Putrajaya should ensure that employers of migrant workers do not force their staff to pay the foreign worker levy, nearly a hundred civil society groups from across the globe said in a joint press statement.
They also urged the government to reconsider the levy hike, which Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said last month would bring RM2.5 billion to the country.
"We, the 97 undersigned civil society organisations, trade unions and groups are shocked by the news that the Malaysian government is increasing the migrant worker (foreign worker) levy to more than double the current rate, which since January 2013, had to be paid by the migrant workers themselves.
"Prior to that, it was paid by the employer of migrant workers, whereby the introduction of the levy then was to deter employers employing migrant workers, rather than local Malaysian workers," they said. While news reports have revealed employers will now have to pay the levy again, several groups have lobbied the government to reconsider this, they said.
They also noted that Putrajaya had deferred the new hike to consult employers on the levy before making a final decision after Chinese New Year.
"There is concern that this re-consideration may not just be about the amount of levy payable, but also the question as to who will have to pay the levy – migrant workers or their employer?
"Therefore, we the undersigned call on the Malaysian government in the name of justice, to ensure that it must be the employers of migrant workers that should be paying this migrant worker levy – not the migrant workers," they said.
They urged the government to increase the minimum wage of all workers in the country to RM1,200-RM1,500 and to abolish the contractor system.
"Since many employers do not take in migrant workers directly as their own employees, but take and use them as workers who are supplied by the labour suppliers – legally known as the contractors for labour – it effectively prevents these supplied migrant workers the right to join in-house trade unions."
They said all workers should be recognised as employees and treated equally.
The full list of the signatories can be found here. – February 13, 2016.