Making a case to give ‘illegal aliens’ their wages

Glorene Das of the Tenaganita group says maids “do not do their work as a favour to us”.

PETALING JAYA: A domestic worker from Indonesia must wait longer to know whether she is entitled to claim five years’ back wages amounting to more than RM30,000 from her Malaysian employer.

The Tenaganita women’s rights group said a decision on her claim was deferred by the High Court in Shah Alam today. The judge had requested further submission on her rights “as an illegal alien working in Malaysia”.

A decision is expected on June 17, Tenaganita said.

Tenaganita executive director Glorene Das said the High Court judge has asked counsel for the woman (known only by her pseudonym of “Nona”) to make a submission on what recourse was available for an illegal alien working in Malaysia to enforce her contract of employment, since Malaysia has not ratified the International Labour Organisation convention.

She said the Industrial Court had previously ruled that any claims to wages by a migrant worker who did not have a work permit would not be valid.

However Das said the right of migrant workers to claim their wages should be handled separately from their immigration status.

“The Immigration Act should not have overriding authority to be used to deprive a worker of her wages for work that has been performed,” she said in a statement today.

“Nona” is claiming a total of RM30,265.32 in unpaid wages for almost five years. She filed the claim against her employer at the Port Klang Labour Office in 2017.

The statement quoted Nona as saying: “I cleaned the employer’s house for almost five years, took care of his children and his dog and also worked long hours in his shop. All I want is my wages that I have worked for, so that I can go home to my family.”

Das said that if undocumented migrant workers did not have a means to seek redress for unpaid wages, more employers would seek to employ undocumented migrants and refugees without paying for their wages.

Tenaganita quoted the case officer, Joseph Paul Maliamauv, as saying that Malaysia had not ratified an ILO convention on employment of migrant workers, but all employees had the right to redress, irrespective of their immigration status, under the Employment Act .

Das said many undocumented migrant workers were victims of fraud, deception, and opaque immigration procedures, and were victims of recruitment agents, often in cahoots with immigration officials.

She said Malaysians should recognise that “we have no right to enslave anyone; we have no right to exploit the desperation brought on by poverty; we do not own the labour of another person; and that “domestic workers are not doing work as a favour to us” and they must be respected and accorded the rights of any other worker.