Malaysia to prosecute employers abusing foreign workers

February 19th, 2008 - 12:43 pm ICT by admin  

Kuala Lumpur, Feb 19 (IANS) The Malaysian government’s labour department has received more than 800 complaints from Indonesian and 160 from Indian workers against ill treatment by local employers. The government has said it will come down heavily on the employers. Each of the 300 officers of the Labour Department will prosecute at least two cases each year, The New Straits Times said Tuesday.

The Labour Department has 45 cases pending - these include unpaid wages, unfair deductions of salaries and abusive employers.

The department’s legal and enforcement chief Khamis A.R. Majid acknowledged that outsourcing companies, which bring in workers in large numbers before contracting them out to work with different employers, have caused many problems.

“We will do our best to inspect the outsourcing companies,” he said, adding that cancelling the permits of such unscrupulous companies was not under his jurisdiction.

“We are serious. We are going all out to investigate those who employ foreign workers,” he said at a conference on “Developing a Comprehensive Policy Framework for Migrant Labour” here.

Khamis said his department had also proposed that employers pay for the insurance for their domestic workers, failing which they would be fined a maximum of RM20,000 ($900 approx.) or jailed for two years.

In 2005-2007, 160 Indian workers complained to the government of being abused by their employers. The ill treatment was highest in the case of Indonesians, 805 of whom lodged complaints.

The number of Bangladeshis who complained was 130 during the same period, followed by Filipinos (127), Nepalis (88), Pakistanis (45) and Sri Lankans (8).

Two dance teachers, both women from India’s Tamil Nadu state, were rescued and sent back home after they complained of non-payment of wages and physical abuse by their employers.

Malaysia depends heavily on foreign workers for its burgeoning economy. Their presence, both legal and those who are smuggled in by recruiting agencies and touts in connivance with the local authorities, is a major issue.

The government ordered curbs on the import of priests working at shrines of different faiths last month, denying that they were aimed at any community.

The action has caused concern in the Hindu community - there are two million-plus ethnic Indian settlers, predominantly Tamil Hindus - with temples finding it difficult to recruit priests locally because of the requirement of abstinence and long years of training.

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