An Indonesian woman working without a work permit in Malaysia won the right to claim unpaid wages of RM30,000 (S$7,300) from her employers, the high court ruled.
The report from local news portals and Reuters says this sets a legal precedent for migrant rights groups and would help to protect human trafficking survivors.
Malaysia is on an anti-foreign worker blitz, with its immigration carrying out raids and arresting illegals.
The ruling gives an unexpected opportunity to foreign workers to challenge rogue employers but the fight is far from over.
The Shah Alam High Court in Kuala Lumpur made the ruling in a case involving a Malaysian national who allegedly tried to deny the Indonesian woman her wages. His argument is she was working in the country illegally.
A portal, UCA News said the plaintiff, (whose name has been withheld) filed a claim at the Labour Department office in October 2017 against her employer for a proportion of unpaid wages for a period of four and a half years.
Her claims were rejected by the department after the employer denied having her on his payroll. The department also said it could not do more because she did not have a valid work permit.
She appealed to the Labour Court against the decision of the department where the appeal was dismissed for the same reason, that is she was an undocumented migrant worker.
The court stated that any claims by irregular workers against others would automatically fail. But the Indonesian woman persisted and this time with help from the Tenagina human rights NGO, she won the right to claim for her unpaid salary.
Speaking to Reuters, Tenaganita’s Glorene Das said the court decision is heartening as it finally provided a legal avenue for redress against exploitation of undocumented migrant workers.
This is a first in Malaysia and the ruling by the High Court in Kuala Lumpur may become a game changer for illegal migrant workers.
The ruling may also open a floodgate of claims by illegal migrants who are employed illegally because they provide cheap labour. -/TISG