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Sacked Myanmar workers' plight: Happily heading homeLabour Department resolves grouses of the shortchanged foreign employees
Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010 12:03:00
See also earlier posts:-KUALA LUMPUR: The 26 Myanmar workers who claimed to have been duped by their former employer, an upscale restaurant in Starhill Gallery here, finally had their demands met and will get to return home.
The Malay Mail learnt that negotiations between the workers and Jogoya Restaurant concluded last Wednesday and matters were settled amicably via intervention by the Federal Territories Labour Department and the Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC).
At the end of negotiations, held at the FT Labour office in Wisma Perkeso, Jalan Ampang, Jogoya management agreed to return all levies deducted from the workers’ salaries from April 1, 2009 up until last month.
With each worker’s monthly levy being RM150, total levies deducted for all 26 Myanmar workers for 11 months would have amounted to RM42,900.
Jogoya also agreed to pay the workers their full salaries for January and February 2010 as well as their service points for January, which were previously held back after the restaurant claimed poor performance by the workers.
Jogoya additionally provided full airfare tickets for the workers who had been with the restaurant for more than three years, and a RM250 airfare subsidy for those who worked under three years.
The former employers will present the flight tickets and salaries by tomorrow latest at the FT Labour office after which the workers will depart Malaysia from March 25 to 30. This was confirmed by Jogoya’s legal representative, Alice Lee.
FT Labour Department assistant director Madanjit Singh, who negotiated the deal between the Myanmar workers and Jogoya, told The Malay Mail that employers of foreign workers must be alert to changes made to the law.
“Local employers cannot rely solely on what their employment agents say regarding our Labour laws. The employers have to take it upon themselves to be aware of the changing trends of the law,” he said.
To foreign workers who feel that they may have been duped by their employers here, Madanjit said they should not take the law into their own hands, such as by holding protests and such.“Foreign workers should report the matter to their respective embassies or the Labour
Department instead. Don’t take matters into your own hands because you may lose control of the situation and make the negotiation process more difficult.”
When contacted, a spokesperson for the Myanmar workers, Zar Ni Swe, said the workers were happy their rightful demands have been met.
“It was a long battle for us and we’re glad it is over. Although some of us were offered jobs here by other employers, all of us have chosen to return home to our families,” said the 29-year-old psychology graduate.
On March 15, The Malay Mail front-paged a report on the Myanmar workers' plight resulting from being unlawfully terminated from their job, evicted from their hostel, deprived of two month's wages and their passports, as well as having levies deducted from their salaries and non-payment of service points.
Jogoya also allegedly told the workers to pay a month’s salary (RM1,000) as compensation for “mistakes” committed during work.
Blacklist errant employers, says MTUCPETALING JAYA: Companies who cheat their foreign workers should be blacklisted rather than negotiated with, said the Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC).
Its secretary-general, G. Rajasekaran, told The Malay Mail he was surprised to learn that the Federal Territories Labour Department had negotiated with Jogoya Restaurant regarding its 26 Myanmar workers, when the former employer should immediately have been brought to book instead.
“The FT Labour Department should detect the breach of contract (by Jogoya) like deducting levies from wages. Workers’ pay must also be paid within seven days and not held back,” said Rajasekaran.
On April 20, 2009, the Peninsular Malaysia Labour Department had issued a circular to employers and embassies, stating that employers could continue to deduct levies from foreign workers’ wages only until their permit expires for the year.
On renewal of the permit, employers should bear the levy cost for foreign workers with no further deductions made for levy purposes.
The circular states employers are not permitted to deduct wages for the levy payment of workers recruited after April 1, 2009.
Previously, Jogoya had claimed they were unaware of the circular by the Labour Department. They claimed their employment agent had informed them it was permissable to deduct levy from their workers’ salaries.
But the workers disputed this. One of the 26 Myanmar workers, Zar Ni Swe, 29, told The Paper That Cares that the workers had obtained a copy of the circular and had handed a copy to the management. However, she claimed the management ignored it.
On this, Rajasekaran said such companies should be blacklisted and prohibited from bringing in foreign workers to avoid a repeat of the same situation to future employees.
Actions taken against these companies should be published in the media as a deterrent to others, he said.
“When foreign workers are mistreated, they don’t dare complain because they are usually threatened by their employers. If the Labour Department wants a list of such employers, MTUC is ready to hand it to them.”
He said MTUC had objected to employee outsourcing companies championed by the Malaysia government three years ago, but to date, 270 such licenses have been issued with 70 per cent of the licensees being in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor.
Chronology of events● March 9: The Malay Mail, alerted by a source that 26 Myanmar workers were “unlawfully fired” by their employer and given a week’s notice to move out from their hostel, visited the workers at their quarters in Jalan Changkat Thamby Dollah, Kuala Lumpur, to hear their story.
● March 10: The Malay Mail went to Jogoya Restaurant to seek clarification from its management but was rudely turned away when one of its staff saw our photographer taking photos in front of the restaurant. Meanwhile, 10 out of the 26 Myanmar workers sought help from Yan Naing Tun, an information officer from Burma Campaign Malaysia, a non-governmental organisation. Naing Tun brought the workers to the Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) office where senior industrial relations officer Peter Kandiah attended to their case.
● March 11: Kandiah and Naing Tun brought the workers to the Federal Territories Labour Department office. At noon the same day, along with FT Labour Department assistant director Madanjit Singh and four other officers, the group and The Malay Mail went to the restaurant in Starhill Gallery to demand the workers’ passports and unpaid wages from the management.Drama broke out when a Jogoya senior management staff was seen trying to escape through a back door upon seeing the Labour Department officers. Despite one of the Myanmar workers giving chase, the Labour officers failed to meet with the management.
Madanjit then asked the restaurant, through its head chef, to send its representatives to the Labour Department office at 3pm to clarify themselves. From there on, negotiations began. The department ordered Jogoya to return all of the 26 workers’ passports, failing which the restaurant will be brought to book.
● March 15: Jogoya returned all 26 passports to the workers at the FT Labour office but refused to pay their February wages, claiming the workers had failed to show up for work during the period when they had protested against the restaurant's treatment of them. Negotiations further ensued.
● March 17: Negotiations concluded with the employer agreeing to pay for the workers’ airfare, their January and February wages as well as January's service points.