GENEVA: ON behalf of the Malaysian government, Human Resources Minister Datuk Seri M. Saravanan delivered the ILO Protocol 2014 (ILO P29) ratification on March 21 to the Forced Labour Convention here.
This was witnessed by ILO director-general Guy Ryder, ILO Asia and the Pacific regional director Chihoko Asada Miyakawa, and Human Resources Ministry of Malaysia acting secretary-general Datuk Muhd Khair Razman.
The ILO P29 complements the ILO Convention on Forced Labour, C29, which Malaysia ratified back in 1957.
This is Malaysia’s first ILO Convention ratification in over five years and the first for the ministry under Saravanan.
It is also a significant win for the country and the ministry, as it demonstrates the nation’s true commitment to human rights, while addressing and eliminating the problem of forced labour in a significant and tangible manner.
By ratifying ILO P29, Malaysia must adhere to 11 indicators outlined in the 2014 Protocol, which include preventing, criminalising and prosecuting forced labour activities.
This must be done while also taking effective measures to provide victims with protection and access to remedies, including compensation.
As part of the ministry’s effort to ensure that foreign workers are protected, the Human Resource Ministry and the Social Security Organisation (Perkeso) had in 2018 extended social protection to all documented foreign workers against work injury.
This was in line with the ILO Convention on Equality of Treatment on Accident Compensation 1925 (No.19).
As of December last year, about 1.45 million foreign workers were actively contributing to Perkeso.
Subsequently, the Human Resources Ministry has carried out or will proceed to introduce the measures stipulated in the National Action Plan on Forced Labour (NAPFL) 2021-2025.
This document was aimed at guiding Malaysia in eradicating forced labour activities in the country through awareness, enforcement, labour migration and access to remedy and support services.
It also aims to strengthen enforcement of the workers’ minimum standards in housing, accommodation and the Amenities Act 1990 (Act 446).
It made it mandatory for employers looking to hire migrant workers to comply fully with the act.
To that end, the ministry has conducted over 40,000 workplace inspections annually.
It also initiated a blueprint on centralised labour quarters including migrant workers to accord better standards and a conducive living environment.
The document will also ensure the implementation of e-wages, which can monitor wage payments to workers and strengthen collaboration with source countries for migrant workers.
Malaysia has successfully concluded and renewed memorandums of understanding with Bangladesh, Indonesia and Vietnam in order to reinforce migrant workers’ protection.
It will also help foster strategic partnerships with the United States and the United Kingdom in addressing forced labour.
Saravanan will be stopping over in London to meet with the UK’s Migration and Modern Slavery envoy and other organisations to discuss further on modern slavery, forced labour and migration issues.
He said the issues on foreign workers and forced labour are under the Human Resource Ministry’s control.
“In line with the efforts to ratify P29, the ministry has launched the National Action Plan Against Forced Labour 2021-2025 last November, which outlines four strategic goals, namely: to raise awareness, enforcement and improve the issue of migration of workers and access to support services for migrants,” he added.
This includes increasing monitoring and enforcement.
Saravanan said the Human Resource Ministry has conducted more than 40,000 inspections at employers ‘premises each year from 2020-21 to ensure that employees’ accommodation is satisfactory.
It will continue to work with all parties, including industry players to achieve the goals in this action plan and ensure that Malaysia is a safe and good country in safeguarding the welfare of workers for the long term.
Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM) vice president Datuk Nathan K Suppiah said FMM fully supports the Malaysian Government’s ratification of Protocol 29 as it strengthens the nation’s commitment and fight against forced labour in all its forms.
“As a trading nation and a key manufacturing hub in the region, unhealthy business practices, including forced labour within the industry can jeopardise our competitiveness and threaten our role within the global supply chain.”
While Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) president Datuk Dr Syed Hussain Syed Husman said MEF is pleased with the efforts and leadership demonstrated by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri and Saravanan in putting Malaysia on the right path in not only combating but also eventually eliminating forced labour in this country.
“As the largest employer association in the country, MEF believes that this ratification is not just a big win for Malaysia, it is also a significant achievement for employers and businesses within this country,” Syed Hussain mentioned.