Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Japanese electronics company Asahi Kosei is challenged for not respecting worker rights

Asahi Kosei (M) Sdn. Bhd must respect Human Rights and Worker Rights
Reinstate Thiha Soe and Aung San Without Loss of Benefits
We, the undersigned 81 organizations, groups and networks are shocked at how Asahi Kosei (M) Sdn Bhd has unjustly treated its workers, in particular the 31 Burmese Migrant Workers, working at the factory at Lot 3377, Jalan Perusahaan Utama, Taman Industri Selesa Jaya, 43300 Balakong, Selangor Darul Ehsan, Malaysia.
On or about 31/1/2011, 31 Burmese migrant workers complained about non-compliance by the employer with their agreement. The workers alleged that the employer was paying them far less than what was promised. They also expressed disappointment in the wrongful deductions from their wages, which included deduction for hostel charges when the agreement was that the employer shall provide free accommodation. They also raised their disagreement with the deduction of RM50-00 for every day that a worker does not come to work, when the daily rate of pay is only RM20. They also wanted paid medical leave, which really is already a legal right in Malaysia.
In response, the workers informed us that on 7/2/2011 a gang of persons came and threatened them at their hostel. The police allegedly came with these persons. Before they left, these persons took all cooking utensils and materials, television, cooking gas, refrigerator, table fan and rice cooker) used by the workers. They switched off the electric main switch, and left the workers in the dark with no electricity. These persons reasonably can be assumed to be workers/agents of the employer.

Two workers, without their consent, were allegedly taken to the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) with the impression that the employer will be sending them back to Burma (Myanmar). Fortunately, the said 2 workers managed to escape and run away.

On 8/2/2011, the workers lodged a complaint with the Malaysian Human Rights Commission (SUHAKAM) and also were preparing the formal paperwork required to lodge a complaint with the Labour Department.

On 9/2/2011, the employer had a meeting with the said 31 workers, whereby they proposed:-

a) an increase the salary to RM23 per day (whereby previously it was RM20),

b) that there will be no more allowances (previously RM2/day was paid as shift allowance and RM30 as monthly allowance)

c) that if worker is absent for 2 days in one month, they will deduct RM-50 (previously for ever day absent, the employer deducted RM50)

d) Hostel Charges shall be reduced to RM30 per month (previously it was RM50 per month)

The employer then gave the workers an ultimatum that they sign the new contract now, or be terminated and sent back to Burma immediately. The workers were not given any opportunity or time to consider the proposal, or to discuss the matter further.

Finally, all workers save 2, cowed under pressure and signed the new contract. The 2 workers who did not sign are Thiha Soe (PP No: A 458011) and Aung San (PP No: A432863), whereby Aung San was the worker who signed the complaint for and on behalf of all the workers when the complaint was lodged at the Human Rights Commission on 8/2/2011.

Thiha Soe and Aung San were then handed over by the employer to the recruitment agent, possibly to send them back to Burma. Both workers have been separated and taken to different undisclosed location. Both workers do not want to be sent back to Burma, and want to continue working at Asahi Kosei(M) Sdn Bhd factory in Balakong.

Asahi Kosei(M) Sdn Bhd, a subsidiary of Asahi Kosei Japan Co. Ltd., which makes Die-Cast Aluminium Parts for HDD(Computer Parts), VTR, And Automotive parts for, amongst others, Hitachi Ltd Automotive Systems, Hitachi Seisakusho, Denso(Toyota), Kawasaki Heavy Industry, Hitachi(Thai), Modenas , Seiko Instrument, Hitachi Global Storage, Matsushita Kotobuki, Matsushita Electronics, Toshiba, Maxtor, Seiko Epson, Kanematsu Device, Sony, Hitachi, Matsushita, JVC, Mitsubishi Electric, Philips, Sharp, Sanyo, Toshiba, Thomson, Yaskawa and Hitachi Mexico. It is sad that some companies with declared code of conducts and standards are seen to be associated with companies that violate worker and human rights.

