Civil society organizations from various countries call for public attention to the plight of Burmese and Sri Lankan migrant workers in Malaysia.
We, the undersigned 71 civil society organizations and groups, would like to express our serious concern that JVC has indicated that they will not re-new the employment contracts of Pa Pa Aye and 15 other Burmese women migrant workers, who lodged a claim at the Labour Department claiming worker rights that the JVC company had violated, amongst them the wrongful deduction of their wages to recover levy that employers have to pay when they employ foreign workers. The other 7 workers, who complained, whose contract was renewed in August, will also be terminated and repatriated. The information contained in this statement has been provided by the affected workers.
JVC has its factory at Lot. No.1, Persiaran Jubli Perak, Jalan 22/1, Section 22, Shah Alam, 40702 Shah Alam, Selangor, Malaysia, and they manufactures cameras, video cameras and audio equipment components, amongst others.
On 21/7/2010, Pa Pa Aye and 22 other women migrant workers lodged a complaint at the Subang Jaya Labour Office in Malaysia. Amongst their demands were for the return of monies wrongly deducted from their wages for levy the employer had to pay to the Malaysian government for employing migrant workers, other unlawful deductions like transfer fees, saving funds, etc amounting to about RM3,500-00, and for the return of the Passports which are still wrongly being held by the employer . They were also claiming for the balance of the wages that they were entitled. According to the workers, the employer was to pay them much more about RM50 per day but they were only paid the sum of RM23.
On 6/8/2010, after night shift when the women workers were being transported back to their homes, their bus took a different route, and suddenly stopped where the agent was waiting. The agent then called one of the Burmese women migrant workers who had complaint to the Labour Department and asked her to leave the bus and follow him. The workers suspected that the agent was trying to get the worker sent back to Burma, and they stood together and prevented the agent from taking the worker. The workers then lodged a police report about this incident. There have also been other cases of harassment, whereby in one incident 3 men entered the women’s hostel and threatened them.
The workers, through their representatives, which included an officer from the Malaysian Trade Union Congress (MTUC) also complained about this incident to JVC, and JVC gave the assurance that this will not happen again and they guaranteed that all workers could continue to work in JVC.
On 12/8/2010, the agent tried to force the workers to sign a new contract, but all workers refused to sign it. The pressure on the workers to sign the new contract took place at the factory compound. Later on the same day the JVC’s Human Resource Manager, one Mr. Mazlan, and the HR Assistant Manager, one Ms. Ida, also tried to pressure the workers to sign the new contracts. The new contract was written in English only (just like their old contract). The workers to date do not have a copy of their old contract, as they were never given a copy. The new contract allegedly stated that their daily salary will be reduced to RM21, which is RM2 less than what the workers have been getting until now.
On 25/8/2010, the Burmese workers informed us that JVC had summarily dismissed 30 Sri Lanka women migrant workers in retaliation for their demand that JVC pay them their promised monthly salary of RM750. After the dismissal JVC and the agent, Fast Link Trans, began forceful repatriation of the workers. On 28/8/2010, 8 Sri Lankan workers were allegedly sent home. These workers apparently never received the amount owing them and/or any compensation for premature termination of their contract.
On 8/9/2010, JVC’s Human Resources Officer, in the presence of the Labour Officer and the agent’s representative from a company known as Fast Link Trans, tried to return to the Burmese workers the amount they said was the levy that had been wrongfully deducted from the wages and asked the workers to sign a document which was in English. The workers refused as the amount offered was far less than the sum deducted, and they did not want to sign any document which was in a language they did not know.
The company also refused to give a copy of the document to enable them to get an independent person who spoke Burmese to translate its contents to them.
On 28/9/2010, the agent informed the workers that when their current annual contract expires, their contracts will not be renewed and they will all be sent back to Burma. The contracts of 15 of these workers’ contract will expire in October, and the rest by the end of the year. Pa Pa Aye’s own contract expires in early November. The contracts of 7 others which expired in August have already been renewed. Later, on about 7/10/2010, the agent informed the workers that all 23 of them will be terminated and sent back to Burma. The process of forced repatriation of the Burmese workers has already begun with one worker being sent back to Burma on 9/10/2010.
It must be stated that according to the workers, when they came to Malaysia to work with JVC the agreement was that they will be employed for a period of at least 3 years, but when they arrived and started working, they were made to sign 1-year contracts with the verbal assurance that it will be renewed every year for at least a total of 3 years. The threat of early termination and deportation is also wrong and discriminatory as JVC has continued to renew contracts of others who had started work around the same time as these Burmese migrant workers.
Any early termination, and/or non renewal of the 1-year employment contracts by JVC can reasonably be seen as a retaliation of the company against workers who have elected to claim their rights as workers. Their case at the Labour Department is pending, and a termination and repatriation back to Burma will mean that the workers will not be able to continue to pursue their claim in the Labour Department/Court as the presence of the worker in the hearing of their claims against the employer is compulsory, and their absence will mean that their case will just be struck off,
We, the undersigned groups, call upon JVC to respect worker rights and their right to access to justice and not cause these 23 Burmese workers to be terminated and deported.
