Ministry’s proposal to withhold 20% of wages violates workers’ rights


Aliran is appalled at the recent proposal by the Ministry of Human Resources for employers to deduct 20% of their foreign workers’ basic salaries, keep it in Socso (ie the Social Security Organisation) and return it to the workers when they leave, upon the expiry of their work permits.

According to the media reports (here and here), the proposal is aimed at preventing foreign workers from fleeing and employers from incurring losses on investments in bringing in workers should they abscond.

Apparently, the minister said that the issue of foreign workers fleeing was among major problems faced by employers and that this proposal could help address the situation. The minister was reported as saying that the proposal was submitted to the National Labour Advisory Coun­cil last week, and it is open for discussion among stakeholders.

It is currently unclear how this proposal came about, who exactly was consulted over this and how it fits into recommendations being worked on by the independent committee on foreign workers set up by the cabinet to streamline the policies and management of foreign workers

The proposal in itself seems to be a reactive response to an issue, and its implementation would be a gross violation of foreign workers’rights. It must surely contravene existing labour laws and international labour standards. The scales as they sit are tipped very much more in favour of the employer than the foreign worker. It is definitely not “a win-win situation for employers and workers’’, as described by the minister.

Although there is apparently an issue of some foreign workers fleeing and incurring losses to investments made by their employers, we must ask to what extent this happens and what causes foreign workers to flee from their employers.

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Surely by now the ministry is aware of the vulnerability of foreign workers and the countless times they are exploited, ill-treated and abused by their employers and/or their agents. Implementing the proposal would only worsen the situation for the foreign workers on a variety of levels.

Aliran joins those advocating for a systematic and thorough review of labour migration. We strongly urge the National Labour Advisory Coun­cil and the stakeholders debating this proposal to see sense and set this proposal aside.

There is little question that a myriad of issues face our labour force, local and foreign, as well as, the employers. These issues, however, must be addressed in a manner that is comprehensive and fair.

Aliran executive committee
18 December 2018

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Marcus LimAngel Fernz Recent comment authors
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Marcus Lim

The foreign workers should see it as a “ forced saving”. Upon completion of contract, they can see their lump saving. Probably insecured the money might be “ gone” when kept?

Angel Fernz

He apparently is not well versed with the subject. Perhaps you could educate him.