BWI and MTUC Assist 11 Trafficked and Exploited Indian Migrant Workers
[International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC)] -The Malaysian Trade Union Congress (MTUC) recently brought a disturbing case of trafficking and exploitation of 11 Indian workers in Malaysia to the BWI Asia Pacific Regional Office's attention.
The 11 Indian migrant workers from Tamil Nadu State were working as newspaper sellers and distributors. These workers originally arrived in Malaysia under plantation worker visas but they were quickly put to work selling newspapers and subjected to inhumane treatment. Upon arrival the employer and agent immediately confiscated their passports to discourage them from running away and seeking assistance, while they were left unpaid for over 8 months. For accommodation they were expected to sleep on the floor without a mattress. Working over 12 hours per day, they were given insufficient food and subjected to beatings and abuse from their employers.
The workers were basically living and working in fear. Eventually a complaint was made to the MTUC, who sent an organiser to check on the welfare of the workers. Alarmed at what he found he immediately contacted the police and the government's anti-trafficking body. After lodging the complaint against the employer with the police and government the employers were arrested. However, they immediately denied knowledge of the workers, claiming that they were not under their employment. The police released the employers, then, proceeded to arrest the Indian migrant workers for violating their visa arrangements and not having their passports. As a result of intervention from the MTUC the migrant workers have since been released. They have also met with the Indian High Commission, where diplomatic staff upheld the allegations of the workers and pledged their full support. The case is continuing, with anti-trafficking action expected to be taken against the employers by the Department of Public Prosecutions.
Meanwhile, the MTUC is establishing a civil case for the workers in order to win back unpaid wages and access compensation for their inhumane treatment. The BWI is in discussions with its affiliates in India, specifically in Tamil Nadu to pressure both the national and Tamil Nadu state government to assist these workers to ensure these migrant workers get their entitlements and the employers and agent are punished to full the extent of the law. Since the workers are still without their passports, BWI is currently working with its Indian affiliates and local organizations in Malaysia to pressure the Indian High Commission to issue replacement passports to the workers as soon as possible. BWI Connect Malaysian Trade Union Congress