We the undersigned 81 organizations, groups and networks
a) Call for Asahi Kosei(M) Sdn Bhd to immediately reinstate Thiha Soe and Aung San without any loss of benefits, and if they have already been sent back to Burma to cause that they be brought back to Malaysia to work;
b) Call for Asahi Kosei(M) Sdn Bhd to apologize to its workers for the wrongs it did, and to pay fair compensation/damages for their actions/omissions that violated rights of their workers;
c) Call for Malaysian government and/or the relevant Ministries/Department to take necessary action against Asahi Kosei(M) Sdn Bhd and the said recruiting agent concerned to ensure that justice is done for the workers;
d) Call on the Malaysian government to legislate and make actions of preventing workers access to justice an offence with a substantial penalty, that will deter employers resorting to termination and/or deportation as a threat and/or means to avoid legitimate claims by their workers;
e) Call on Local Councils and State authorities, who do issue permits and allow factories to operate within their jurisdiction, to ensure that such factories do not violate human rights and worker rights. Asahi Kosei (M) Sdn Bhd operates in the state of Selangor;
e) Call on the Malaysian government to ensure that no migrant worker is sent back to their country of origin before first verifying that all outstanding and/or potential claims and disputes between worker and employer (and/or agent or other relevant party) in Malaysia have been fully and finally settled.
f) Call on Hitachi, Sony, Philips and other companies who do have a Code of Conduct and/or who proclaim that they hold human rights and worker rights as important, who have been listed as customers of Asahi Kosei (M) Sdn Bhd and/or Asahi Kosei Japan Co. Ltd to seriously re-evaluate their relationship with such companies that clearly do not respect human rights and worker rights.
g) Call on consumers and/or investors to take into consideration human rights, including worker rights of companies and their supply chain when they do invest and/or purchase their consumer products.
Charles Hector

Pranom Somwong

Ko Tun Tun

For and on behalf of the following 81 organizations

Abra Tinguian Ilocano Society - Hong Kong (ATIS-HK)
Abra Migrant Workers Welfare Association (AMWWA)
ALIRAN, Malaysia
All Burma Students League
APFS Labor Union, Japan
Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants (APMM), Hong Kong
Association of Concerned Filipinos in Hong Kong (ACFIL-HK)
Association of Indonesian Migrant Workers, Hong Kong
Asia Pacific Students and Youth Association (ASA)
BAYAN Hong Kong
Campagne Vêtements Propres, Belgium
Centre d'appui aux Philippines - Centre for Philippine Concerns, Canada
Cordillera Alliance in Hong Kong (CORALL-HK)
Building and Wood Workers International (BWI)
Burma Campaign Malaysia
Burma Partnership
Centre Communautaire des Femmes Sud-Asiatique, Montréal, Canada
Centre d'appui aux Philippines - Centre for Philippine Concerns, Canada
Cuyapo Association Hong Kong
Democratic Party for New Society (DPNS), Burma
Empower, Thailand
Filipino Friends in Hong Kong
Filipino Migrants Association (FMA)
Filipino Migrant Center (FMC) in USA
Filipino Migrant Workers' Union - Hong Kong (FMWU)
Filipino Women Migrant Workers Association (FILWOM)
Filipino Women's Organization in Quebec, Canada
Free Burma Coalition, Philippines
Friends of Bethune House (FBH), Hong Kong
Globalization Monitor (GM), Hong Kong
GoodElectronics Network
Health Equity Initiatives, Malaysia
HMISC (Hsinchu Catholic Diocee Migrants and Immigrants Service Center), Taiwan
IMA Research Foundation, Bangladesh
International Metalworkers' Federation (IMF)
Johor Texitle And Garments Workers Union
KAFTI (Japan)
Kilusang Mayo Uno, Philippines
Legal Support for Children and Women (LSCW), Cambodia
LIKHA Filipino Migrant Cultural Organization
MADPET - Malaysians against Death Penalty and Torture
May 1st Coalition, USA
Migrante B.C. (Canada)
Migrant Care, Indonesia
MIGRANTE Europe, Netherlands
Migrante International
Migrante - Middle East
MIGRANTE Sectoral Party - Hong Kong
Mission Volunteers (MOVERS)
National Human Rights Society (HAKAM), Malaysia
National Union of Transport Equipment and Allied Industries Workers(NUTEAIW)
Network of Action for Migrants in Malaysia (NAMM)
Pangasinan Organization for Welfare, Empowerment and Rights (POWER)
Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor (Empower)
Persatuan Masyarakat Selangor & Wilayah Persekutuan (PERMAS)
PHASE TWO (People for Health and Safety in Electronics), Scotland
Philippine Society in Japan
Pinatud a Saleng ti Umili (PSU)
Project Maje ,Portland, Oregon USA
Pusat Komas
Quê Me: Action for Democracy in Vietnam, France
Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM), Malaysia
Thai Committee for Refugees (TCR)
Think Centre, Singapore
Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2), Singapore
United Filipinos in Hong Kong (UNIFIL-MIGRANTE-HK)
United Indonesians Against Overcharging, Hong Kong
Vietnam Committee on Human Rights, France
WARBE Development Foundation, Bangladesh
Workers Assistance Center, Philippines
Workers Hub For Change (WH4C)
World Forum for Democratization in Asia
Yaung Chi Oo Workers Association (YCOWA), Thailand

