Malay Mail 8th Feb 2024 – Activists: Duped Bangladeshi workers in Malaysia sought RM2m in unpaid wages, but only got half (first reported compensation settlement for Bangladesh Malaysia organised crime syndicate victims being trafficked for forced labour in Malaysia)
Several hundred duped Bangladeshi workers left stranded in Pengerang, Johor, in the case that renewed calls to clamp down migrant recruitment fraud have settled for far less than the RM2 million in unpaid wages they had sought.
Original source: malaymail by Syed Jaymal Zahiid – 8th February 202
The arrears, to be calculated from October 7, was one of two settlements reached at a mediation with their recruiters and overseen by the Industrial Court in Johor on Monday after months of trying to hold recruiters accountable, giving the workers some relief from the prolonged anguish of being left jobless and unable to buy food or seek shelter.
But activists who work closely with the workers felt they came out of the negotiations shortchanged, and that the concessions were more favourable to the recruitment company despite the allegations of fraud. This would send a bad signal that could encourage instead of deter recruitment syndicates from an industry that human rights groups said is comparable to human trafficking, they said.
The recruitment company was directed to pay roughly RM1 million in backdated salaries to 733 workers, an average of just RM1,364 per worker or some RM450 a month (October to December), based on the negotiation papers sighted the Malay Mail, with no other compensation offered for their predicament.
“This is supposed to be about social justice. This is social justice for the perpetrators,” said Abdul Aziz Ismail, a migrant worker rights consultant who has worked with outfits like North-South Initiative and Tenaganita.
“This high profile Pengerang abuse case required a deterrent kind of settlement within the justice and law enforcement systems to show the government and judiciary took seriously its duty to crack down on this organised crime syndicate that is trafficking Bangladeshi victims into Malaysia,” said Andy Hall, an independent migrant worker rights activist.
“This result is not the strong punishment against the perpetrators that was committed by the ministers in the latest joint press conference,” Hall added.
The Labour Department could not be reached for comment.
Home Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail and Human Resources Minister Steven Sim have vowed to step up reforms of the government’s foreign worker intake system, promising at their first press conference together stronger inter-ministry cooperation and to speed up “improvements in management and coordination” to streamline the application process and prevent abuse
Sim and Saifuddin also pledged stern action against recruitment syndicates but stopped short of delivering a thorough plan on how to fix a system that lets these syndicates persist. Activists alleged the people behind some of the country’s largest recruitment syndicates enjoy political protection, which makes thwarting them harder.
The government said it had blacklisted the company responsible for abandoning several hundred Bangladeshi workers in Pengerang. Sim suggested the government could also use anti-trafficking laws against fraudulent companies, which carry harsher punishments.
In January, 750 Bangladeshi workers sought to claim RM2.1 million of unpaid wages at the Industrial Court. Twenty-four workers participated in the mediation yesterday but without legal representation. Abdul Aziz said because most of them could barely speak English or Bahasa Malaysia, the recruiters were able to steer the negotiations in their favour.
“They represented themselves. Because they can’t speak Bahasa or English I think it made the negotiations difficult for them, so they just wanted to settle quick,” he said.
The recruitment firm was instructed to pay the backdated salaries by March 21. The company was also directed to secure jobs for all 700 Bangladeshi nationals by February 10.
Sim’s office could not be reached for comments.
The case, initially reported to involve 171 Bangladeshis, generated significant public interest and spurred more support for migrant worker protection. Many Malaysians were sympathetic following reports that the migrants had been arrested by the Batu Pahat police as they made their way to file a complaint against their recruiters.
The Anwar administration has vowed to tighten regulation around migrant worker recruitment as part of a broader governance reform, but has so far remained silent about regulating recruitment levy and fees, which can go up to RM25,000 per person.
Malaysia’s treatment of its migrant workers has come under strong scrutiny over the years. The US was among the few countries that have restricted Malaysian exports for suspected forced labour. Migrant workers in Malaysia are usually denied the same labour law protections as local workers, including basic rights like a minimum of one off day per week.
Malaysia was also a Tier 3 country in the US Department of State’s Human Trafficking Report up until 2022, a grouping of governments that fail to meet the minimum standards to tackle trafficking.
It was only promoted to a Tier 2 watch list last year. Tier 2 countries still fail to meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making “significant efforts.”
Malay Mail 8th Feb 2024: HR Ministry hails mediation outcome despite claims duped Bangladeshi workers were short-changed
By Syed Jaymal Zahiid
Thursday, 08 Feb 2024 6:19 PM MYT
KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 8 — The Ministry of Human Resources this evening hailed the mediation outcome in which a recruitment company was compelled to pay just half of backdated pay owed to 733 Bangladeshi workers as a “success”.
The ministry in a statement issued this evening called the negotiations a “landmark case” that would set a powerful precedent that could hold foreign worker hiring companies accountable if they fail to secure employment.
It did not say if criminal proceedings would be brought against the company despite allegations of fraudulent practices.
“The success of this proceeding is a landmark case that will set a precedent in other labour-related cases because it involves migrant workers who are brought in here through legal means but are not given jobs once they arrive, and then neglected,” the statement said.
“Employers who are found guilty will be blacklisted by the authorities and the balance of their quota (for worker intake) will be cancelled,” it added.
The Johor Labour Department (JTSKM) on Monday directed MuliaOne Energy Sdn Bhd, the recruiters who brought over 700 Bangladeshi workers to Pengerang, Johor, on the pretext that there were jobs there, to pay RM1.03 million in backdated pay to all of them as part of an agreement reached during mediation between the two parties.
