Protect migrant workers’ rights and stop the exploitation

Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM) calls on the police and the Ministry of Human Resources to immediately investigate the allegations of inhumane treatment and exploitation of Nepali workers by JCY International Bhd in Kulai following the recent incident of its factory being set on fire. JCY International Bhd must be held accountable if such allegations of ill-treatment and violations of human rights from the Nepali workers are true.

While SUARAM does not condone violence, the authorities must address the root-causes of the incident to avoid it from happening again. The basic human rights and labour rights of migrant workers must be protected so that they can work safely and live a dignified life while working in Malaysia.

Unfortunately, unequal and inhumane treatment towards migrant labour workers is not uncommon in Malaysia. Migrant workers are ill-protected from exploitation by employers such as no guarantee of minimum wage rate, maximum working hours, pitiable safety provisions, lack of insurance protection etc. They are vulnerable as a result of their desperation to repay the high amount of debts from recruitment agency, financial pressure from families back home, social discrimination and lack of access to justice and protection. Enforcement of labour laws on foreign worker is deplorable, especially in cases involving foreign workers injured while on duty and are not compensated monetarily.

On 18 August, 3 Bangladeshi construction workers were killed when a 650-tonne concrete span at the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) work site in Sungai Buloh collapsed, crashing them to death. The next of kin of the victims were each compensated with RM25,000. Causation of this MRT mishap is still under investigation.

On 26 August, a factory manager’s car was turned-turtle and burn in a strike by about 800 foreign workers in a hard disk manufacturing factory in Taman Perindustrian Sawit Baru. The riot was prompted by constant exploitation and deprivation of workers’ rights by the employer. The management was alleged to have physically hitting the employees over trivial mistakes, erratic salaries deduction or denial.

SUARAM believes these incidents are just tip of an iceberg and it merely unveiled the dangerous and gruelling employment condition that is so ordinarily experienced by migrant labour workers who left their country with hope for a better life so alluringly promised by the unscrupulous recruitment agency.

We call on all migrant workers to be treated humanely and equally as enshrined under Article 8 of the Federal Constitution which stipulates that “all persons are equal before the law and entitled to the equal protection of the law.” The constitution clearly guarantees that this right to equality is extended to all persons including foreign workers. The similar equality is again guaranteed under Section 2 of the Employment Act 1955.

The minimum wage policy should be extended to all migrant workers and monitored regularly for its proper implementation by the Ministry of Human Resources. In addition, Department of Occupational Safety and Health should strengthen their administration and enforcement of legislations in ensuring a conducive working environment and to avoid any more unnecessary injury or casualty.

Abuse of migrant workers and their exploitation will not stop if the crucial issue of access to justice is not addressed. SUARAM urges the Malaysian government to immediately ratify the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of Members of their Families and review our domestic laws to enhance the protection of migrant workers in the country. The government should also stop being the stumbling block in the current negotiation of the ASEAN instrument on the promotion and protection of the rights of migrant workers, which has been delayed for its completion from 2010 to 2015.

The Malaysian government and the people have to recognise that the migrant workers have contributed significantly to the economic growth and development of our nation for decades. They deserve better treatment and equal rights as any other human beings.


Released by,

Yap Swee Seng

Executive Director