Thursday, January 20, 2011

‘Migrant rights? No’

Malaysia is home to around 500,000 Burmese migrants, less than half of whom have been registered and thus hold a semblance of legal status in the country. Employers of migrant workers are often accused of exploiting their fragile existence in the country for their own gain, paying meagre wages and meting out abuse in the workplace. Tun Tun heads the Burma Campaign Malaysia (BCM), which campaigns for migrant workers’ rights.

How and why did you come to Malaysia?

I have been here for 17 years. I came because I was a student at Mandalay University and was involved in politics, and got in trouble so fled and became a migrant worker myself.

Following the case of 35 migrant workers who were arrested for asking for their contracts to be upheld, why did the police just end up targeting the five leaders?

In my experience in all the cases they always target the leaders. They think if they find and target the leaders the case will be settled, to scare the other workers.

What’s the relationship between the employers and the police?

That is a major concern here. All workers cannot speak out to the police. The police don’t understand the workers explanations. That’s the first problem. The second problem is that most of the law enforcement agencies here, whenever the local Malaysian people complain to them, they always take action against the foreigners – that is a problem. This was a labour dispute – it should have been dealt with in a labour court – but they never use this channel. They just use the police; they just arrive and arrest them and transfer them to immigration who deport them. It’s very easy for the employer and safe for the employer, so a lot of them use this channel.

How often do employers take workers documents?

According to Malaysian law, employers can’t keep workers’ documents, but the immigration department or police never take action against the employers. They all know that they keep the workers’ documents but do nothing. The Sinometal Technology Company took all their documents.

How do you advise migrant workers in Malaysia?

Wherever you go to work you can’t get good wages and you are not safe if you don’t keep your documents. Because you are not skilled, the employers will pay you around 700 to 800 [Malaysia Ringgit – $US230-260], so please don’t run away – if you don’t follow the contract we can’t help you.

How many illegal Burmese migrant workers do you think there are in Malaysia?

I think there are about 200,000 illegal Burmese migrant workers in Malaysia. The majority are men, very few women. They do various kinds of work – in restaurants, engineering, production, and so on.

Why do you advise them to keep hold of their documents?

The first thing is the levy. The Malaysian government charges employers a levy for employing foreign workers. Employers regularly deduct this fee from their workers’ salaries. However as of 1 April 2009 the Malaysian government announced that the employer cannot deduct the levy charge from the workers, but 90 percent of employers don’t follow this government order – they just deduct it. I had a case on 11 January where I complained about levy deduction from a workers’ leader named Hla Min, a Burmese migrant who works for DW Plastics Ltd, who complained for all workers when a total of 48,000 ringgits ($US15,730) was deducted.

