Shocking proposal to deduct 20% of migrant workers’ wages

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The Penang division of the Malaysian Trades Union Congress is shocked at the human resources minister’s proposal to deduct or withhold 20% of migrant workers’ wages.

His justification that it will serve the objective of preventing migrants from fleeing from their employers is even more shocking!

The minister, obviously, has taken a simplistic approach to the issue. What really needs to be asked is this:

  • Why are migrant workers absconding form their employers?
  • Is it because of low wages or is it because of unjust working conditions?
  • Or are there other legitimate reasons?

What the minister ought to do is to investigate the underlying causes for migrant workers leaving their employers. Taking an easy way out can never be the answer.

It would thus be appropriate for the minister to take a holistic approach to the issues confronting migrant workers. A piecemeal approach would never serve the higher objective of understanding the issues confronting migrant workers.

These fundamental issues aside, the minister ought to have taken advice to find out if the 20% deduction is permissible in law. To the best of our knowledge, Section 24 of the Employment Act 1955 does not permit such a deduction. His suggestion to park such deductions with Socso raises the question as to whether there exist such provisions under the Social Security Act to allow this?

The minister’s citing of South Korea and Japan as points of reference leads to another question: is the minister prepared to adopt the labour standards, including wages, that such countries have put in place for not only heir workers but also migrant workers?

READ MORE:  High Court defers decision on undocumented worker's right to claim unpaid wages

As we have suggested, we implore upon the minister to approach the issue with consideration to the whole spectrum of issues involving not only migrant workers but Malaysians as well.

K Veeriah is secretary of the Penang division of the Malaysian Trades Union Congress.

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