16th January 2024: Joint Ministerial Meeting & Press Conference on Malaysian Migrant Worker Management Chaos, As Forced Labour and Worker Destitution Rises Massively

Joint Ministerial Meeting & Press Conference on Malaysian Migrant Worker Management Chaos, As Forced Labour and Worker Destitution Rises Massively

16th January 2024: Joint Ministerial Meeting & Press Conference on Malaysian Migrant Worker Management Chaos, As Forced Labour and Worker Destitution Rises Massively

The Malaysian government today warned employers who bring migrant workers into the country to pay their employees, even when they are not given any work to avoid worker destitution. Speaking at a press conference, Human Resources Minister Steven Sim warned errant employers that failure to pay salaries is a major violation of the country’s labour laws.

Original article: Malaysiakini by Hariz Mohd & S Vionthaa – 16th January 2024

Forced labour and worker destitution

“Employees are entitled to their salary, even when they are not given any work.

“This will be our policy on the way forward. The Human Resources Ministry considers that any worker that is brought into Malaysia must be paid, regardless of whether the worker did any job or not,” he said during the conference in Putrajaya in order to avoid worker destitution.

Quota freeze, blacklist

On December 20th 2023, 171 migrant workers from Bangladesh marched some 10km to the Bayu Damai police station in Pengerang, Johor, to lodge a report against their agent who failed to find them employment after three months here leaving them in worker destitution.

The group were detained by the Immigration Department before they could lodge the report. They have since been released from custody.

Following the incident, Sim said, the ministry has also adopted several new approaches to prevent a repeat of such violations.

Companies that are found violating the law would have their incoming migrant workers quota frozen and be put on a blacklist.

Addressing concerns of a corporate veil protecting individuals behind the errant companies, the government will also take action against the directors and managers involved under Section 101(b) of the Employment Act.

“So, action will be taken against the directors and managers instead of only the corporate entity,” he said.

Meanwhile, on the Pengerang case, Sim told reporters that 571 Bangladeshi workers have filed claims for their unpaid wages with the Labour Department so far.

They involve a total amount of RM2.21 million in unpaid wages resulting in forced labour and worker destitution.

For this case, Sim said the Labour Court has set Feb 5 for hearing in Pengerang.

Channel News Asia 15th Jan 2024: Around 200 immigration raids conducted in Malaysian capital in first week of 2024 | Video

17th January 2024: Reuters: Malaysia to review migrant labour deals to stamp out exploitation and worker destitution

Original Source: Reuters – 17th January 2024

A view of Kuala Lumpur skyline in Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 17 (Reuters) – Malaysia will review bilateral agreements with 15 nations from which it sources labourers in a bid to address exploitative practices and manpower imbalances that have left thousands of migrant workers stranded without jobs and in worker destiution, officials said.

Since last year, thousands of migrants, mostly from Bangladesh and Nepal, have been left in limbo after arriving in Malaysia, where they were told that jobs promised to them in exchange for steep recruitment fees were no longer available.

The plight of the migrants coincided with concerns over workplace abuses in Malaysia, with several companies facing U.S. bans over the use of forced labour in recent years. Many labourers said they had not been paid any wages and face worker destitution.

Speaking to reporters late on Tuesday, the labour and home affairs ministers said the distribution of labourers was uneven across the economy, prompting a need to review the bilateral agreements.

They said Malaysia still had a shortage of workers in the agriculture and plantations sector, while quotas have been exceeded in other industries.

“We will revisit the agreements looking at various elements including fees, costs, contract conditions, health and so on,” Home Minister Saifuddin Nasution Ismail said, adding that the government would allow the transfer of worker quotas across sectors.

Workers from Indonesia, Bangladesh and Nepal account for over 70% of Malaysia’s migrant labour, with the remainder coming from countries including India, Vietnam, Pakistan, and Thailand.

Human Resources Minister Steven Sim said authorities had completed investigations into five firms involved in hiring hundreds of workers who later found themselves without jobs.