The workers had initially sought RM2.1 million in unpaid wages and filed the case with the JTSKM, acting on the advice of officials from the ministry. Minister of Human Resources Steven Sim had pledged to provide assistance and act tough against the company.
Malay Mail was told that the workers were not legally represented, and their inability to speak in English of Bahasa Malaysia meant the recruitment companies were able to steer the negotiations to their favour.
“The settlement announced today is a heavily negotiated settlement whereby destitute Bangladeshi workers, heavily in debt and without independent legal representation, have been coerced by their awful situation into accepting less than half of the lost wages owed to them,” said Andy Hall, an independent migrant rights activist who has followed the case closely.
“The workers have also seemingly been provided no compensation for their ongoing suffering and current situation of debt bondage akin to modern slavery or forced labour.”
Activists who work with the workers said they came out of the negotiations short-changed, and called the mediation a sham that could encourage fraudulent recruitment companies from continuing to exploit an industry human rights groups said is comparable to human slavery.
Malay Mail was informed that the workers in Pengerang still face intimidation and abuse by their current employers, even as they have been moved into new and more decent workers quarters. They were previously forced to squat in a vacant building without much food and water.
A group of them alleged that some of the Bangladeshis who attended Monday’s mediation have been missing since.
“Some workers allege they either have been abducted or had run away,” said an activist who asked not to be named for fear of reprisal by the company.
Malay Mail could not independently verify the information.
The Johor Labour Department could not be reached for comment.
Benar News Malaysia 6th Feb 2024: 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.
8th February 2024: FMT – Bangladeshi workers win RM1mil in unpaid wages
The human resources ministry says this is a landmark case that will serve as a reference for labour cases in the future.
PETALING JAYA: The 733 Bangladeshi migrant workers duped into coming to Pengerang, Johor, for jobs that did not exist were awarded more than RM1 million in unpaid wages by the Johor labour department on Monday.
In a statement, the human resources ministry said the workers and their employers reached a mutual agreement for the payment of RM1,035,557.50 in wages to their respective workers, who will now be placed with new employers through a special employer exchange process facilitated by the labour department.
Based on FMT’s calculations, this payout amounts to an average of RM1,412 per worker.
“This is a landmark case that will serve as a reference for labour cases in the future,” said the ministry.
“This case involves foreign workers who were legally brought in to Malaysia but were not provided with employment upon their arrival in the country, and were then neglected.
“Employers found guilty of this will be blacklisted by the authorities, and their quotas for foreign workers will be cancelled.”
The ministry added that it will not compromise with any party that violates labour laws, adding that it is committed to ensuring the welfare of workers in Malaysia.
Previously, human resources minister Steven Sim said 751 Bangladeshi migrant workers duped into coming to Pengerang for jobs that did not exist had filed a RM2.21 million claim for unpaid wages from their employers.
The workers had filed claims for unpaid wages as they were not provided with jobs after entering the country.
The ministry reminded employers that they were responsible for paying workers’ wages if they were brought into Malaysia, noting that Sim had also made this clear when commenting on the case on Jan 16.
FMT has reached out to the ministry for clarification on the discrepancy.
It is understood that 171 of these 751 workers were arrested by police in Pengerang in December after taking part in a march to file a police report after claiming they were duped into coming to Malaysia for non-existent jobs.
Kota Tinggi police chief Hussin Zamora previously said the migrants entered the country legally but did not get any work for about three to six months.
My full statement on mediated court settlement in the Pengerang case, can be attributed to Andy Hall, independent migrant worker rights specialist – 8th Feb 2024
Response to 8th Feb 2024 MoHR statement on Pengerang migrant worker case settlement
‘This high profile Pengerang migrant worker abuse case required a deterrent kind of settlement within the justice and law enforcement systems of Malaysia that showed that the government and judiciary take seriously its duty to crack down on this organised crime syndicate that has been trafficking Bangladeshi victims into Malaysia for what is essentially conditions akin to modern slavery or forced labour. The settlement announced today is a heavily negotiated settlement whereby destitute Bangladeshi workers, heavily in debt and without independent legal representation, have been coerced by their awful situation into accepting less than half of the lost wages owed to them. The workers have also seemingly been provided no compensation for their ongoing suffering and current situation of debt bondage akin to modern slavery or forced labour. In addition, the workers allege physical assaults recently inflicted by camp management in their new and improved accomodation, which follows the alleged physical abuse also inflicted upon some of them during the recent detention. The situation of these workers remains dire and their conditions remain akin to modern slavery. This settlement is not the strong punishment against the perpetrators of a syndicate like system of trafficking, forced labour and modern slavery that was committed to by the Malaysian government recently. It’s a disappointing settlement, and certainly not the ‘landmark case’ which the Human Resources Ministry considers it to be.’
Andy Hall, independent migrant worker rights specialist
Ministry of Human Resources Press Statement on Pengerang Case 8th Feb 2024 (translated)
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: Malay Mail 8th Feb 2024: HR Ministry hails mediation outcome despite claims duped Bangladeshi workers were short-changed
See also: 8th February 2024: FMT – Bangladeshi workers win RM1mil in unpaid wages
See also: 7th Feb 2024: Bangla Tribune – Job trap in Malaysia, 733 Bangladeshis in salary uncertainty
See also: 6th February2024: 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
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