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We, the undersigned 67 civil society organizations, trade unions and groups are shocked with the recent decision of the Malaysian cabinet on 30/1/2013 to allow employers of migrant workers to recover levy that they paid the government to employ foreign workers from migrant workers through wage deductions. 

According to the law, workers in Malaysia were to receive minimum wages of RM900[USD291](for Peninsular Malaysia) and RM800[USD259] (for Sabah and Sarawak) as of 1/1/2013. Khalid Atan, the President of the Malaysian Trade Union Congress(MTUC) said, “…if workers were asked to pay the levy, the minimum wages policy would not benefit them at all, as whatever little increase in salary they enjoyed, would be wiped out with the levy payment…” [Star, 10/1/2013, MTUC: Don't give in to employers' demand on foreign workers levy]
Some employers have also been trying to avoid this obligation to pay minimum wages, which is basic wages not inclusive overtime, existing allowances and other benefits. Some do it by re-structuring worker remuneration by including all other allowances, incentives and benefits to make up the RM900, which is very wrong. Some employers are making employees to sign documents agreeing to these changes, whereby this is made easier when there are no worker unions. Workers generally have no avenue of complaint, or even choice in the matter especially when many now are employed based on short-term employment contract. A refusal by the worker means a non-renewal or no new employment contracts when their contracts expire.
To avoid paying workers minimum wages, the Malaysian government also allowed employers the right to apply for a delay in paying workers minimum wages, and vide Minimum Wages(Amendment) Order 2012 dated 28/12/2012, the government allowed more than 500 employers to delay paying workers minimum wages. What was blatantly wrong in this process was that the aggrieved workers and/or their unions were not given any right to be heard before the employer’s application to deny them their entitlement to minimum wages was approved.
The Malaysian government, in the past, on the application of certain employers, allowed them to make wage deductions and/or wage advances, contrary to the general provisions in law with the intention to allow employers to recover from migrant workers monies expended by employers to get migrant workers to Malaysia to work for them. This included sometimes not just a means to recover levy paid, but also all other costs incurred by employers to recruit and bring in migrant workers. Approvals were given by the government with no consultation or agreement of the worker or their unions. As of 1/4/2009, the Malaysian government stopped this practice, and made it clear that it is employers that have to pay the levy and they cannot recover the said sum from migrant workers.
Labour Director-General Datuk Ismail Abdul Rahim was reported saying that, “…The rationale behind getting employers to bear the levy was to discourage them from employing foreigners…” [Star, 16/4/2009, Employers can deduct levy from wages, again]. As such, this current move to make migrant workers pay the levy removes the very intention of levy, i.e. to discourage employers from employing foreign workers.
The reason for the new decision ‘… is to alleviate the hiring cost for employers, said Finance Minister II Datuk Seri Ahmad Husni Hanadzlah...’ [Star, 30/1/2013, Cabinet: Foreign workers to pay levy instead of employers with immediate effect]. If the Malaysian government now wants to reduce the financial burden of employers who hire migrant workers, then rightfully the government should reduce or remove the levy – not shift the burden to workers.
Migrant workers sacrifice a lot when they elect to come to Malaysia to work. They have to leave behind the spouses, children, family and friends for Malaysian law allows them to only come alone and work in Malaysia, and they also are barred from falling in love and getting married during their employment period  which is usually for at least 5 years. They also end up incurring substantial debt when they come, for they have to pay, amongst others recruitment agents, most times these payments include both legal and ‘illegal’ payments. Whilst in Malaysia, they are bound to just one employer – having no right to change employers. When they claim rights, even through existing legal avenues, they generally are terminated and their employment pass/permits are also cancelled depriving them the right to stay (or work) legally in Malaysia until their claims are resolved. The termination of these passes/permits is done by the Malaysian government irrespective of whether there are outstanding claims or pending cases concerning the said worker’s rights. This precarious reality of migrant workers makes them vulnerable to exploitation by some employers, knowing that it is most easy to violate worker rights and then get off scot free. Until laws and policies are amended to protect migrant’s worker rights, naturally migrant workers become the preferred choice over local workers as they are certainly a more easily exploited class of workers.
