Malasia - Government must act on abuse of migrant workers (2011)

On 24 March, Amnesty International released a report urging the Malaysian government to act to combat widespread abuse of migrant workers and reform labour laws to give them better protection. Michael Bochenek, Amnesty’s director of policy, said «There is no effective system either of workplace inspection… nor is there any effective redress for workers who want to bring individual complaints.» Malaysian firms depend on foreign labourers, with migrants making up more than a fifth of the country’s work force. Around two million labourers are thought to work legally in the country with another one million working illegally.

Throughout 2010, the Malaysian Trade Union Congress (MTUC) received more than 400 complaints from migrant workers relating to non payment of wages, arbitrarily and unexplained wage deductions, breach of the labour laws on working hours, overtime pay, annual leave, paid public holidays and weekly days of rest. In a number of cases, MTUC found that affected migrant workers were repatriated before labour court proceedings could decide on the complaint. The government maintains contradicting regulations on the right of migrant workers to join a trade union. The Ministry of Human Resources says that migrant workers can join a trade union but the Immigration Department under the Home Affairs Ministry continues to maintain a condition in the work permit prohibiting union membership.

On 18 May, Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak said that officials had failed to settle a dispute over working conditions for Indonesian maids in his country after Jakarta banned the flow of such migrants. Najib said the two sides still had to agree on a minimum wage after talks with Indonesian President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

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