Monday, June 21, 2010

STOP PENALIZING WORKERS WHO WANT TO GET JUSTICE - MAXTER GLOVE SHOULD REINSTATE BURMESE MIGRANT WORKER WHO COMPLAINED TO LABOUR DEPARTMENT

Media Statement – 11/6/2010

STOP PENALIZING WORKERS WHO WANT TO GET JUSTICE
- MAXTER GLOVE SHOULD REINSTATE BURMESE MIGRANT
WORKER WHO COMPLAINED TO LABOUR DEPARTMENT

We, the undersigned 66 organizations, groups and networks, concerned about migrant and worker rights, are appalled at the treatment of workers at Maxter Glove Manufacturing Sdn Bhd (229862-H), at its factory at Lot 6070, Jalan Haji Abdul Manan, 6th Miles off Jalan Meru, Klang, Selangor, Malaysia.

We are appalled at the dismissal of Thu Maung, a Burmese migrant worker, who courageously lodged a complaint at the Labour Department to claim his rights as a worker. Claiming worker rights by lodging complaints against errant employers at the Labour Department is the proper and legally recognized procedure in Malaysia. It is very wrong for employers to discriminate against and/or terminate workers who are exercising their legal rights. It is also wrong for employers to discourage and/or threaten workers from seeking justice, when worker rights are being violated.

Maxter Glove Manufacturing Sdn Bhd is a subsidiary of Supermax Corporation Berhad. Maxter Glove Manufacturing Sdn Bhd is a gloves manufacturer that makes Latex Powdered Examination gloves, Clorinated & Polymer Coated Latex Powder Free gloves, Nitrile Gloves and Sterile surgical gloves which is also exported overseas. Supermax Corporation Berhad is an established company, that according to their 2009 Annual Report made an after-tax profit of about RM126 million.

On 23rd March 2010, Thu Maung and another Burmese migrant worker from Maxter Glove Manufacturing Sdn Bhd lodged a complaint at the Subang Jaya Labour Department. Their complaints, amongst others, was that the employer:-
a. had wrongfully deducted levy, that employers have to pay when they employ migrant workers, from the worker’s wages,
b. had unlawfully deducted the medical check-up fees of RM1000 from the worker’s wages,
c. had wrongfully withheld 2 months wages,
d. had failed to provide the migrant worker with accommodation,
e. had not been giving the workers one rest day per week,
f. had made the workers work overtime(sometimes up to 13 hours per day), and also on public holidays and rest days, and had thereafter failed to pay overtime wages and wages for working on rest days and/or public holidays at the statutorily stipulated rates.

On 23rd March, Thu Maung and another had also lodged a complaint at the Malaysian Human Rights Commission (SUHAKAM).

On 12 April 2010, Thu Maung went again to the Labour Department in Rawang and gave a detailed complaint, whereby the Rawang Labour Department did record the complaint and forward the same to the Labour Department office in Port Klang, because they said that the Port Klang Labour Office, has the requisite jurisdiction since the employer, Maxter Glove Manufacturing Sdn Bhd, is in Klang.
According to Thu Maung, after about 1 month since the lodging of the complaint at the Subang Jaya Labour office, company’s representatives started intimidating workers individually by asking them who had complained to the Labour Department, and whether they were also going to complain to the Labour Department. This form of intimidation of workers is deplorable. This kind of actions by employers has the tendency of instilling fear and preventing workers from claiming their legally recognized labour rights.

On 28 April 2010, Thu Maung’s supervisor at the company, for no reason, suddenly asked him to return the worker’s pass and not to come back to work. Thu Maung was wrongfully terminated, and he verily believes that this was done just because he had complained to the Labour Department, and was perceived as the leader of the workers who wanted to claim their rights.

It is even worse when the worker is a migrant worker, for a termination will usually mean a cancellation of the work visa, and deportation back to their home country. This also would mean that they would not be able to even pursue their claims at the Labour Department, Labour Courts, Industrial Relations Department, Industrial Courts and/or Civil Courts as the physical presence of the complainant and/or litigant is necessary for the continuation of process of claiming rights.

The practice of terminating, cancellation of work visa and immediate deportation is a blatant disregard of the laws in Malaysia that exist to protect worker rights.

Work passes in Malaysia allow workers to work only for a specific employer – and hence a termination would leave the worker with no ability to work and earn a living legally in Malaysia, while he awaits the determination of the process that may give the worker justice. Cancellation of the work pass also makes his stay in Malaysia illegal, and he risk being arrested, detained and deported.

It is sad that the current laws and practices of Malaysia, which used to employ more than 2 million migrant workers have not been amended yet to ensure that workers who claim their rights are not wrongfully terminated and sent back.

