Workers or slaves?
AN IMPORTANT report was published on September 12 in the last page of a local English-language daily. It was about Bangladeshi agricultural workers employed in Malaysia, highlighting a shameful and horrifying example of exploitation. We must get a clarification on the matter and, if needed, send an investigation team to get to the bottom of such labour malpractices in Malaysia. We must also involve the ILO, which issues the guidelines on working hours for all workers.
As far as I know, based on my past experience, both in the public and private sectors, as per Bangladesh Labour Law, normal working hours is eight hours per day, and six days a week. Beyond this, all extra hours worked have to be paid as overtime at twice the basic wages, calculated per hour on the basis of 45 hours per week.
If for reasons the worker is employed on his day off, or after six continuous working days, he is entitled both to overtime plus a day’s paid rest, in lieu of the extra hours worked. Also the worker has the right to refuse working beyond 56 hours a week (including overtime) and no disciplinary action can be valid for such refusal.
Is there no one in Bangladesh embassy in Malaysia, to look after these matters, and take up these cases with the Malaysian government authorities? Is Malaysia not a signatory or member of the ILO? Our Foreign Office must find out, and strongly take up the matter and publish a public feedback on this important issue related to workers’ rights. Can the people also be advised if there is some labour law or working hours and overtime rules as outlined in our labour law applicable in Malaysia and what are its provisions? A prompt and urgent response and clarification from our authorities is needed on these matters.
Imagine a person working 12 hours a day, plus 2 hours overtime, which totals 14X6 = 86 hours a week. Therefore, the worker should get (86-48=38) hours overtime whereas he is only being paid 6X2=12 hours (as reported) of overtime. The rich plantation owners are depriving the hard-working workers of 36-12= 24 hours of overtime wages.
The Bangladesh ministry concerned must pursue the matter urgently and seriously, in the overall interest of the workers, so that they are not cheated by the overseas employers. The Malaysian authorities must be made aware, that in the 21st century, such cheating and highhandedness, is not acceptable.
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