We call on the Malaysian government to immediately rescind the decision made by the Malaysian cabinet on Wednesday(30/1/2013) to allow employers of migrant workers to recover the levy they pay the government by deduction of wages of migrant workers.
We take the position that all workers, including migrant workers, are entitled to receive minimum wages, whereby this is the basic wage and should not include allowances, benefits and other work incentives. Employers should not be permitted to remove pre-April 2012 worker entitlements and benefits, being the date the Minimum Wage Order 2012 came into force, from existing and subsequent employment contracts.
We call on the Malaysian government to end all forms of discrimination against workers, with regard to, amongst others, their nationality, gender, duration of their employment contracts.
Charles Hector
Pranom Somwong
Syed Shahir Syed Mohamud
For and on behalf the 67 groups listed:
Angkatan Rakyat Muda Parti Rakyat Malaysia (ARM-PRM)
Asian Migrant Centre (AMC), Hong Kong 
Asian Migrants Coordinating Body (AMCB) Hong Kong
Asia Monitor Resource Centre, Hong Kong
Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law And Development (APWLD)
Asia Pacific Mission For Migrants (APMM ), Hong Kong
Association of Indonesian Migrant Worker in Hong Kong (ATKI-HK)
Bangladeshi Ovibashi Mohila Sramik Association (BOMSA)
Burma Campaign Malaysia
BWI (Building and Wood Worker's International)
CAW (Committee for Asian Women)
Centre for Human Rights and Development-Sri Lanka
Center for Orang  Asli Concerns (COAC), Malaysia
CEREAL - Centro de Reflexión y Acción Laboral – Guadalajara, Mexico
Clean Clothes Campaign( CCC )
Community Action Network (CAN), Malaysia
Community Development Services, Sri Lanka
COVA (Confederation of Voluntary Associations), India
Electronic Industry Employees Union Western Region (EIEUWR), Malaysia
Far East Overseas Nepalese Association (FEONA), Hong Kong
Filipino Migrant Workers Union (FMWU)
GoodElectronics Network
Human Rights Ambassador for
IMA Research Foundation, Bangladesh
International Domestic Workers Network
Kesatuan Pekerja-Pekerja Polyplastics Asia Pacific Sdn Bhd.
Kesatuan Pekerja-Pekerja MHS Aviation Berhad
Kesatuan Sekerja Industri Elektronik Wilayah Selatan (EIEUSR), Malaysia
LSCW (Legal Support for Children and Women), Cambodia
MADPET (Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture)
Malaysia Youth & Students Democratic Movement (DEMA)
MAP Foundation, Thailand
Migrant Domestic Workers Trust, India
Migrant Forum, India
Migrant Health Association in Korea
MIGRANTE International
Mindanao Migrants Center for Empowering Actions, Inc. (MMCEAI)
Mission For Migrant Workers - Hong Kong
MTUC (Malaysian Trade Union Congress)
Myanmar Ethnic Rohingyas Human Rights Organization Malaysia (MERHROM)
National Domestic Workers Movement, India
National Union of Transport Equipment & Allied Industries Workers (NUTEAIW)
Network of Action for Migrants in Malaysia (NAMM)
NLD-LA (National League for Democracy-Liberated Areas), Malaysia
NUBE (National Union of Banking Employees), Malaysia
OKUP (Ovibashi Karmi Unnayan Program) in Bangladesh
Parti Rakyat Malaysia(PRM)
Paper & Paper Products Manufacturing Employees' Union Of Malaysia (PPPMEU)
 Persatuan  Sahabat  Wanita, Selangor
Persatuan  Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor
Persatuan Masyarakat Selangor & Wilayah Persekutuan (PERMAS)
PILAR (United Indonesians in Hong Kong against Overcharging) , Hong Kong
Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia {SABM}
SUARAM, Malaysia
Tamilnadu Domestic Workers Union, India
Tamilnadu Domestic Workers Welfare Trust, India
Tenaganita, Malaysia
Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2), Singapore
United for Foreign Domestic Workers' Rights (UFDWR )
WAC, Philippines
WARBE Development Foundation-Bangladesh
Women Workers Lead
WH4C – Workers Hub For Change
Yayasan LINTAS NUSA - Batam – Indonesia
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