Is Malaysia prepared to stand up for its vulnerable workforce?

It is time to formulate a law on violence and harassment at the workplace.

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We recently celebrated Labour Day, and, as usual, there were goodwill messages by the government and the opposition in Malaysia. But despite the rhetoric, we have not yet come up with concrete legislation in favour of vulnerable workers, especially to deal with violence and harassment at the workplace.

As a human resources practitioner, I have witnessed how a particular general manager used his fist to hit a door and stare at a worker to send a message that he is not happy with his performance.

I have also seen how managers use constant psychological intimidation to force workers to resign, resulting in severe psychological stress to the workers concerned. For example, they use words such as “when are you going to resign” or they amplify a mistake without offering guidance or even training. Some workers are shouted at in front of their colleagues resulting in deep embarrassment that forces them to resign.

I wonder how quality and productivity can be enhanced in such threatening and intimidating environments.

The least the workers could do is to complain to the Labour Department, which is reluctant to resolve such cases since there are no laws against harassment at the workplace.

Lately there have been cases like that of the bodyguards who were beaten for fasting. As usual, some writers in the media would narrow the matter down to Islamophobia, when the issue concerned affects every person who is a vulnerable wage earner.

We also heard recently of the alleged bullying of an individual from the LGBTQ community at a workplace. 

Therefore, the Association for Community and Dialogue (ACID) urges the Malaysian government to come up with a law on harassment and violence at the workplace.

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This would be in accordance with the International Labour Organisation’s Convention C190, which was passed in Geneva in 2019. Uruguay was the first country to ratify it. In the words of Ricardo Gonzalez, Uruguay’s permanent representative to the UN in Geneva: “Uruguay considers that the cross-cutting nature of C190 makes it a very useful tool to improve the legal and labour relations framework already existing in the country. These instruments correlate with the challenges of the future of work.”

Malaysia needs significant legislation that would complement existing labour legislations and create a context for healthy industrial relations in the country. It has to improve its international image in the area of forced labour that was exposed lately.

Is Malaysia prepared to stand up for its vulnerable workforce and create the context in the present for the future of work? It is time to formulate a law on violence and harassment at the workplace.

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