Kula warned against ‘simplistic’ solution in cutting foreign workers’ salaries

Foreign workers fleeing is a major problem faced by Malaysian employers, but a union activist has urged the government to investigate its root causes. (Bernama pic)

PETALING JAYA: A trade union leader has expressed shock over a proposal by the human resources minister to withhold 20% of migrant workers’ wages to prevent them from fleeing from their employers.

K. Veeriah, who is secretary of the Malaysian Trades Union Congress’ (MTUC) Penang division, said the idea was “simplistic” and ignored the root causes of foreign workers fleeing, adding that it could also run foul of labour laws.

“Taking an easy way out can never be the answer,” he said in response to the proposal announced by M Kulasegaran today.

“A piece meal approach would never serve the higher objective to understanding the issues confronting migrant workers.”

Kula proposed that employers be allowed to deduct 20% of their foreign workers’ basic salaries, saying the issue of foreign workers fleeing was a major problem faced by employers.

He said the move could avoid employers from incurring losses on their investments in foreign workers.

Kula, who said the deducted amount could be parked in the government’s Social Security Organisation (Socso) insurance scheme, also claimed that such a practice had been successfully implemented in Japan and South Korea.

But Veeriah questioned if Malaysia, in adopting the practice, was also prepared to embrace the high labour standards in the two countries.

He also warned that deducting workers’ salaries was an offence under the Employment Act 1955.

“His suggestion to park such deductions with Socso raises the question of whether there exists such a provision under the Social Security Act to do so,” he added.