Ratification of Forced Labour Protocol commendable – but more comprehensive reforms needed

Photograph: The roads travelled for work - Women Migrant Workers in Singapore and Malaysia by UN Women Gallery/Flickr

The Labour Law Reform Coalition (LLRC) commends the human resources minister for his announcement that the government had agreed to ratify the International Labour Organization’s Forced Labour Protocol, which is of paramount importance in protecting workers, particularly migrant workers.

However, it is crucial for the government to implement a more comprehensive reform in accordance with the recommendations of the ILO report titled “Situation and gap analysis on Malaysian legislation, policies and programmes, and the ILO Forced Labour Convention and Protocol”.

Other than the ratification of the ILO Forced Labour Protocol, the report recommends that the Malaysian government:

  • Re-ratify the ILO Convention on the Abolition of Forced Labour (C105)
  • Initiate a national campaign on forced labour in consultation with trade unions and employers to create awareness among workers
  • Provide a victim-centred legal mechanism to enable termination and mobility of employment in the event of a workers’ rights violation
  • Protect migrant workers’ freedom of association and right to collective bargaining
  • Reduce recruitment costs and prohibit employers from passing on their costs to workers or illegal deducting salaries
  • Come up with a clear definition of forced labour in line with the ILO Convention 29
  • Amend and accord all benefits under the Employment Act to domestic workers as workers and treat domestic work as work
  • Develop and implement regulations of the Passport Act to address the gap in enforcement on confiscation of travel documents
  • Strengthen the weak provision of prohibition of forced labour in the Penal Code, which reads “unlawfully compel any person to labour against the will of that person”
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In addition, while victims are granted access to justice and remedy according to the protocol, the government should allow victims of forced labour to work legally for another employer to ensure their decent living during the period.

We call on the government to fully implement the report’s recommendations in consultation with trade unions, migrant workers’ organisations and employer associations.

N Gopal Kishnam and Irene Xavier are co-chairpersons of the Labour Law Reform Coalition

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