A Vietnamese Leisure Clothing employee told a court today that workers had a limit on how much water they drank and they were given two rolls of toilet paper for the entire month.
Van Hoang Thi Cam described the miserable working conditions she had to endure during her employment with the garment company based in Bulebel.
She told the court that the food they were fed was "inedible" and used to give her the runs. Moreover, she shared a room in the dormitory with four other employees.
She said she worked between 7am and 9.30pm with one day off every two weeks. She worked betwen 8am and 6.30pm on Sundays. As from April, she started having a day off every week.
Ms Van was testifying in the compilation of evidence against Bin Han, 46, from San Ġwann, and Jia Liu, 31, from Birżebbuġa, directors of Leisure Clothing, who stand charged with human trafficking and the exploitation of Chinese and Vietnamese people. They are also charged with misappropriating the employees’ wages.
Ms Van testified that she was allowed to drink 24 litres of water per month in winter and 36 litres in summer. Even when she was sick, she was not allowed to go home to rest but was given two pills and ordered to get back to work.
Instead of overtime, workers were paid a bonus per garment completed, according to her production. She confirmed that she received €150 in pocket money every two months. The rest of her salary was kept by the company.
Under cross examination, she confirmed that there was one social event where they took a group of workers to Gozo for the day on their day off. She also confirmed that her family called her regularly but if they called during working hours, this time would be deducted from her salary.
Quentin Tanti, a representative of the Malta Financial Services Authority, said Leisure Clothing was registered in August 1986.
During today's sitting, the court also heard a court-appointed accountant testify that although there was an entry in the company's books that the company owed €534,000 in salaries, the company only had €70,000 available.
"From the documents I have seen and the company's present financial situation, at the moment workers cannot be paid what they are owed," Marisa Ciappara said in reply to questions by parte civile lawyers representing Vietnamese workers.
Ms Ciappara, a self employed accountant who was appointed as court expert to carry out an HR audit, said she had asked the company for employment contracts, time sheets, punch clock details, rosters and payslips.
"I expected to be given the documents from a file but the office was so disorganised that there was no filing system and most documents were in Chinese," she said.
She said that from the documents she saw, the employees were paid some €200 less than the minimum wage. She also expressed her shock that the audited accounts for 2012 were signed by directors in July 2014 and filed with MFSA in August.
She said she could see that €115,000 due in salaries were being transferred every month but could not confirm where the money was going.
At the end of today's sitting, Magistrate Carol Peralta ordered that a request be sent to the President for more time to conclude the first phase of the compilation of evidence, noting that very little evidence produced so far by the prosecution substantiated the human trafficking charge.
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