Whilst there is a clear provision in the Industrial Relations Act 1967, that is section 5, which explicitly prohibits employers (or persons acting on behalf of employers) from discriminating, threatening, dismissing or acting negatively against workers who are interested in forming, joining, and/or encouraging other workers to join trade unions, there is no similar clear provision in law protecting workers who want to claim their worker rights through the Labour Departments and other available avenues. As an example, section 5(1)(c) and (d) of the Industrial Relations Act 1967is as follows:-
(1) No employer or trade union of employers, and no person action on behalf of an employer or such trade union shall -

…. (c) discriminate against any person in regard to employment, promotion, any condition of employment or working conditions on the ground that he is or is not a member or officer of a trade union;


(d) dismiss or threaten to dismiss a workman, injure or threaten to injure him in his employment or alter or threaten to alter his position to his prejudice by reason that the workman -
         (i) is or proposes to become, or seeks to persuade any other person to become,
a member or officer of a trade union; or
        (ii) participates in the promotion, formation or activities of a trade union; or…

There should be a similar clear provision in law that will prevent employers from harassing, threatening, discriminating and/or dismissing workers that claim their worker rights using existing avenues of complaints and remedies. The act of employers impeding, dismissing (or threathening to dismiss) workers who claim their worker rights should also be made an offence with a hefty fine. Workers should also receive a significant sum in exemplary damages, over and above their claim. Deterrence is needed to stop this unhealthy practice of employers violating worker rights, and preventing them access to justice.

In the case of Thu Maung, we call for the immediate reinstatement of Thu Maung without any loss of benefits.

We call on Dato' Seri Stanley Thai, Executive Chairman cum Group Managing Director of Supermax Corporation Berhad, to ensure that the wrong done by their subsidiary, Maxter Glove Manufacturing Sdn Bhd, to Thu Maung and other workers in the said company is ended, and that all workers are paid forthwith what has been wrongly deducted from their wages, monies that have wrongly been withheld returned, outstanding overtime payments, and that all legitimate claims are settled.

We call on the government of Malaysia to do the needful, including enacting laws that will deter employers in Malaysia from exploiting workers, and also protect workers that claim their worker rights from the negative acts of repercussion and/or ‘revenge’ by some bad employers.

We also call on the government of Malaysia to ensure that all migrant workers can continue to stay and work legally in Malaysia until their cases in the Labour Department, Labour Courts, Industrial Relations Department, Industrial Courts and/or Civil Courts, and appeals thereafter are completed.

Charles Hector
Pranom Somwong

For and on behalf of the following 66 organizations

ALIRAN, Malaysia
Alliance of Health Workers Philippines
Arakan League for Democracy (ALD-LA-MALAYSIA)
Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD)
Asian Migrant Centre (AMC)
Asian Migrants Coordinating Body-Hong Kong (AMCB)
Association of Indonesian Migrant Workers in HK (ATKI-HK)
BAYAN USA.
BOMSA, Dhaka, Bangladesh
BUGKOS
Burma Campaign, Malaysia
Burma Partnership
Canada-Philippines Solidarity for Human Rights (Vancouver, BC Canada)
Center for Japanese-Filipino Families
Clean Clothes Campaign -International Secretariat
Committee for Asian Women (CAW)
Communication Union of Australia (Vic Branch)
Empower, Chiang Mai
Filipino Migrant Center
Frank-Hubner-Scholl Resistance Movement of the White Rose
Free Burma Campaign Singapore (FBCSG)
Friends of Burma, Malaysia
Gabriela-Taiwan
IMA Research Foundation, Bangladesh
Institute for National and Democratic Studies of Indonesia (INDIES)
Interfaith Cooperation Forum
KAFIN-Migrante (Saitama)
Kafin Migrant Center, Japan
Labour Behind the Label, United Kingdom
MADPET - Malaysians against Death Penalty and Torture
Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC)
May 1st Coalition for Worker & Immigrant Rights, USA
Mekong Migration Network (MMN)
Migrante Aotearoa New Zealand
Migrante B.C. (Canada)
Migrante Denmark
Migrante Europe
Migrante International
Migrante-Middle East
Migrante Nagoya
Migrante Taiwan
Migrante UK.
Migranteng Ilonggo sa Taiwan
National League for Democracy [NLD (LA)], Malaysia
National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (NNIRR), U.S.
Network of Action for Migrants in Malaysia (NAMM)
PAN Asia and the Pacific
Parti Rakyat Malaysia (PRM)
Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor (EMPOWER)
Persatuan Masyarakat Malaysia & Wilayah Persekutuan (PERMAS)
Philippines Australia Union
Philippine Society in Japan
PINAY (Filipino Women's Organization in Quebec)
Pusat Komas
Rights Jessore, India
Shan Refugee Organization, Malaysia
Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM), Malaysia
The Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants (APMM)
The Best Friend Library - Chiang Mai, Thailand
The Hong Kong Coalition for Free Burma Campaign
Think Centre Singapore
United Indonesians against Overcharging (PILAR)
United Filipinos in Hong Kong
Workers Hub for Change (WH4C)
YASANTI, Indonesia
ZOMI National Congress- Malaysia