A NEW free app for millions of workers to seek protection from the authorities is the new game changer, with a personal monitoring commitment from the Human Resources Minister Datuk Seri M. Saravanan himself.
“In fighting the issue of labour rights being trampled, the ministry has realised that we cannot do it all alone, ” said Saravanan.
“Workers whose rights are denied are afraid to come forward and we are constrained in our manpower, but this app can be a beacon of hope for all workers.
“The issue of forced labour requires a ‘whole-of-nation’ approach and we aim for the WFW mobile application to be the enabler or facilitator for such efforts to be realised, for us to take action in real time, ” he said.
The app – simply named Working for Workers or WFW Mobile – was launched by the ministry on May 3, in conjunction with Labour Day.
Saravanan said that such an app is a necessity in challenging times such as the current pandemic, when workers need to reach out when they need help.
“In line with the second pillar of the National Human Resources Initiative (NHRI) and the ministry’s pledge to ensure compliance with labour legislation and policies, the WFW mobile app was developed as a platform for both local and foreign workers.
“The WFW app enables workers to lodge labour-related complaints, as well as provide suggestions and recommendations in preserving their rights and interests, which are protected under existing labour laws, particularly the Employment Act 1955, ” said the minister.
NHRI, which galvanises various departments and agencies under the ministry, comprises six main pillars: skills development; employment services and labour compliance; industrial relations; occupational safety and health; social protection; and, good governance.
Saravanan said the app was mooted because among the main issues in labour compliance are access to remedy and difficulty for workers in coming forward to lodge complaints or reports to complement enforcement efforts by departments or agencies under the ministry.
“WFW serves as a single window for workers nationwide to lodge labour-related complaints to the Labour Department.
“All the complaints received will be handled by 80 Labour Offices throughout the country.
“With just a touch on the mobile screen, workers who are aggrieved by their employers’ actions which violate any provisions under existing labour laws can lodge reports to the Labour Department via this app, ” said Saravanan.
The app has the ability to capture 14 types of labour-related issues. While keeping both employer and employee within the legal ambits to settle their issue, the app ensures confidentiality – giving workers the confidence to lodge complaints without worrying about their identity being exposed.
“It is also hoped that with this app, awareness is raised among employers to not go against any labour law standards and practices.
“Most importantly, WFW provides timely feedback to workers on grievances raised, thus allowing them to be properly updated on the action taken.
“We are targeting a time frame of three to seven days for action to be taken on all complaints received.
“The top management at the ministry, including me and my deputy, will be notified of failure to address any complaint, ” Saravanan assured.
He further explained that a dedicated operations room will monitor the progress of the app as well as provide daily updates.
“Among the important features of this app are the User Management and Complaint Management aspects, which can be used to view the complaint history with status, and the rating of the complaint given by the complainant.
“Users will also receive status updates via push and email notifications, along with a reminder alert to the ministry’s officer handling the complaint, ” he said.
Saravanan said that in the same vein as the app, the ministry is currently planning to implement e-Wages to monitor monthly salary payment to workers and ensure that wages are paid promptly.
“The ministry will also introduce e-Quota, an online system for new intake of foreign workers to ensure transparency and avoid manipulation or wrongdoing in the process.”
He said that all these new initiatives are based on the need to provide protection to workers under various domestic labour laws such as the Employment Act 1955, the Employees Minimum Standard of Housing, Accommodations and Amenities Act (Amendment) 2019, the National Wages Consultative Council Act 2011, and the Industrial Relations Act 1967.
Despite Malaysia having stringent laws on labour rights, recent incidents which tarnished the country’s reputation have pushed the ministry to raise its game.
“Malaysia is still being condemned internationally for poor labour practices such as forced labour that led to certain countries imposing a ban on our export products, ” said Saravanan.
“The most recent was the ban on rubber gloves products in July 2020 as well oil palm products in December 2020 by the US Customs and Border Protection.
“The introduction of the WFW app is a step in the right direction for Malaysia to counter poor labour practices by irresponsible employers.”
“Through WFW, our labour officers can undertake targeted enforcement based on the complaints received.
“WFW plays an important role here in providing reports to the relevant enforcement agencies in real time, ” he said.
The WFW app can be downloaded free via Google Play or Apple App Store.