Pete Pattisson in Kuala Lumpur | 28 November 2016
Migrant workers employed through labour supply firm allege they were deceived about wages, cheated of payments and had passports confiscated unlawfully
Workers at McDonald’s restaurants in Malaysia claim they earned as little as 60p an hour and were cheated out of months of salary, a Guardian investigation has found.
The workers allege they were subjected to months – and in some cases years – of exploitation by Human Connection HR, a labour supply company contracted by McDonald’s in Malaysia to provide workers to its restaurants in Kuala Lumpur.
The workers, who come from Nepal, say they had their passports confiscated, in contravention of Malaysian law.
They claim they were deceived about their wages and were charged additional fees when they arrived in Malaysia, resulting in a 25% deduction in their basic monthly salary. Over the course of working at McDonald’s, this equated to the loss of months of wages.
Unlike in its other major markets – including the UK and US – where McDonald’s operates through a franchise model, McDonald’s outlets in Malaysia are company-owned.
The migrants also say that their salaries were not received on time, leaving them unable to buy food or send money home to their families.
“We didn’t have the money to eat because we were not paid regularly,” said one man, adding that some workers went on strike earlier this year in protest at late payment of wages. “How can we go to work on an empty stomach? I thought it was a good company and I would earn good money. Now my life is damaged. I feel that I have no future.”
McDonald’s Malaysia said in an email that it had ended its contract with Human Connection. “At McDonald’s Malaysia, the welfare of staff is a top priority,” said the company. “Earlier this year, we became aware of certain circumstances relating to services provided by Human Connection HR which were not in compliance with our standards. As a result, we have terminated our contract with them.”
The investigation, which comes just days after the Guardian exposed allegations of abuse among migrants making products for Samsung and Panasonic in industrial zones across the country, sheds further light on the malpractice of some labour supply agencies used by major international brands in Malaysia.
“We were not given our salary on time,” said another Nepalese worker. “When we went to meet the managers of McDonald’s to complain, they usually said we were not employed by McDonald’s and they are not responsible for anything. One of my friends even went to the McDonald’s manager crying after he heard news of his child’s death [at home in Nepal]. He asked him to ask for his passport [from Human Connection, so that he could attend the funeral,] but the McDonald’s manager said that he cannot do anything. I would rather die than go back to work at McDonald’s. I will never work there [again].”