Probe After Expat Worker Claim

49 Bangladeshi Nationals claim they were scammed.
16 Feb 2021 12:12
Probe After Expat Worker Claim
The Director of the Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission Ashwin Raj with the 49 workers from Bangladesh. Photo: Jennis Naidu

The Fiji Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission is investigating a case of alleged human trafficking.

The commission is looking at the role of a local recruiter who is alleged to have brought 49 Bangladeshi workers to Fiji and charged them a fee of FJ$13,000 each.

This comes after the 49 accused Ram Sami & Sons Limited of breaching their employment contract and causing inhuman behaviour. Ram Sami and Sons has strongly denied the claims about it made by the men.

The foreign nationals met with the commission’s director Ashwin Raj yesterday to lodge a formal complaint.


The claims

In the meeting with Mr Raj, the Bangladesh nationals alleged that:

  • the pay stated in their contract was not fulfilled.
  • their passports were taken from them upon arrival.
  • they had been sworn at and physically assaulted.
  • they were not given the work prescribed in their contracts.
  • they are not given holiday pay, sick leave, or overtime.
  • they had to pay FJ$13,000 each to secure the job.
  • they were forced to sign documents without the knowledge of what was written on the documents.

The Bangladesh nationals claimed to have recordings of being allegedly assaulted.


Ram Sami & Sons’ response

Ram Sami & Sons Limited Group Human Resource (HR) Manager, Rohit Chetty said that all the allegations against them were false.

Mr Chetty alleged that the Bangladesh nations were the ones who requested their passports to be kept by Ram Sami for safe keeping and would have been given to them within a day, upon request.

He also said the foreign nationals would be picking eggs and feeding chickens if their machines broke down. He added that they never took any money from the foreign nationals at any time when they were recruited.

Mr Chetty highlighted that the workers did not have their Fiji National Provident Fund (FNPF) deducted because the foreigners opted not to, and it was not a must.

Mr Chetty was asked if there were no local workers qualified to do the work that the Bangladesh nationals undertook. He replied, saying that despite having advertised and having written to the National Employment Centre to seek assistance in fulfilling the specialised roles, they had not received any response.

Ram Sami & Sons Limited director Prashneel Sami said after meeting with the foreign nationals; he had spoken to Mr Chetty to revise their wage rate by 50 per cent.

He said the foreigners had never had any bad behaviour and therefore were never issued disciplinary action or warning letters.

Mr Chetty and Mr Sami said that no action would be taken against the foreign nationals if they wished to return to work today because it was their right to raise their grievances with authorities.


Ashwin Raj’s response

Mr Raj referred to this case as human trafficking and said this was not the first one they were investigating.

“We need to understand the complexity of constraints within which they are forced to act and how difficult it is for them to access institutions of justice such as the human rights commission because they are not free to move around and talk to agencies and raise their concerns,” he said.

“The larger issue we really need to look into is accountability.”

He said there was a need to fully investigate the role of the local recruiter.

“We have the full recording of the local recruiter. The local recruiter has been complicit from day one. He travels all the way to Bangladesh and interviews all of these workers and allegedly collects FJ$13000 from each of them,” Mr Raj said.

Mr Raj said the foreigners were not very fluent in English and they were allegedly forced to sign a document that they were not comfortable signing.

“And I also want to know because the recording says the local recruiter you know called and just spoke to the Minister for Immigration. I want to know whether that conversation really happened or whether it was just trying to scare the workers by saying that he was in contact with the Minister for Immigration.”



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