He said employers who hired such workers must pay them wages even though they do not have jobs, adding that companies and individuals who violate the law will be barred from hiring migrant labourers to avoid worker destitution.

Sim said 751 Bangladesh migrant workers had filed cases with the labour department to claim unpaid wages, involving a total of 2.2 million ringgit ($467,687).

16th January 2024 – Government to review MoU with 15 source countries on import of foreign labour [NSTTV]

Original Source: New Strait Times by Iylia Marsya Iskandar – 16th January 2024

PUTRAJAYA: The government will revisit all memoranda of understanding (MoUs) with 15 source countries on the hiring and recruitment of foreign workers to avoid worker destitution.

Home Minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail said the government will begin engaging with the relevant countries after receiving cabinet approval on the move.

Saifuddin, who spoke at a press conference after a meeting with Human Resources Minister Steven Sim at Kompleks Setia Perkasa today, said the MoU should be a dynamic agreement and not a static one.

“In the meeting, we saw that there is a need to revisit and scrutinise the MoUs with all 15 source countries. 

“The MoUs comprise numerous details including fees, cost, contract agreements and healthcare, among others.

“An MoU is a dynamic, not a static contract. We have agreed to revisit the details with the source countries,” he said.

Asked whether details of the MoUs will be made public, he said it will depend on certain criteria.

He however did not disclose the criteria.

Saifuddin said 77 per cent of the two million foreign workers in Malaysia with temporary work permits are from Bangladesh, Indonesia and Nepal, spread out over five sectors. 

He said to date, only the plantation and agriculture sectors were facing a deficit of workers.

Malaysia currently takes in foreign workers from 15 countries, namely Thailand, Cambodia, Nepal, Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam, the Philippines, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, India, and Indonesia.

Government will allow employers to transfer quotas to other employers in sectors facing worker shortages to avoid worker destitution

Saifuddin said that the government will allow employers to transfer quotas to other employers in sectors facing worker shortages, including the plantations and agriculture sectors.

He said the joint committees involving the ministries aims to resolve the issue of shortages. 

“That’s why we’re allowing for workers to change employers. This means that when one sector is full, they can opt to transfer (the quotas and workers) to other sectors,” he said, adding he had met with Plantations and Commodities Minister Datuk Seri Johari Ghani earlier to have a clearer view on the matter.

“We have 442,000 hectares of rubber plantations and we are the net importers, importing about 700,000 metric tonnes for gloves and condoms manufacturing.

“We also have about 5.4 million hectares of palm oil estates. In the plantation sectors, 30 per cent of the workers are harvesters and they need to harvest every two weeks.

“When we calculate the two million workers, these two sectors are facing a large deficit,” he said.

Saifuddin said that the government will also shorten the foreign worker recruitment process to 15 months and 23 days, as opposed to the current 29 months and 13 days.

He said this will be done via cutting down the duration for certain processes.

This, he said, will include levy payment periods being reduced to 15 days from the current 30 days, and a reduction in the period to issue temporary work permits, from 15 days to 30 days.

He added that there has been no discussion yet on lifting the current freeze on foreign workers quota. 

On Mar 17 last year, the quota application and approval for foreign workers including through the Foreign Worker Employment Relaxation Plan were suspended for all sectors. 

Then-Human Resources Minister V. Sivakumar had said this is to enable employers, who have already been granted quotas, to start making plans for the immediate entry of the foreign workers.

However, employers were given up to 18 months to bring in foreign workers to Malaysia after paying a levy.

It is understood that some employers might have brought in the workers with or without jobs to meet the deadline.

16th January 2024: More jobless migrants make their make from Pengerang to embassy in KL

Original Source: Malaysiakini by S Vinothaa – 16th January 2024

Nearly 30 migrants, who made up the latest batch of foreign workers left stranded and jobless in Pengerang, Johor, have taken measures to try and resolve their prolonged unemployment, risking possible police detention in the process.

The 28 workers showed up at the Bangladesh High Commission in Kuala Lumpur this morning and are returning to Johor with few answers, following a mediation with the employer.

One worker told Malaysiakini that this was their third visit to the embassy and their hopes that the embassy would intervene were dwindling.

