Archive for July 2014

Foreign workers are fleeced by cronies and the corrupt

July 26, 2014

Malaysian government’s failure to formulate a comprehensive foreign labor policy to cater for the industrial needs has transformed into being over-dependent on foreign labor. Government wants the services of foreign workers but don’t want to recognize their contribution. Malaysia’s policy on foreign workers is fraught with UMNO crony recruitment agencies ripping millions. Foreign workers while complimenting the labor needs are slowly turning out to be substitute to local workers. Malaysian manufacturing has become very foreign labor dependent. The county has become the cheap labor manufacturing hub stagnating the local worker’s salary and delayed the much needed automation and upward mobility to high end value chain. Land strapped Singapore is transferring low end production to South Johor Economic Region (SJER).

Instead of formulating a long term comprehensive foreign labor policy, UMNO politicians are busy plotting more schemes to swindle the poor migrant workers. Activist and NGOs have cried and voiced loud and clear that the government’s 6P program to register foreign workers is a failure and scam. These scams took place right under the noose of home ministry. The introduction of bio metric system did not register foreign workers but added additional cost and fear of retribution to these poor foreign workers. Agents and officers from immigration department end up making money out of these foreign workers. In Nepal a sending country Malaysian embassy is collecting fees for an agency that is not physically present for Visa processing. In Katmandu Malaysian home ministry made mandatory for medical centers that conduct health checks for workers to install software developed by Malaysian IT firm, Bestinet Sdn Bhd. These mandatory installations have increased medical inspection costs from Rs1500 to Rs4215 (RM140) per worker, making the total cost including visa at Rs11225 (RM373) as opposed to the previous cost of Rs6525 (RM216).

Even the repatriation of illegal immigrates is monopolized by UMNO cronies and they further rip off these poor foreign workers leaving Malaysian. 6P program monopolized by government officials and UMNO cronies rip off those who want to stay back and also those who are repatriated. Foreign workers are the money making machine for the law enforcement agencies of Malaysia. Anybody can enter Malaysia as long as they have enough money to grease the palms of immigration officers at entry point and law enforcement agencies while living here and again at the exit point.

The enterprising foreign workers rent licenses from UMNO elite to operate stalls in wet and night markets and shops in many towns throughout the Malaysia. Some of the enterprising foreign workers even hire local workers selling furniture for hire purchase competing with local traders. The abundant supply of foreign workers has reduced the employability level and opportunities of local people. Vested interest of the UMNO politicians from recruitment till the repatriation of foreign workers has made Malaysian foreign worker policy chaotic, superficial and incomplete.

It’s long overdue for the government to recognize the contribution of foreign workers and formulate policies that regulate foreign workers requirement. Even Malaysian worker’s rights have eroded and weakened. It’s time to skill Malaysian workers to earn higher wages and move to higher end production and automation. Foreign workers have flooded the labor force and during weekends some Malaysian towns looks like Jakarta or Dhaka. It’s impossible to locate and repatriate these many foreign workers when their visa expires. Does the Malaysian government have any other sinister motive to have allowed millions of legal and illegal foreign workers? In order to reduce the dependency on foreign workers, studies suggest that the problem should be tackled from the root especially to face the presence and entry of illegal workers.

The presence of large number of Africans in Malaysia is mind boggling. They are not here to increase the Malaysian productivity. Many come with student visas but how many are in the colleges and universities? Yet they exist right under the view of immigration. Its better to regulate earlier than latter. A stitch in time saves nine says an adage.


July 12, 2014

The recent clustering of Malaysia under the rating code of five, by the International Trade Union confederation (ITUC) does not bode well for the welfare and safety of 12.9 million workers.

The ITUC reports that countries with the rating of five are the worst countries in the world to work in.

It means the legislation may allow certain rights, but workers have effectively no access to them and are exposed to autocratic regimes and unfair labour practices.

The Survey used indicators to measure fundamental civil liberties, the right to establish or join unions, trade union activities, the right to collective bargaining and the right to strike.

The deteriorated worker’s right was detected by the indicators and grouped Malaysia in the bottom rating of five together with another 23 countries.

Only a fraction belong to unions

The fact that only 6.44% of workers i.e. 79,8941 out of 12.4 million workers are members of trade unions speaks volumes about the decline in collective bargaining of workers.

The ruling elitist government was never pro workers but were always supportive and siding employers.

Labour laws were amended in 2012 to allow sub-contractors to employ workers for hire in factories and officers.

Minimum wages was implemented only in 2012 after the opposition included it in their manifesto but is still not fully implemented.

The Malaysian government has created structural barriers to diminish the influence of unions and treated workers as just another commodity to promote trade and foreign investments.

The Malaysian government viewed the National trade Unions as pro opposition and independent from their sphere of influence.

The government has slowly brought in laws and amendments to existing laws to weaken trade unions and suppress unionism.

National Unions were restricted and constricted to function as NGOs to liaise matters between employers and the workman.

The formation of in-house unions was promoted disabling national unions to influence national labor policies. In-house union leaders are easily controlled by the employers.

The departments of trade union affairs and industrial affairs under the Human Resources Ministry was empowered with stifling laws to make unions toe their line, effectively curtailing union activities and programmes and fund raising activities and promote in-house unions.

MTUC leaders and trade unionists had contested in elections and made it to parliament but it has become a thing of the past.

Tangoing to the tune of MNCs

The BN government infiltrates national trade unions and makes sure that the unions toe their line thus weakening worker’s collective bargaining mechanism.

In embracing globalization and Free trade agreements and the growth in neoliberal pro-market, reforms the Malaysian government weakened and paralyzed collective representation of labour.

Malaysian unionists used to complain that worker’s rights were curbed and tightened further every time there is global crisis such 9/11 or a global economic slowdown.

So much, so trade unions have little influence in formulation and amendment of labor laws and human resource management practices.

The government went out of the way to maintain vigilance and control over the labor movements to please MNCs and FDIs in the name of steady growth and economic sustainability.

The influx of about 4 million legal and illegal unskilled workers has increased the presence of non-unionized workforce unorganized.

Agents who recruit foreign workers get permits as political favours and not because of the need for such workers.

FDIs and MNCs very often lobby with the government to support short-term contract employment, temporary and casual employees at workplaces derailing collective agreements and organizing labour force.

Malaysia is among those countries that still have not ratified ILO convention 87, which outlines the freedom of association and the right to organize.

Workers have become less organized and more vulnerable to the autocratic decisions of employers and government.

Malaysia is also well known as transit point for human trafficking.

Malaysia needs to take more pro-active decisions to reinstate worker’s rights and human rights to avoid more blacklist and downward rating.

Reducing foreign workers inflow, allowing more democratic space for labour movements and effective combating of human trafficking will help redeem the down rating.

In the latest World Press Freedom index, Malaysia has hit an historic low ranking of 147 out of 180 countries.

The government has lots to catch up and set right what went wrong in the past, actions and inactions.