6th Feb 2024: Benar News – Malaysian Labor Court orders employers to pay Bangladeshi workers RM1 million in unpaid wages – first reported compensation settlement for Bangladesh Malaysia organised crime syndicate victims being trafficked for forced labour in Malaysia
A Malaysian labor court said a company that duped more than 700 Bangladeshi workers with fake job offers in Johor state has agreed to pay nearly RM1 million (US$300,000) to settle half of their unpaid wages since Oct 2023.
Original Source: Benar News by Minderjeet Kaur – 6th February 2024
(Google translate from Malaysian to English)
The persecution faced by the group of workers was only made public in mid-December, after 171 of them took the action of walking to a police station in Pengerang to make a police report because they were not given any jobs after several months of being brought into Malaysia.
“The company will pay 50 percent of the (overdue) salary from 7 Oct 2023.
“With that, both parties (employer and employee) have agreed to settle the dispute with a payment of 50 percent of the wage claim, involving a total of RM1.035 million to 733 complainants,” said the Johor Bahru Labor Court in a statement on Monday.
In addition to paying the salary arrears, the court stated that the company involved had given a commitment to get jobs for all the victims by next February 10 at the latest.
In addition, it has also been ordered to move all the workers in question to a new location to overcome the severe accommodation problems they are facing.
According to the court, the problem was found to be caused by the hostel operator’s failure to pay electricity and water bills, causing the supply of basic necessities to be cut off.
“The employer is having problems dealing with the owner and operator of the hostel where the current employee lives, Roy Camp. It is understood that the hostel operator did not pay the utility bill of more than RM10,000 causing the electricity supply to be cut off by Tenaga Nasional Berhad and the water supply also cut off by the Company Johor water since the last three days.
“In order to avoid inconvenience to all employees, the employer has signed a rental agreement with another hostel which is Alam Kasturi Employee Hostel which is 8km away from the current hostel.”
Still in doubt
However, the migrant workers who have been languishing in deplorable accommodation including the absence of basic facilities such as water and electricity, are still skeptical of the directive and will only believe it after they receive the promised money.
A worker who only wanted to be known as Amin told BenarNews that he came to Malaysia hoping to earn a living to support his family in the village and build a better future for them.
However, said Amin who was promised a salary of RM1,500 (US$315) a month, his dreams were destroyed after being cheated by his employer and now he regrets coming to Malaysia.
“I planned to work here for six to eight years before returning to my village to build a good house for my family. Now, my dream is shattered and I am left with only regrets.
“Now the company has been ordered to pay our salaries. Since arriving last October, I have not tasted good food and slept on a mattress full of bugs. Life is like hell.
“I will only believe when I actually receive the promised money,” said Amin, referring to the court’s order that his employer pay half of the salary arrears.
According to him, other workers are also disappointed by the delay in salary payment and all of them hope to be able to continue living by being given jobs and better living conditions.
Another victim, Arshad told BenarNews that he and two other friends arrived in Pengerang in July 2023 after being promised a well-paying job by an employment agent in Dhaka.
“However, upon arrival, we were forced to live with bad hostels and low-quality food, in addition to empty pockets,” said the man, who left his wife and child in Bangladesh to work in Malaysia.
“We were previously promised a salary of between 60,000 to 70,000 Taka (almost US$600) a month,” added Arshad, who previously earned about US$200 a month working as a carpenter.
Arshad said he also bore a heavy debt burden after having to borrow a total of RM30,000 (US$6,200) to pay employment agents in Malaysia and Bangladesh, processing charges, in addition to savings for emergency use in Malaysia.
Meanwhile, worker’s rights activist Andy Hall expressed his disappointment at the settlement amount reached in the case.
He said the incident of mistreatment of migrant workers in Pengerang should be used as an example to prevent similar incidents from being carried out by other companies.
Although the Malaysian government and the national justice system take seriously the activities of syndicates that smuggle migrant workers from Bangladesh, which is described as a form of modern-day slavery, the punishment imposed is not strong enough.
“The settlement reached is disappointing. It is the employee’s right based on the contract, and they have debts that increase every day,” he told BenarNews.
Another activist, Adrian Pereira said the solution should include compensation for the loss of their opportunity to work overtime, as most migrant workers rely on extra income to make ends meet.
“They face greater losses in addition to having to pay back the loans made to pay employment agents,” Pereira told BenarNews.
Noah Lee in Kuala Lumpur also contributed to this report.
My full statement on this mediated court settlement in the Pengerang case, can be attributed to Andy Hall, independent migrant worker rights specialist – 6th Feb 2024
This high profile Pengerang abuse case required a deterrent kind of settlement within the justice and law enforcement systems in Malaysia that showed that the government and judiciary took seriously its duty to crack down on this organised crime syndicate that is trafficking Bangladeshi victims into Malaysia for what is essentially conditions akin to modern slavery or forced labour. This result is not the strong punishment against the perpetrators that was committed to by the ministers in their latest joint press conference. It’s a disappointing settlement.
See also: Related story – FMT 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: 16th January 2024: FMT – 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: 6th Jan 2024: FMT: 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: 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: 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: 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