PETALING JAYA: It is disgraceful to withhold the wages of domestic workers no matter what reason an employer provides to justify the act, said Malaysian Maid Employers Association president Engku Ahmad Fauzi Engku Muhsein.
“Even if the person is a VIP, he has no right to withhold a worker’s wages. VIPs who have held back the wages of domestic workers do so because they are arrogant and think they can get away with it.”
Engku Ahmad said as a signatory to the International Labour Organisation Forced Labour Convention, Malaysia needs to come down hard on people who commit such acts.
He was commenting on a recent interview by Indonesian Ambassador to Malaysia Hermono, who said reports of forced labour remain high involving those in the domestic sector.
Hermono said there were 254 cases with elements of forced labour handled by his embassy from January to July, with the most common abuse being withholding wages.
He said the embassy is also dealing with unpaid wages spanning up to 19 years.
A total of 132 cases have been settled out of court, with unpaid wages of more than RM1.8 million recovered.
Based on his estimates, the cases handled by his embassy make up no more than 20% of the real situation on the ground.
Engku Ahmad said he believes cases involving unpaid wages should not be settled out of court and that those who have committed such acts should understand the severity of their actions.
He said such people are hurting Malaysia’s international image and could discourage domestic workers from coming here.
“There are employers who have been unable to pay the wages of their domestic worker because they cannot afford it. A question mark remains as to how these employers were allowed to hire a domestic helper in the first place.”
Engku Ahmad also called on the government to review the rules and regulations when it comes to hiring domestic helpers.
Malaysian Association of Foreign Maid Agencies president Datuk Jeffrey Foo said the law in Malaysia in regard to unpaid wages for workers such as domestic maids is strict.
He said if an employer fails to pay a maid’s wages for more than six months, there is a possibility of the employer being charged with human trafficking.