Thursday, December 31, 2009

Not Getting Paid- Modern Day Slavery

One of the most common forms of slavery is not sexual. It is not wage slavery. It is simply when you get hired, do your work, but do not get paid. So. it is a no-wage slavery. Or partial-wage slavery. Or a promised-but-not-fulfilled wage slavery.This is quite common in the Gulf countries, Eastern Europe and even in some Mediterranean countries when workers from poorer nations are hired to do jobs such as those of servants, cleaners and janitors. They just get their passports withheld and then they do not get their salaries. Endless delays to wear them down are the most common strategy. Theoretically, this is very much illegal and these workers have the right under the law to take the employers to court. In reality, this is not practical as you often do not know the language, do not know where to go and complain and often need a lawyer who will not work on contingency basis no matter what. And many times, these workers stay at the quarters provided by employers with food and utilities paid by the latter. So, how can they take that employer to court? And while the judicial inquiry goes on which can take months and/or years, where will they live? On what visas? How will they support themselves while the legal process goes on? By switching jobs? In many cases, the employer needs to give them a release if they want to work someplace else. No release- no new job and no visa. Smart! Another form of slavery is that of unpaid overtime. Some workers are hired to work 8 hour days but are made to work 18 hours instead while being paid for 8 only. Again, the employer holds the passport, sponsors people for the visa and provides food, transportation and housing. Try and argue with him. In many countries strikes are prohibited, so the best you can hope for is to ask the labor department to get involved. But how are you going to do it if they make you work all the time and you do not even have money for the bus to go to the labor department? And they are not open evenings or weekends. And calling them and asking them to come and protect you is again, not practical. And it is not always Bangladeshi gardeners that are turned into slaves. Western employees in Arab countries have not been paid at times as well. I used to work in Thailand where they held my visa but only paid me partially. And many of the contracts are not even worth the paper they are written on and have many twisted clauses protecting the employer. Even if such contracts are illegal, the enforcement of the law by authorities for the sake of a foreign employee in a wacky foreign country is always a big problem and takes a long time, at best. Also, it requires the involvement of lawyers to whom you must pay fees. In advance! Employers know that and act with impunity. And if the worker starts acting up, they just put him on a plane, cancel his visa and get another slave. The tragic thing in many cases is that these people get ripped off by not only the employers but also by agents who promise them jobs. There are placement fees which these poor souls must pay to secure these positions. Many borrow money at high interest rates. They, thus, end up in debt and go home with no money, older, poorer and more tired than before. In the former Soviet republics, non-payment of salaries is as common as rain or snow. Or clouds. Or sparrows. It happens all the time, every day. And suing your employer requires money. And how are you going to sue him if you did not get paid in the first place to pay for the suing. Smart! It all goes to show that while governments can change and new and free democratic leaders get elected, as long as there are assholes somewhere holding power over someone, things will continue just the same. Beware! If you go and work in some shaky country find out about the company as much as possible. Try to find an outfit with a good reputation and that has a Western management. It will at least guarantee more reliable pay and fewer lies. Otherwise, you may end up a modern day slave._________________

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