“We don’t believe they can do anything for us as repeated visits to the embassy have not gotten us any results,” said the worker, whose identity is being withheld to avoid backlash from his employer.

These workers are among hundreds of migrants who have been stranded without jobs in Malaysia despite being brought in through legal recruitment channels.

However, the employer who declined to be named, has attributed the delay in the commencement of their work to training certifications and special passes for construction sector workers.

“The certification under the Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB), training with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (Niosh), and security clearance at the job site were holding up their commencement.

“They will be working in the oil and gas industry and the security clearance is very stringent.

“We have explained this to the workers and 15 workers have commenced work and received their first month’s salary,” the employer said when contacted.

The workers have been receiving a minimum sum to tide them over until the company can provide a full salary once they start work.

“We will also catch up with their unpaid wages later,” the employer added.

Temporary jobs

The employer also assured workers their passports will be returned and temporary jobs will be sourced while they wait for their passes to avoid worker destitution.

“We will find them temporary jobs and the workers, too, will be allowed to find temporary jobs,” he said.

The workers are among hundreds of unemployed migrant workers despite being brought in through legal recruitment channels.

Malaysiakini found that some were brought in by companies that won import quotas for migrant workers through fraud.

On Dec 20, 171 migrant workers from Bangladesh were taken into custody when they attempted to lodge a police report against their agent who failed to find them employment after three months here.

On Dec 25, Human Resources Minister Steven Sim said his ministry would summon the agency involved in recruiting the migrant workers.

16th Jan 2024: HR ministry lodges police report against employer in quota fraud scandal

Original Source: Malaysiakini by S Vionthaa & Hariz Mohd – 16th January 2024

The Human Resources Ministry has lodged a police report against one employer implicated in the migrant quota fraud exposed by Malaysiakini last November.

Human Resources Minister Steven Sim said the investigation won’t be confined to fraud and commercial crimes, leaving the police to determine the range of offences committed.

“The ministry has filed a police report requesting an investigation into the ID holder (quota applicant) by the police.

“So far, we have identified one employer and we will leave it to them (police) to take necessary action,” said Sim.

Declining to disclose the identity of the implicated employer, Sim acknowledged the possibility that the investigation might extend to Human Resources Ministry staff.

Human Resources Minister Steven Sim (right) and Home Minister Saifuddin Nasution Ismail

“If there is a crime, it takes both sides, so I am sure the investigation will involve the internal processes as well,” he said.

Sim added that the ministry would carry out its own investigation into the quota fraud scandal.

Earlier probe found no deception

Malaysiakini uncovered a syndicate that exploited the government’s migrant quota approval system, facilitating the entry of thousands of workers into the service sector.

The companies involved made money by either selling the quotas to other companies or agents or by selling or renting out the workers.

The scam has landed hundreds of migrant workers – who were duped into thinking they had jobs waiting for them in Malaysia – in dire straits, while at least two migrants brought in by the syndicate have died.

The Commercial Crime Investigations Department (CCID) confirmed with Malaysiakini earlier this month that they are actively pursuing an investigation into the alleged mastermind behind the fraud.

Yet, the CCID found no evidence of deception against the workers, closing investigations into police reports filed by workers who claimed they were cheated by companies that brought them into the country.

Reviewing bilateral agreements 

Sim was speaking to reporters at a joint press conference with Home Minister Saifuddin Nasution Ismail after their first joint committee meeting on foreign workers management for 2024.

Saifuddin said the government will reassess its bilateral agreements on labour migration with all 15 sending countries.

“There is a need to review these agreements as we found that there is a need to enhance the clauses related to fees, costs, health, and welfare of migrant workers in the country.

“We will revisit the agreements after the cabinet approves it,” he said. 

The Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) Malaysia has with source countries is dynamic, leaving room for constant improvements.

However, Saifuddin could not confirm if the MoUs would be made public.

“We will see, what are the criteria and conditions,” he said. 

