JVC penalises migrants who claimed rights

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Dozens of civil society groups have expressed serious concern about a camera manufacturing firm in Shah Alam that has repatriated a group of female migrant workers who tried to assert their rights.

Image credit: d4155419.u50.infinology.com

We, the undersigned 79 civil society organisations and groups, would like to express our serious concern that JVC has indicated that they will not re-new the employment contracts of Pa Pa Aye and 15 other Burmese women migrant workers, who lodged a claim at the Labour Department claiming worker rights that the JVC company had violated, amongst them the wrongful deduction of their wages to recover levy that employers have to pay when they employ foreign workers. The other seven workers, who complained, whose contract was renewed in August, will also be terminated and repatriated. The information contained in this statement has been provided by the affected workers.

JVC has its factory at Lot No 1, Persiaran Jubli Perak, Jalan 22/1, Section 22, Shah Alam, 40702 Shah Alam, Selangor, Malaysia, and they manufactures cameras, video cameras and audio equipment components, amongst others.

On 21 July 2010, Pa Pa Aye and 22 other women migrant workers lodged a complaint at the Subang Jaya Labour Office in Malaysia. Amongst their demands were for the return of monies wrongly deducted from their wages for levy the employer had to pay to the Malaysian government for employing migrant workers, other unlawful deductions like transfer fees and saving funds amounting to about RM3,500, and for the return of their passports, which are still wrongly being held by the employer. They were also claiming the balance of the wages that they were entitled. According to the workers, the employer was to pay them much more, about RM50 per day, but they were only paid RM23.

On 6 August 2010, after their night shift, when the women workers were being transported back to their homes, their bus took a different route, and suddenly stopped where the agent was waiting. The agent then called one of the Burmese women migrant workers who had complained to the Labour Department and asked her to leave the bus and follow him. The workers suspected that the agent was trying to get the worker sent back to Burma, and they stood together and prevented the agent from taking the worker. The workers then lodged a police report about this incident. There have also been other cases of harassment, whereby in one incident three men entered the women’s hostel and threatened them.

The workers, through their representatives, which included an officer from the Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC), also complained about this incident to JVC. JVC gave assurance that this would not happen again, and they guaranteed that all workers could continue to work in JVC.

On 12 August 2010, the agent tried to force the workers to sign a new contract, but all the workers refused to sign it. The pressure on the workers to sign the new contract took place at the factory premises. Later, on the same day, JVC’s Human Resource Manager, Mr Mazlan, and the HR Assistant Manager, Ms Ida, also tried to pressure the workers to sign the new contracts. The new contract was written in English only (just like their old contract). The workers, to date, do not have a copy of their old contract, as they were never given a copy. The new contract allegedly stated that their daily salary wiould be reduced to RM21, which is RM2 less than what the workers have been getting until now.

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On 25 August 2010, the Burmese workers informed us that JVC had summarily dismissed 30 Sri Lanka women migrant workers in retaliation for their demand that JVC pay them their promised monthly salary of RM750. After the dismissal, JVC and the agent, Fast Link Trans, began forceful repatriation of the workers. On 28 August 2010, eight Sri Lankan workers were allegedly sent home. These workers apparently never received the amount owed to them and/or any compensation for premature termination of their contract.

On 8 September 2010, JVC’s human resources officer, in the presence of a labour officer and the agent’s representative from Fast Link Trans, tried to return to the Burmese workers the amount they said was the levy that had been wrongfully deducted from the wages and asked the workers to sign a document which was in English. The workers refused as the amount offered was far less than the sum deducted, and they did not want to sign any document which was in a language they did not know.

The company also refused to give a copy of the document to enable them to get an independent person who spoke Burmese to translate its contents to them.

On 28 September 2010, the agent informed the workers that when their current annual contract expires, their contracts would not be renewed and they would all be sent back to Burma. The contracts of 15 of these workers’ will expire in October, and the rest by the end of the year. Pa Pa Aye’s own contract expires in early November. The contracts of seven others which expired in August have already been renewed. Later, on about 7 October 2010, the agent informed the workers that all 23 of them would be terminated and sent back to Burma. The process of forced repatriation of the Burmese workers has already begun with one worker being sent back to Burma on 9 October 2010.

