Punish “Wage Theft” instead of “Mona”

The fact is that there is a underground labour market in the country, which thrives on unscrupulous labour agents and brokers who exploit undocumented migrant workers.

An undocumented Indonesian migrant worker, “Mona”, is one of them. There are millions out there, just like her.

Mona has been re-victimised by the Labour Court, which ruled she has no rights to claim over RM30,000 in unpaid wages as a domestic helper.

The judgment is a travesty of justice and sanctions modern day slavery.

It would also encourage other Malaysian employers to employ undocumented workers, only to end up not paying them.

We cannot allow a migrant worker’s immigration status to deprive her of her rightfully-earned salary.

The government should punish “wage theft” instead of the worker, as right to work and remuneration is an universal human rights that is provided for by the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

There must be a clear separation of powers between the Labour Law and Immigration Law. There is no dispute to the merits of the case- she was employed and promised a specific amount as a salary.

We are yet to demonstrate a commitment to go after labour agents and brokers, who profit at the expense of these poor migrant workers.

The scam involving Nepali workers and non-payment to janitors in the court complex are not an exhaustive list.

We have also been hearing stories of abuse of power, extortion and corruption by immigration officers during the ongoing raids to nab undocumented migrant workers.

Such systemic abuse cannot continue. Mona’s Malaysian employer must be charged in court for hiring and exploiting an undocumented worker.

Migrants workers such as Mona come here to work because of the attractive exchange rate and the lack of job opportunities plus poverty in their home countries.

They work themselves to death in the construction, services, electrical and electronics and plantation industries.

They keep our homes clean and care for our ailing parents and children.

At the very least, we owe them due respect and the promised salary.

A judicial review of Mona’s case is therefore crucial so that she can be paid the money owing to her.

We would fail as a nation if she is forced to leave the country empty-handed.

Media statement by Charles Santiago in Klang on Wednesday, 15th August 2018