While there has been no discussion to lift the freeze on migrant quota applications, Saifuddin said the cabinet paper from the two ministries will also recommend the commencement of a recalibration programme to repatriate undocumented migrant workers facing worker destitution.

Additional Reading:

See also: 16th January 2024: 751 duped Bangladeshi migrant workers in Pengerang case file RM2 million claim for unpaid wages resulting from situation akin to forced labour, stranded and destitute on arrival in Malaysia (includes comments by Andy Hall)

See also: 16th Jan 2024: Malaysia/Putrajaya to review MoUs on foreign workers with source countries

See also: 16th Jan 2024: MALAYSIA Home minister: Cabinet to discuss if overstaying foreign workers can be sent back to their respective countries

See also: 16th Jan 2024: Hiring process timeline for foreign workers to be halved, says Saifuddin

See also: 16th Jan 2024: Govt halves foreign worker recruitment process — Home Affairs Minister Saifuddin

See also: 16th Jan 2024: 171 Bangladeshi workers freed; have filed claim for RM2mil from employers

See also: 16th Jan 2024: Bangladeshi workers duped in Pengerang file claim for RM2.21mil in unpaid wages

See also: 6th Jan 2024: Away from families, in debt, and jobless in a foreign land

See also: 6th Jan 2024: FMT – Saifuddin, Sim to discuss status of freeze on foreign worker recruitment

See also: 6th Jan 2024: New Strait Times – Company that promised 171 Bangladeshi workers non-existent jobs blacklisted

See also: 5th Jan 2024: New Strait Times – MCA: Don’t just fine employers, hold ministry accountable as well for unemployed foreign workers

See also: 30th Dec 2023: Migrants being duped into Malaysia because of govt’s failure to curb criminal trafficking syndicates and organised crime network, says activist Andy Hall

See also: 30th Dec 2023: New Strait Times – Recruitment agencies accused of deception as Bangladeshi victims speak out on exploitation and fear

See also: 29th Dec 2023: Malay Mail – Set up probe on exploitation of migrant workers and new ministry to manage their affairs, Suhakam tells Putrajaya

See also: 28th Dec 2023: New Strait Times – ‘Company involved in 171 Bangladeshi migrant worker scandal not licensed to recruit’

See also: 28th Dec 2023: FMT – Malaysia has entered ‘slave labour’ territory, says ex-MP – Charles Santiago calls for specific set-ups to manage migrant workers 

See also: 27th Dec 2023: New Strait Times – MTUC demand govt, MACC probe into corrupt recruitment practices of foreign workers

See also: 27th Dec 2023: New Strait Times – Strict action against employers, agencies neglecting 171 Bangladeshi workers: MEF

See also: 27th Dec 2023: FMT – Bangladeshis duped over jobs are victims of human trafficking, says rights group

See also: 26th Dec 2023: FMT – Azalina wants urgent probe into 171 Bangladeshis duped over jobs

See also: 26th Dec 2023: FMT – High recruitment fees make greedy agents bring in workers, says group

See also: 25th Dec 2023: FMT – Probe recruitment agents, MACC told after arrest of Bangladeshis

See also: 25th Dec 2023: FMT – Human resources ministry comes to the rescue of Bangladeshi workers

See also: 25th Dec 2023: FMT – Cops nab 171 foreigners protesting lack of jobs in Johor

See also: 25th Dec 2023: The Star – Foreigners march to police station to complain about agent, get hauled up by Immigration Dept instead

See also: 5th Nov 2023: Malaysian HR Minister pledges nationwide operations concerning plight of Bangladeshi migrant workers in Malaysia following Andy Hall’s complaint letter to the OHCHR

See also: 30th Oct 2023: FMT: Andy Hall refers stranded Bangladeshi workers’ plight in Malaysia to UN Human Rights Council

See also: 19th Oct 2023: Malaysia facing huge excess of 1/4 million migrant laborers

See also: 21st Sep 2023: Malaysian government has 15 source countries for foreign workers – Comments by Andy Hall

See also: 20th Sep 2023: Rate of abused Bangladeshi workers’ entry into Malaysia worrying, says migrant rights activist Andy Hall

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