An investigation by The Guardian newspaper has found that workers at Malaysia's McDonald's restaurants have been subjected to exploitation by a labour supply company working with the fast-food chain.
The workers from Nepal say they were not paid on time, had their salaries reduced and their passports confiscated, which contravened Malaysian law.
The labour supply company, Human Connection HR, had allegedly deceived the workers about their salaries and charged them additional fees, such as a foreign worker levy amounting to a 25 per cent deduction from their basic monthly salary, after they arrived in Malaysia.
Malaysia's McDonald's is company-owned, unlike the franchise model that other countries such as the US and the UK have.
"We didn't have the money to eat because we were not paid regularly," The Guardian quoted one worker as saying. Some workers went on strike earlier this year to protest late payment of salaries. "How can we go to work on an empty stomach? I thought it was a good company and I would earn good money. Now my life is damaged. I feel that I have no future."
In response to The Guardian's query, McDonald's Malaysia said it had ended its contract with Human Connection. "At McDonald's Malaysia, the welfare of staff is a top priority," it told The Guardian. "Earlier this year, we became aware of certain circumstances relating to services provided by Human Connection HR which were not in compliance with our standards. As a result, we have terminated our contract with them."
The British newspaper also recently investigated alleged abuse among migrant workers in Samsung and Panasonic in Malaysia.
For this report, it spoke to 15 Nepalese workers who worked previously for McDonald's in Kuala Lumpur. More than half said they were forced to run away without their passports or back pay, and worked illegally elsewhere to make money. Others said they had to pay their own way back to Nepal after Human Connection did not return their passports.
Those who did say they had to pay the equivalent of two months' basic salary to a middleman for documents needed to get them home without their passports.
Human Connection did not respond to The Guardian's queries on the workers' allegations.