Malaysia is one of Asia's biggest employers of foreign labour. But recently, cases of deaths, abuse and forced labour have come to light. What is going on? Who is protecting these migrant workers?
Malaysian Trade Union Congress (MTUC) is shocked at the discovery of about 139 graves, and signs of torture, in more than two dozen squalid camps in Northern Malaysia suspected to have been used by gangs involved in human trafficking of migrants across the border from Thailand.
MTUC is against all forms of human trafficking which includes exploitation of workers. MTUC is against slavery and forced labour.
MTUC calls on the Malaysian government to immediately investigate, and determine whether these were really human trafficking camps, and also whether the deaths have been brought about by torture and murder. If so, then immediate action must be taken to bring the said perpetrators to justice.
There is also the possibility that some of these ‘camps’ were really housing used by undocumented migrant workers, who always worry about the possibility of arrest, detention, imprisonment, whipping and deportation. There are estimated that at present there are at least 2 million undocumented migrants in Malaysia – most of them are workers.
MTUC has always taken the position that all workers, local and migrant should be treated equally. Of late, burden on migrant workers have increased, amongst others, from the transfer of the obligation of paying levy from employer to the migrant worker, of increasing cost of access to healthcare in public hospitals, the delaying of migrant workers the entitlement of minimum wages when their fellow local worker at the same workplace already enjoyed it. All these have an impact on worker solidarity and trade unions. It also drives some documented workers to opt to become undocumented workers, and others just to enter Malaysia as undocumented workers.
MTUC hopes that the Malaysian governments reviews its policy and ensure equal treatment of workers.
Without the about 2 million documented migrant workers in the trade union movement, it makes unions weak. Commonality of the worker reality is an important factor that brings workers together as trade unions to struggle for their rights.
MTUC is also concerned about the welfare and the well-being of thousands of refugee boat people, many of whom are fleeing persecution in their homeland. Malaysia should be humane and show care and concern for wellbeing and welfare, and not just take the position of shutting the doors of all these persons that come to Malaysia seeking sanctuary. It is not right to risk the lives of men, women and children in open seas, and it is also wrong to send back asylum seekers and refugees back to the very country they fled. It may be time for Malaysia to enact a law on how to deal with asylum seekers and refugees in Malaysia.
MTUC, like the International Labour Organisation (ILO), is for the promotion of opportunities for women and men to obtain decent and productive work, in conditions of freedom, equity, security and human dignity. MTUC is against all forms of ‘slavery’, forced or bonded labour, and exploitation of workers.
N. Gopal Kishnam
Tel: + 6 019 317 4717
Address: Wisma MTUC,10-5, Jalan USJ 9/5T, 47620 Subang Jaya,Selangor | Tel: 03-80242953 | Fax: 03-80243225 | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org