Unpaid for five months, over 70 Bangladeshi workers in Malaysia are living at a factory dorm in Balakong with money borrowed from relatives.
Their employer -- SSN Medical Products Sdn Bhd – also did not have their work permits renewed, even though those had expired last year.
This has left the workers even more vulnerable as law enforcers can now take actions against them, said the migrants and an independent researcher based in Kuala Lumpur.
"We were paid no wages since October last year. We are now borrowing from relatives or friends either in Malaysia or in Bangladesh for our survival," migrant worker Sagor Khan of Tangail told this paper over phone yesterday.
"For over a year, we were charged 150 Ringgit [Tk 3,000] every month for renewal of the work permits, but our company did not renew those. So, it is now risky for us to go outside the factory because police can detain us."
According to the workers, 130 Bangladeshis went to work for the company in February 2018 through Unique Eastern Pvt Ltd recruiting agency. However, over the last five months, some 60 of them left for not being paid.
The workers said they had to pay between Tk 3.5 lakh and Tk 4 lakh for the jobs in Malaysia.
The company had promised, in their contracts, that they would not have to pay for renewal of work permits and accommodation. But their employer took RM 200 from their salaries every month.
Sagor said they got wages regularly in the first two months but since then delays in payment began. Every month they had to ask the management for pay.
Around a month ago, operations at the factory, which is some 20km away from Kuala Lumpur, stopped, he said.
The migrants filed a complaint with the Malaysian labour department and on February 8 wrote to Bangladesh High Commission in Kuala Lumpur seeking intervention.
"We have not had any help from the Bangladesh high commission. We are now in total uncertainty," he said.
He said they also tried to contact the recruiting agency but failed to get any help.
The Daily Star could not reach Jahirul Islam, labour counsellor of Bangladesh in Malaysia, despite repeated phone calls yesterday.
Noor Ali, managing director of Unique Eastern Pvt, said he had no idea that the workers were facing problems.
"Let me talk to them. I will take immediate action," he told The Daily Star yesterday evening.
Abu Hayat, an independent researcher and migrant rights activist based in Kuala Lumpur, said it was unfortunate that none of the authorities were extending a helping hand to the migrants.
These workers paid so much for migration that they need more than two years in Malaysia to recover the cost, he said.
"Bangladesh high commission should intervene in the issue immediately and ensure justice for them," he said.
The workers could be transferred to other companies or compensated, Abu Hayat said.
He said labour recruitment from Bangladesh has been suspended since September last year following allegations of irregularities. Now, talks for a new recruitment deal between Bangladesh and Malaysia are at the final stage.
The Daily Star could not get in touch with SSN Medical Products Sdn Bhd for comments.