Employment agencies accused of cheating Myanmar workers

Many Myanmar workers with work permits have been exploited by employment agencies as they prepared to leave Malaysia, according to a migrant-rights activist.

Under a Malaysian policy passed last year, many employment agencies will close down on March 31 and they have to send foreign workers back to their home countries by then.

“An agency tried to cheat workers by withholding ‘taxes’ from their wages,” U Aung Aung, chairman of the Yadana Settka charity foundation, said on Tuesday.

He said an agency had sent 40 Myanmar workers to the airport after giving them only half their wages, withholding the other half as taxes to be paid to the government for the workers.

Only after the Myanmar Embassy confronted the agency were the workers paid their full wages at the airport, minus the real taxes paid to the government, said U Aung Aung.

He added that the system of the workers having to pay taxes was changed in Malaysia years ago and employers are now supposed to pay the taxes.

According to the workers, some 200 Myanmar workers who hold work permits were subjected to illegal deductions by the agencies, he said.

He added that the Myanmar Embassy in Malaysia is failing to adequately protect Myanmar workers from exploitation by the agencies.

He called on the embassy to raise awareness among workers of the illegal practice so they will not be cheated. He said there are still many Myanmar workers who have to return to Myanmar before the March 31 deadline.

According to news reports, some work permit holders in Malaysia are being paid lower wages by the recruitment agencies and middlemen, although their employers pay workers the correct wages.

A joint committee of the Malaysian Home Affairs Ministry and Human Resources Ministry decided last year to close unofficial recruitment agencies and middlemen that earn high profits by hiring foreign workers.

The move was intended to prevent the unfair treatment of workers, human trafficking and other issues related to foreign workers, migrant worker activists said.

More than 100 agencies in Malaysia run recruitment centres for hiring foreign workers. Some 26,000 foreign workers are believed to have been brought to Malaysia by the agencies and middlemen.

U Aung Aung said the foreign workers would be allowed to return to Malaysia if they are hired directly by employers under a different work permit system that could cost employers up to RM10,000 (US$2500) per worker, which many can’t afford.

The Malaysian government warned that workers who hold work permits will be regarded as illegal if they fail to return home before the March 31 deadline.

Written by Zaw Zaw Htwe
Source: Myanmar Times
Published on 21 March 2019
Link: https://www.mmtimes.com/news/employment-agencies-accused-cheating-myanmar-workers.html

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