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Cambodian migrant workers from Thailand queue at the Battambang passport office on Monday morning
Cambodian migrant workers from Thailand queue at the Battambang passport office on Monday morning. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Fees capped for migrant workers

The government yesterday unveiled new rules that govern workers travelling abroad, among them a cap on the amount that they can be charged for the necessary documents.

In addition to newly subsidised $4 passports, the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training announced during a meeting with recruitment agencies that the companies could no longer charge a commission rate or take a cut of the workers’ salaries.

Under the previous system, workers would borrow sums upwards of $500 to meet agencies’ high price tags for better-paying jobs overseas. Now, desperate to address the crisis of more than 220,000 repatriated and unemployed migrants, the government has established a set rate of $49 that includes a passport, visa, worker ID card and transportation to the border.

But An Bunhak, director of recruiter Top Manpower, said agencies were unlikely to take any financial hits from the changes. Instead, he said, the financial burden would be shifted to employers.

“We will do business the same. It’s just that before, the government allowed us to charge from the workers, now they say the profit must come from the employer,” he said. “The agency fee will remain the same as before.”

Top Manpower, he added, took one month’s salary for each two-year contract that it brokered.

“One thing that is a concern for us – now that employers pay – is that workers will need to satisfy [employers’ higher expectations of] productivity,” he said.

The government’s new passport scheme has already generated overwhelming interest, but not a single $4 passport has been issued since the initial announcement on Friday.

“We do not have any guidelines from the higher level yet, and we have to wait for certification letters to confirm they are registered to work in Thailand,” said Kang Kosal, acting director of the Battambang passport office, which saw long lines on Monday.

Meanwhile, the new price for documents, while substantially cheaper, still isn’t satisfying everyone.

“If [workers] can be provided the documents and pay later when they get their wages, it will be much better,” said Huy Pich Sovann, labour program officer at the Community Legal Education Center.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY SHANE WORRELL

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