations: many come into Malaysia to work after incurring debts of up to RM5000, money expended to get to Malaysia to work. Migrant workers also have families, children and other dependents.

It must be pointed out that the Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC), unions and civil society groups have always taken the position of equal treatment for all workers.

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