Did he get in trouble?

No. They had no other problem apart from the levy. They wanted the employer to refund their money, so I went to the labour department and reported for them. In a month the employer will refund their money.

What happens when a worker is detained for not having the right documents?

Well, in Malaysia, if an Indonesian is detained they can get a travel document for 15 ringgits ($US5) per person and then they have to go back by boat or air. For our Burmese people, they have to pay their embassy 550 ringgits ($US180), or 900 ringgits ($US295). If you pay 500 ringgits you stay a very long time in the camp; if you pay 900 you get a fast process. Now workers are facing more problems because the Burmese government has introduced a new passport, so all the workers have to go the embassy and pay 4,000 ringgits ($US1310) per person, a very high price.

Why does the Malaysian government have these levies?

They want to reduce the number of migrant workers. They are facing a lot of social problems – they think it’s the migrant workers fault but it is not true. The Malaysian government is a pro-employer government; most of the politicians are nationalists, and that is a problem.

How is the experience of Malaysia different for different Burmese ethnic groups?

In Malaysia there are over 40 different ethnic organisations. Most are dedicated to registering refugees – in my experience they don’t concentrate on workers rights. I’m very sad about this.

How would you describe the UN High Commissioner for Refugee’s work for refugees here?

Every organisation is based on its members. Many of the ethnic organisations have good relations with UNHCR, but the UNHCR are also involved in a lot of corruption, particularly with registration of refugees and with resettlement.

How does it work with resettlement?

Three months ago, UNHCR resettled someone to New Zealand. The New Zealand authorities checked her biography and UNHCR had given a different biography, so the New Zealand authorities didn’t let her out of their camp. So it is very clear that it was a substitution for someone who is still here

Why? Did she pay UNHCR?

I think so, because at that time, one of my colleagues was resettled and he met this girl in the resettlement camp and he informed me.

How do migrants contact you?

We publish a newsletter in peninsula Malaysia. In this newsletter we have one article about migrants rights in Malaysia with our hotline number, so when they have a problem they contact us. We send the newsletter to Burmese shops around peninsula Malaysia and the shopkeeper sells it to migrant workers. It has no adverts and it is non-profit.

How difficult is it for migrant workers to access their legal rights?

I was also a migrant worker five years ago. My employer violated the law all the time. I knew he was wrong but I couldn’t point out correctly. So whatever the employer said to us, he was right. So I wanted to know the migrant rights in Malaysia and tell all our migrant workers because if they knew about this then they can demand it [their rights]. So I tried to translate the migrants rights into Burmese and distribute it.

How has it changed things?

It has had a good effect, because we put here that the employer cannot deduct levies, and that they can contact us or the trade union congress whenever. So after the workers read this they know the employers are wrong and they contact us and work out how they can get it refunded.

In Malaysia migrant workers will get injured or have health problems. What is access to healthcare like in Malaysia?

Whenever a Malaysian goes to hospital, they have to pay one ringgit ($US0.30) for registration. For the migrant worker it is 15 ringgit ($US5) for registration. After we pay the 15 ringgit the doctor puts you in a check room and then he tells us what we need [financially], and then we pay a deposit. If they can’t pay, then a there’s a problem. They have to borrow to pay the deposit of, say, 500 ringgits ($US163). This is discrimination against migrants. It is not only in hospitals, it is in all government agencies – for example, if a migrant wants to open a bank account they cannot freely open an account; they need an employer recommendation letter, while for local people no letter is needed.

Are migrant workers dependent upon employers, and why is this system in place?

According to Malaysian immigration law employers are responsible for their migrant workers. For example when a visitor comes they show their passport and can enter Malaysia, but when a migrant worker arrives they are not allowed to leave the airport until their employer arrives to pick them up. Moreover, we receive a lot of complaints about working conditions for migrant workers. They are abused physically and mentally. ဆက္လက္ဖတ္႐ႈရန္...