Home Civil Society Voices 2014 Civil Society Voices Provide right to redress for migrant workers now

Provide right to redress for migrant workers now

Photo credit: indmediahk.net
Uphold migrant workers' rights

Follow us on our Malay and English WhatsApp, Telegram, Instagram, Tiktok and Youtube channels.

The government should enable workers who have filed complaints at the labour/industrial relations department to work so that they can pursue their case, says Rani Rasiah.

Photo credit: indmediahk.net

The MWR2R (Migrant Workers Right to Redress) Coalition views Malaysia’s relegation to the Tier 3 Watchlist of the annual US human trafficking report as a serious indictment of the government’s failure to protect the human rights of its estimated four million migrant workers and refugees.

The Tier 3 Watchlist, simply means that the government has not taken serious and ongoing measures to curb rampant modern day slavery and trafficking in Malaysia especially among undocumented migrant workers who are said to number over two million.

Instead of being in denial and claiming the report to be baseless or based on biased ngo feedback, the government should come to terms with reality and take serious measures to improve the human rights situation of the migrant population.

One immediate step the government should take to protect human rights and improve its image is to allow the right to redress for all migrant workers. The Employment Act allows all workers who are dismissed, migrants included, to file a complaint and challenge the dismissal through the labour/industrial relations department and the respective courts. 

However, Immigration policy strictly forbids dismissed workers from working for any other employer. In effect then, without the right to  work, there is no right to redress to speak of for migrant workers in Malaysia.

Not only does this violate basic human rights, but it also adds to the problem of slavery and trafficking. This category of undocumented workers actually enter the country with passports and work permits, but because of bad policies, they lose both papers (since employers hold on to the passports) and become illegal.

READ MORE:  Mobilising youths against human trafficking: Empowering change in Malaysia

The government should enable workers who have filed complaints at the labour/industrial relations department or whose cases are being heard at the labour/industrial court to work so that they can pursue their case. Contrary to what the government claims, this will not ‘open up the floodgates’ – no worker in his right mind will, without strong grounds, fake a dismissal in order to change employer, as winning at the labour/industrial is not easy, and losing means you will have to leave the country.

The government loses nothing by providing migrant workers the opportunity to seek remedy when they feel they have been wrongfully dealt with by their employers. In fact a proper avenue for redress can remove the freedom of exploitative employers to hire and fire at will, and thereby help contain the rise of undocumented workers.

Migrant workers are invited to work here by the government at the request of employers. The over two million undocumented workers are also part of the Malaysian workforce, contributing jointly to the economy of the country. The government needs to be honest and recognise their significant contribution. It must take measures to legalise these workers but not, never, in the 6P way.

By Rani Rasiah,
27 June 2014

(MWR2R coalition comprises the following groups – SahabatWanita, Tenaganita, PSM, JUMP, Jerit, MTUC and the Bar Council)

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

AGENDA RAKYAT - Lima perkara utama
  1. Tegakkan maruah serta kualiti kehidupan rakyat
  2. Galakkan pembangunan saksama, lestari serta tangani krisis alam sekitar
  3. Raikan kerencaman dan keterangkuman
  4. Selamatkan demokrasi dan angkatkan keluhuran undang-undang
  5. Lawan rasuah dan kronisme
Support our work by making a donation. Tap to download the QR code below and scan this QR code from Gallery by using TnG e-wallet or most banking apps:
Notify of
Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Ho Meilu
Ho Meilu
13 Jul 2014 3.31pm

Aliran is the BEST for in-depth, thoughtful, fair, informed, informative discussion and analyses. No other publication comes close – in length and quality. I always feel updated and current upon reading an Aliran article. THANK YOU for the years of committed, unswervingly dedicated, passionate service to the nation.

Maju Malaysia!

Ho Meilu

14 Jul 2014 10.18am
Reply to  Ho Meilu

Thanks for the kind comments, Ho Meilu. It made our day 🙂

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x