KUALA LUMPUR, May 14 — The Indonesian ambassador to Malaysia Hermono commended the Malaysian Court of Appeal’s decision this week allowing undocumented migrant workers here to take legal action against their employers over unpaid wages.
The ambassador who goes by a single name described the ruling as a significant progress towards ending forced labour in the country, Malaysiakini reported today.
“Most of the cases we handled in Malaysia were unpaid salaries of undocumented workers.
“In our experience, it is very difficult to get employers to pay the wages they owe undocumented workers.
“This is because so far, the Labour Court has denied undocumented workers their right to redress labour-related grievances,” Hermono told the news portal.
Hermono was reported saying the Indonesian embassy here has received complaints of unpaid wages from 392 of its citizens hired as domestic workers in Malaysia since last year, adding that many claimed they were owed salaries for more than six years.
According to the ambassador, many employers of undocumented workers here denied they had hired the Indonesians since there were no formal documents to prove the working relationship.
However, Hermono said securing a work pass and maintaining its validity with the Immigration Department is the responsibility of the employer and not the migrant worker.
“I sense that many employers here intentionally hire undocumented workers to stay free from the responsibility for the welfare of workers and timely payment of wages,” he was quoted saying.
Now that the appellate court has made its ruling, Hermono told Malaysiakini that the embassy will be filing unpaid wage claims with the Malaysian Labour Department on behalf of the undocumented Indonesian workers.
He said letting undocumented migrant workers take up their cases with the Labour Department could also inspire employers to respect their rights.
Hermono added that the court ruling should not be seen as punishing employers who hire undocumented workers.
“The immigration laws must still apply to both parties and not just one,” he told the news portal.
On May 12, the Court of Appeal ruled to uphold an earlier High Court decision that the undocumented immigration status of migrant workers do not prevent them from seeking redress at the Labour Court.