The Malaysian government today arrested some Nepali migrant workers — from various places in Maur — who were planning to seek minimum wages, according to the Malaysian news agencies.
“Around 100 Nepali migrant workers were arrested after the local authority got information that they were planning to hold an illegal protest to demand wages,” reported thestaronline. “But they were freed after a brief detention.”
The Malaysian government has increased minimum wages to Malaysian Ringgit 900 applicable from January 1. But migrant workers have been complaining that they are not getting the raise and are paid only Malaysian Ringgit one an hour of overtime.
From mid-July 2012 to mid-February 2013, a total of 237,686 Nepalis landed in foreign countries for jobs compared to some 178,715 in the same period a year ago. Malaysia remained the favourite destination attracting some 88,890 Nepali migrant workers, who were overjoyed when the Malaysian government announced the minimum wages.
But since it was not applicable to them, there has been industrial action by migrant workers over pay and conditions in the last few weeks. Migrant workers are said to be cheaper due to their weak bargaining power and insecure residential status.
The Nepali embassy in Malaysia, has asked Nepali migrants to hold talks instead of protesting against the factories. But since the migrant workers from many others countries have been protesting, Nepalis also join them.
Last week, strikes by migrant workers broke out in many locations, including Johor and Negeri Sembilan, that hit some 20 furniture factories in Maur and Johor, apart from thousands of foreign workers protesting in a large textile factory in Nilai as they have not yet received their minimum wages for foreign labour.
According to Chief Assistant Commissioner Mohammed Nasir Ramli of the Maur Police, the workers had planned to gather at several spots in the town to protest against their employers.
“We had to stop them before they gathered, as they could have started a riot,” he said, adding that policemen were deployed in town to stop the protest.