It must be stated that according to the workers, when they came to Malaysia to work with JVC the agreement was that they would be employed for three years, but when they arrived and started working, they were made to sign one-year contracts with a verbal assurance that the contracts would be renewed every year for at least a total of three years. The threat of early termination and deportation is also wrong and discriminatory as JVC has continued to renew the contracts of others who had started work around the same time as these Burmese migrant workers.

Any early termination, and/or non renewal of the one-year employment contracts by JVC can reasonably be seen as retaliation by the company against workers who have elected to claim their rights as workers. Their case at the Labour Department is pending, and a termination and repatriation back to Burma would mean that the workers would not be able to continue to pursue their claim in the Labour Department/Court as the presence of the workers in the hearing of their claims against the employer is compulsory, and their absence would mean that their case would just be struck off,

We, the undersigned groups, call upon JVC to respect worker rights and their right to access to justice and not cause these 23 Burmese workers to be terminated and deported.

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We urge JVC to respect the law and the legal process initiated by the lodging of the complaint by the workers at the Labour Department and to respect and abide with the outcome of the hearing at the Labour Court. Workers should not be terminated and/or discriminated against because they choose to demand their rights or better rights as workers. For those who have already been repatriated to their country of origin, including those workers from Sri Lanka, JVC must compensate them for their expenses in coming to Malaysia to work and for the early termination of their employment.

We call on JVC to act justly and not to terminate these workers, and to renew their contract so that they can pursue their claims until completion. JVC should also adhere to their earlier promise that these workers will be employed for at least three years, for migrant workers do expend a lot of money (US$850-1,000) when they come to Malaysia to work. Any early termination and breach of rights would only leave these workers in a worse situation as they may not be able to settle the debts they incurred in coming here to Malaysia to work.

We call on the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) to inquire into this complaint about the violation of worker rights by JVC.

We also call on the Malaysian government and the Human Resource Minister to ensure that no workers are terminated and/or discriminated against because they have stood up to claim their rights as workers.

The Malaysian government should also ensure that no migrant workers are terminated and/or repatriated to their country of origin until the employer has fully settled all outstanding workers’ claims and/or payments. If migrant workers are terminated, the Malaysian government must ensure that these workers are allowed to stay and work legally in Malaysia until all outstanding claims and legal processes are settled. If special passes and visas are required to ensure these workers ability to stay and work legally, it must be given gratis without requiring the workers to pay anything. Worker cases must be expedited, and independent translators should be available at all Labour Departments and courts.

Labour rights must take precedence over immigration law. Do not deport until worker claims are determined and settled by Labour Department and/or courts.

Charles Hector
Pranom Somwong

For and on behalf of the following 79 organisations:

  1. ALIRAN,
  2. Asia Pacific Forum on Women ,Law and Development ( APWLD)
  3. Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants (APMM)
  4. Asian Migrants Center (AMC)
  5. Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma)
  6. Bahrain Center for Human Rights
  7. Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights
  8. Bangladesh Burma Border
  9. BAYAN USA
  10. BUGKOS
  11. Building and Wood Workers International Asia Pacific Regional Office
  12. Burma Campaign, Malaysia
  13. Burmese Women’s Union (BWU)
  14. Coalition To Abolish Modern-Day Slavery In Asia
  15. Committee for Asian Women (CAW)
  16. Community Development Services (CDS), Sri Lanka
  17. Coordination of Action Research on AIDS & Mobility (CARAM-ASIA)
  18. Democratic Party for a New Society (DPNS), Burma
  19. FICAP – Aichi
  20. Filipino Migrants Center – FMC
  21. Forum for Democracy in Burma
  22. GABRIELA – Japan
  23. Gabriela-Taiwan
  24. Grassroots Human Rights Education & Development (GHRE-FED), Thailand
  25. HOME, Singapore
  26. Human Rights Education Institute of Burma
  27. IHI Action Group (Iwi Have Influence), New Zealand
  28. IMA Research Foundation, Bangladesh
  29. Kachin Women’s Association, Thailand
  30. KAFIN – Nagoya
  31. KL & Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall Youth Section
  32. League of Filipino Seniors (LFS)
  33. Legal Support for Children and Women (LSCW), Cambodia
  34. MADPET – Malaysians against Death Penalty and Torture
  35. Malaysia Youth and Students Democratic Movement (DEMA)
  36. MAP Foundation, Thailand
  37. May 1st Coalition, Co-Coordinator, USA
  38. Mekong Migration Network ( MMN)
  39. Migrante Aotearoa New Zealand
  40. Migrant Forum in Asia (MFA)
  41. Migramte Australia
  42. Migrante-Denmark chapter
  43. Migranteng Ilonggo sa Taiwan
  44. Migrante International
  45. Migrante international – Hsinchuang chapter
  46. Migrante International – Taiwan chapter
  47. Migrante Melbourne
  48. Migrante-Middle East and Migrante-Saudi Arabia chapter
  49. MIGRANTE – Nagoya
  50. Migrants Trade Union (MTU), Korea
  51. Migrant Workers Network – New Zealand
  52. National League for Democracy [NLD (LA)], Malaysia
  53. Nepal Institute of Development Studies( NIDS) ,NEPAL
  54. Network for Empowerment of Women in Vietnam
  55. Network of Action for Migrants in Malaysia (NAMM)
  56. Parti Rakyat Malaysia (PRM)
  57. Penggerak Belia Zon 23 MPSJ, Malaysia
  58. Persatuan Masyarakat Selangor & Wilayah Persekutuan, Malaysia
  59. Persatuan Penduduk Taman Muhibbah, Malaysia
  60. Persatuan Prihatin Komuniti KL & Selangor
  61. Philippine Society in Japan – Nagoya
  62. PINAY (Montreal)
  63. Pusat Komas, Malaysia
  64. Persatuan Sahabat Wanita Selangor, Malaysia
  65. Shan Refugee Organization (Malaysia)
  66. Shan Women Action Network (SWAN), Thailand
  67. St. John’s Cathedral HIV Education Centre, Hong Kong
  68. Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM)
  69. Tenaganita, Malaysia
  70. The Federation of Trade Unions Burma (FTUB)
  71. The Filipino Women’s Organization in Quebec
  72. The National Human Rights Society (Persatuan Kebangsaan Hak Asasi Manusia, HAKAM), Malaysia
  73. The Shwe Gas Movement
  74. Unite Union New Zealand
  75. Women Empowerment Association
  76. Women Petition Committee
  77. Workers Hub for Change (WH4C)
  78. Yaung Chi Oo Workers Association ( YCOWA)
  79. Yayasan Annisa Swasti (YASANTI), Indonesia
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A response from JVC:

JVC MANUFACTURING MALAYSIA SDN. BHD.(172773H)

(Formerly known as JVC Video Malaysia Sdn. SM.)
Lot No.1, Persiaran Jubli Perak, Jalan 22/1, Seksyen 22,
40300 Shah Alam, Fax No.: 03-55422168 (VIDEO DIV)
Selangor Darul Ehsan, Malaysia. 03-55416698 (AUDIO DI’))
Postal Address:P.O. ,Box 7111,40702 Shah Alam,
Selangor Darul Ehsan, Malaysia.

19 November 2010

Messrs. Charles Hector & Pranom Somwong

Dear Sirs,

The President of JVC Kenwood is in receipt of your letter dated 31st October 2010, concerning the standards of human and workers rights at JVC Manufacturing Malaysia Sdn. Bhd. (JMM).

JMM has investigated the contents of your letter and please be informed that we have already appraised the said important matters. We are committed to cooperate with all parties concerned to rectify any problems and ensure that improper occurrences are avoided in the future. In this regard, a joint resolution has been reached after discussions with the concerned Myanmar workers, their employment agency Fast Link Trans Sdn. Bhd., the Malaysian Trade Union Congress, the Electrical Industry Workers Union and JMM.

For verification on the above, please feel free to communicate with Mr Peter Kandaiah, Sr.Industrial Relations Officer, MTUC (mtuc.kaäkimail.com) or Mr. Maniyam Poovan, General Secretary, Electrical Industry Workers Union (eiwu@streamyx.com).

We appreciate your concern about the human rights of workers, particularly’ in Malaysia. Please be assured that all of the companies in the JVC Kenwood Group, including JMM, are committed to honouring the employment rights of all of our workers, whether they are local or foreign, or whether they are hired directly or through dispatching agencies.

Sincerely,

Mr Yoshihiro Tamaki
Managing Director
JVC Manufacturing Malaysia Sdn. Bhd.

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