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Minister shouldn’t bend over backwards for large firms

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The Migrant Workers Right to Redress Coalition is not terribly shocked at the expose by the international media of alleged abuse and mistreatment of migrant workers at Top Glove, the Malaysian company that is the top glove-maker in the world.

Migrant workers support organisations have for a long time tried to get the government to urgently formulate and implement policies to stop the exploitation of migrant workers by agents and employers but with little success. The alleged abuse of workers’ rights at Top Glove is just the tip of the iceberg of something that is widely prevalent and is far from shocking news.

However what is shocking is the government’s response towards the alleged violation of  labour and other laws and the human resources minister’s unabashed defence of the company in the face of all the abuse it stands accused of: exorbitant recruitment fees giving rise to a situation of bonded labour, labour, overtime far in excess of the 104 hours a month legal limit, the withholding of passports etc.

The cursory dismissal of such serious allegations by the government doesn’t bode well for the many millions of migrant workers in the country. It doesn’t spell hope for any serious improvement in the working and living conditions of migrant workers in the country. After the expose, Top Glove stocks fell due to pressure from international buyers. The government’s concern in this and its interest in wanting businesses in Malaysia to perform well are understandable, but these cannot be at the expense of workers.  

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Instead of pretending everything is fine with the employment of migrant workers at Top Glove and elsewhere in the country, the government should take this expose as a reminder to urgently and holistically address the many persistent issues plaguing labour migration.

A comprehensive policy on labour migration is still not in place despite labour migration here being two decades old and migrant workers, both documented and undocumented, now number between four to six million, making up almost 30% of the Malaysian workforce. Such a comprehensive policy should cover all aspects of labour migration, from recruitment to labour to health and housing, and importantly the right to redress among others.

It is of utmost importance to remove the middleman and the element of profit in the hiring and management of migrant workers. Under the previous government labour migration was a profitable industry for members of the ruling elite and their cronies. This resulted in extensive abuse and exploitation of migrant workers which will continue unless checked by the Pakatan Harapan government and related enforcement agencies.

In relation to the latest allegations, the Ministry of Human Resources should:

  • implement immediately the zero recruitment fee policy announced by the human resources minister to stop labour bondage
  • start genuine routine labour inspection of factories to stop abuses such as overtime exceeding legal limits
  • take action if Top Glove factories carry out any witch hunts to identify and punish the whistleblowers.
  • ensure the immediate return of passports to workers.

For further information contact:

Rani Rasiah, R2R Spokesperson, on +60195638464

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[email protected]

The Migrant Workers Right to Redress Coalition comprises migrant and refugee voices together with a number of Malaysian civil society organisations.

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