Vietnam laborers in Malaysia on the way to the dormitory.
After several Malay and Vietnamese newspapers wrote about the plight of “42 Vietnamese female workers in squalid conditions in Malaysia”, the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs in Vietnam sought to clarify facts.
All the concerned Vietnamese workers and a number of Nepalese workers as well, were in the same plight and on Saturday were sent to a protection centre run by the Penang State immigration agency, while the case is being investigated further.
The Labour Management Board of the Vietnamese Embassy said that the 42 stranded workers were among a group of 69 who went to Malaysia to work under a contract signed between Viet Ha-Ha Tinh Joint Stock Company in the central province of Ha Tinh and a Malaysian company named House Proud Asia, in 2010.
Under the contract, the Asmana Company had employed the workers to clean hospitals, buildings and public areas in Penang State, around 300km from Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, for salaries ranging from US$400-500 per month.
In early February, the local immigration agency had arrested the workers after they discovered that most of them were using expired visas that were valid for only one year.
By the end of February, Asmana's partner ended the contract but Asmana continued to provide minimum salary and accommodation for the workers.
The Labour Management Board of the Vietnamese Embassy in Malaysia had asked Asmana to complete procedures to extend visas for the workers immediately and act as guarantors for their release.
Asmana failed to complete the visa extension procedures due to financial issues and only provided the workers with a special pass, said Dao Cong Hai, deputy director of the Overseas Labour Department.
Their visas expired in August 2011, he said. Meanwhile the Malaysian government is conducting a thorough check on illegal migrant workers.
The Asmana Company is also run into trouble with its main contractor, the Faber Company.
Faber has decided to end contract with Asmana and turn to another sub-contractor for services.
Hai denied the information that most of the women were undergoing great hardships or being treated cruelly.
Before the incident, some worked as cleaners in hospitals and were paid 1.200- 1.500 Malaysian ringgit per month. Since Feb 2012, these women were unemployed and received an allowance of 500 Malaysian ringgit from the Asmana Company.
Asmana rejected the news that the Malaysian employers owed wages to these Vietnamese female labourers, and affirmed that their living conditions are good and no one was hungry.
Asmana was committed to finding jobs for the labourers and extend their visa for another year. A representative of the company said that more than 40 labourers will continue their jobs as cleaners at the hospital with a new partner NS Medic Corporation.
Those who want to return home will be able to board a flight soon with help from the Vietnamese Embassy in Malaysia.
Also in a press release sent out yesterday, the Department of Press Information of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the Embassy had been working on the case since receiving information that the workers had not been paid and needed their work permits renewed.
Embassy representatives met Asmana several times between February 26 and March 7 to ask the company to comply with the terms of the signed labour contract.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is committed that the Embassy should continue to do its best to protect the Vietnamese citizens.
A representative from the Vietnamese Viet Ha-Ha Tinh Company told reporters yesterday that they had sent a delegation to Malaysia to work on the case.
The Embassy's Labour and Expert Management Board also held a working session with the Malaysian Department of Labour and Immigration about the case yesterday.