The law does not set a minimum wage. Instead, wages were set by contract between the employee and employer. Published reports calculated the average monthly compensation in the private sector to be BND1,830 ($1,460) per worker by dividing the total compensation per month by the number of paid employees during the period. In the public sector, employees earned reasonable wages and were entitled to additional benefits such as housing and fuel allowances. While there is no established poverty line, the government was working with the Asian Development Bank to develop the methodology required to establish one.
The standard workweek is Monday through Thursday and Saturday, with Friday and Sunday off, allowing for two rest periods of 24 hours each week. The law provides for paid annual holidays, overtime for work in excess of 48 hours per week, and double time for work performed on legal holidays. The law also stipulates an employee may not work more than 72 hours of overtime per month. Government regulations establish occupational health and safety standards. Individuals were encouraged to report violations of health and safety standards, but the law does not explicitly protect the right to remove oneself from a hazardous workplace.
Government data from 2011, the most recent available, indicated approximately 85,000 foreigners lived in the country temporarily. Immigration law allows for prison sentences and caning for workers who overstay their work permits, for workers who fall into irregular status due to their employers’ negligence, for irregular immigrants seeking work, and for foreign workers employed by companies other than their initial sponsor. The government enforced this law with regular immigration sweeps.
The Labor Department inspected working conditions both on a routine basis and in response to complaints. There were approximately 40 labor inspectors in the Labor Department, which was adequate to conduct mandated inspections. The government usually moved quickly to investigate abuses, and abusive employers faced criminal and civil penalties. The Labor Department had the power to terminate the licenses of abusive employers and revoke their foreign labor quotas. The commissioner responsible for labor had the additional authority to protect foreign workers’ rights. The majority of abuse cases were settled out of court through agreements under which the employer paid financial compensation to the worker. Observers did not indicate whether the penalties for violations of wage, hour, and health and safety standards were sufficient to deter noncompliance.
The government generally enforced labor, health, and safety regulations effectively, but enforcement in sectors employing low-skilled labor, such as construction or maintenance, was lax. This was especially the case for foreign laborers at construction sites, where wage arrears and inadequate safety and living conditions were reported.
Many employed citizens commanded good salaries, but complaints about low wages were common, especially in entry-level positions. The government found that local employees in the private sector had an average monthly compensation rate of BND2,257 ($1,800), compared with BND1,565 ($1,300) for foreign workers. Wages for employed foreign residents were wide ranging. Some foreign embassies set minimum wage requirements for their nationals working in the country. Laws regarding working hours were frequently not observed for either local or migrant workers.
Government mediation by the Labor Department continued to be the most common means to resolve labor disputes. The government prosecuted employers who employed irregular immigrants or did not process workers’ documents, rendering them irregular. When grievances could not be resolved, regulations require employers to pay for the repatriation of the foreign workers and all outstanding wages. By custom, particularly for low-skilled workers, some employers held employee passports and restricted employee activities during nonwork hours. The government forbade wage deductions by employers to agencies or sponsors and mandated that employees receive their full salaries, although many migrants arrived in situations of debt bondage which increased their vulnerability to labor abuse.
There were cases reported of nonpayment of salaries. The majority of cases involved domestic and construction workers. In many cases courts levied judicial penalties including convictions and fines against employers found guilty of nonpayment of wages. In other cases, however, foreign workers who filed grievances sometimes did not receive their back wages.
There were 167 workplace accidents in 2013, according to a published report that was the latest information available. The report did not indicate the number of workplace deaths, but another report recorded eight work-related deaths in 2012. Most accidents and deaths occurred in the construction sector.
On October 22, a beam collapsed at a construction site in Mumong, injuring nine foreign migrant workers. Media outlets reported the minister of development also confirmed the death of one foreign national worker at the same site two weeks prior. Work was suspended pending a review of the contractor’s safety record and investigations by a number of government entities, including the Department of Labor, to determine if any risks remained.