T&P No 2 in Fast-Growing Labor Agency Sector

Now under police investigation for the alleged illegal detention of trainees, the recruitment agency T&P Co sent nearly 3,000 women to Malaysia last year to work as maids, making it one of the largest agencies in Cambodia, according to Labor Ministry data released yesterday. The data also show the rapid growth of the largely unregulated job agencies.

The Labor Ministry’s 2010 report said 21 licensed job agencies alone sent almost 12,000 workers to the country last year, up from 3,360 workers in 2008.

The data represent only part of the total number of migrant workers, as industry experts have said there are 34 licensed job agencies, with an estimated 60 smaller firms operating under the license holders.

T&P sent 2,878 workers to Malaysia last year–up from 1,737 workers in 2009 and 728 in 2008–making it the second-largest agency. Philimore Cambodia last year sent 2,882 workers in 2010, the report said.

Police said last week they were seeking to prosecute T&P for illegal confinement of trainees, and police accused the company of employing underage recruits.

Police began investigating T&P after a trainee broke a heel and an ankle after leaping from the T&P training center on March 3 to escape. Two days later a 35-year-old trainee died at the center, which has since been ordered closed.

Deputy Prime Minister Men Sam An addressed the incidents at the ministry’s annual conference yesterday and said workers’ rights were being violated.

“Recently…there are some problems in labor training centers,” she said. “The rooms are too small, the right to go in and out and to communicate [with family members] is barred.”

“We need to better protect labor rights,” Ms Sam An said, stressing that agencies should clearly inform workers about working conditions overseas before recruitment.

Moeun Tola, head of the Community Legal Education Center’s labor program, said he was concerned about the rapid increase in maids sent to Malaysia by T&P and other agencies. Indonesian has enforced a moratorium on such recruitment due to reports of abuse in Malaysia.

“Now the [Cambodian] recruitment agencies are lobbying Malaysia to lower the working age for maids to under 21. If they are successful, we foresee even more growth,” he said.

Maeve Galvin, communication and advocacy officer at the International Labor Organization, said yesterday that the increase in migrant workers was “a huge area of concern” for the ILO.

She said there was an urgent need to improve government regulation of job agencies as “there are many serious violations that should be prevented.”

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