We urge that JVC to respect the law and the legal process initiated by the lodging of the complaint by the workers at the Labour Department, and to respect and abide with the outcome of the hearing at the Labour Court. Workers should not be terminated and/or discriminated against by reason of the fact that they choose to demand for their rights or better rights as workers. For those who have already been repatriated back to their country of origin, including those workers from Sri Lanka, JVC must compensate them for their expenses in coming to Malaysia to work, and for the early termination of their employment.
We call on JVC to act justly and not to terminate these workers, and to renew their contract so that they can pursue their claims until completion. JVC should also adhere to their earlier promise that these workers will be employed for a period of at least 3 years, for migrant workers do expend a lot of money (850-1,000 USD) when they do come to Malaysia to work and any early termination and breach of rights will only leave these workers in a worse situation as they may not be even to settle the debts they incurred in coming here to Malaysia to work.
We call on Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM) to inquire into this complaint concerning the violation of worker rights by JVC.
We also call on the Malaysian government and the Human Resource Minister to ensure that no workers are terminated and/or discriminated against by reason of the fact that they have stood up to claim their rights as workers.
The Malaysian government should also ensure that no migrant worker is terminated and/or repatriated back to their country of origins until the employer has fully settled all outstanding worker claims and/or payments. If migrant workers are terminated, the Malaysian government must ensure that these workers are allowed to stay and work legally in Malaysia until all outstanding claims and legal processes are settled. If special passes and visas are required to ensure workers ability to stay and work legally, it must be given gratis without requiring the workers to pay anything. Worker cases must be expedited, and independent translators should be available at all Labour Departments and courts.
Labour rights must take precedent over immigration law. Do not deport until worker claims are determined and settled by Labour Department and/or courts.
For and on behalf of the following 71 organizations
Asia Pacific Forum on Women ,Law and Development ( APWLD)
Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants (APMM)
Asian Migrants Center (AMC)
Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma)
Building and Wood Workers International Asia Pacific Regional Office
Burma Campaign, Malaysia
Burmese Women's Union (BWU)
Coalition To Abolish Modern-Day Slavery In Asia
Committee for Asian Women (CAW)
Community Development Services (CDS), Sri Lanka
Coordination of Action Research on AIDS & Mobility (CARAM-ASIA)
Democratic Party for a New Society (DPNS), Burma
FICAP – Aichi
Filipino Migrants Center – FMC
Forum for Democracy in Burma
GABRIELA – Japan
Grassroots Human Rights Education & Development (GHRE-FED), Thailand
Human Rights Education Institute of Burma
IHI Action Group (Iwi Have Influence), New Zealand
IMA Research Foundation, Bangladesh
Kachin Women's Association, Thailand
KAFIN – Nagoya
KL & Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall Youth Section
League of Filipino Seniors (LFS)
Legal Support for Children and Women (LSCW), Cambodia
MADPET - Malaysians against Death Penalty and Torture
Malaysia Youth and Students Democratic Movement (DEMA)
MAP Foundation, Thailand
May 1st Coalition, Co-Coordinator, USA
Mekong Migration Network ( MMN)
Migrante Aotearoa New Zealand
Migrant Forum in Asia (MFA)
Migranteng Ilonggo sa Taiwan
Migrante international - Hsinchuang chapter
Migrante International - Taiwan chapter
Migrante-Middle East and Migrante-Saudi Arabia chapter
MIGRANTE – Nagoya
Migrants Trade Union (MTU), Korea
Migrant Workers Network – New Zealand
National League for Democracy [NLD (LA)], Malaysia
Nepal Institute of Development Studies( NIDS) ,NEPAL
Network for Empowerment of Women in Vietnam
Network of Action for Migrants in Malaysia (NAMM)
Parti Rakyat Malaysia (PRM)
Penggerak Belia Zon 23 MPSJ, Malaysia
Persatuan Masyarakat Selangor & Wilayah Persekutuan, Malaysia
Persatuan Penduduk Taman Muhibbah, Malaysia
Persatuan Prihatin Komuniti KL & Selangor
Philippine Society in Japan – Nagoya
Pusat Komas, Malaysia
Persatuan Sahabat Wanita Selangor, Malaysia
Shan Refugee Organization (Malaysia)
Shan Women Action Network (SWAN), Thailand
Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM)
The Federation of Trade Unions Burma (FTUB)
The Filipino Women's Organization in Quebec
The National Human Rights Society (Persatuan Kebangsaan Hak Asasi Manusia, HAKAM), Malaysia
The Shwe Gas Movement
Unite Union New Zealand
Women Empowerment Association
Workers Hub for Change (WH4C)
Yaung Chi Oo Workers Association ( YCOWA)
Yayasan Annisa Swasti (YASANTI), Indonesia