Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Indonesia to go after Malaysian bosses over unpaid salaries

Excerpt : TheStar
JAKARTA: The Indonesian government plans to sue Malaysian firms that have taken advantage of a continuing amnesty for illegal immigrants to cheat Indonesian workers out of their pay, a minister said.

Manpower Minister Fahmi Idris said the government has engaged 10 top Malaysian lawyers to prepare lawsuits against the companies, and also against others who illegally hire Indonesian workers.

He said strict Malaysian immigration laws, including whipping and jailing for both illegal immigrants and their employers, were not enforced fairly, with little action taken against bosses.

“The companies who are employing illegal Indonesian migrant workers are violating regulations,” he told reporters ahead of his visit to Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

“We were told they would issue sanctions to both sides ... I do not see the commitment being implemented.”

Idris said many Indonesians in Malaysia also could not take up the amnesty offer because their employers have not paid them. A recent case involved some 90 Indonesian workers who were owed nearly US$40,000 (RM152,000) in total wages by a construction firm.

He said the company would be among those brought to court and Jakarta has requested protection for the 90 workers in the meantime.

Idris said he would meet the Malaysian lawyers today to discuss details. He earlier said he would press Home Affairs Minister Datuk Azmi Khalid to ensure that errant Malaysian firms are penalised when he meets him today.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is also expected to raise the issue in talks with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi when he visits Malaysia on Monday, he said.

In Petaling Jaya, Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) president Jaafar Carrim said they supported any move to bring bad employers to book, reports FLORENCE A. SAMY.

“We don’t condone any action by companies that take advantage of the amnesty situation to deprive their employees of fair wages,'' he said.

However, Jaafar said those with complaints on the matter should first approach the authorities such as the Human Resources Ministry to further investigate the claims.

“Let the proper process take its course but don’t jump to conclusions or prosecute the companies through the media,” he said.

Lawyer Sivarasah Rasiah said companies were bound by contract law to pay wages to workers irrespective of their legal status.

Depending on the facts of the case, he said Malaysia should prosecute employers who failed to pay their employees.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Radzi Sheikh Ahmad said: “They have a right to sue and we can’t stop them from suing but it has nothing to do with the decision to send illegal workers back. Let’s see what happens first.”

Malaysia last week extended indefinitely a conditional amnesty for illegal immigrants after Indonesia requested a delay because of the tsunami disaster.

About 380,000 illegal immigrants – mostly Indonesians – took the opportunity to leave without facing any penalty during the three-month amnesty that expired Jan 31, leaving at least the same number behind, according to official estimates.

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