End debt bondage for migrant workers in Malaysia
Campaign Update:

COVID-19 Update: Shortages of medical gloves as a result of the pandemic have led to a surge in demand for cheap gloves made in Malaysia, and the US has lifted its import ban on WRP Asia Pacific Sdn Bhd—a medical glove manufacturer accused of forced labor. Read more here.

Malaysia: End debt bondage for migrant workers

The Malaysian government is proposing employers deduct 20% from migrant workers’ salaries.

The reason?

To prevent workers from fleeing their workplaces, or in other words, to control and restrict their movement – characteristics of modern slavery.

Many of the two million migrant workers in Malaysia are already trapped in debt bondage, unable to pay off exploitative recruitment fees. The proposal to cut 20% of their pay will make a bad situation worse.

Tenaganita, our local partner in Malaysia, has been speaking with migrant workers from Bangladesh who oppose the wage deductions:

“It is good to save some money, but 20% is too much. We need money to send to our families to live on.” -Bangladeshi, 40, Construction Worker

“How can I be sure that I will get my money when I go back home?” -Bangladeshi, 36, Petrol Station Attendant

On the verge of tears, a worker in a factory producing condoms, pleaded “What should I do?”. He explained that the US$250 a month for full-time work is not enough to eat, survive, support his family and pay back the fee to the recruiters who promised he’d be paid twice as much. Leaving risks incurring a penalty.1

Astonishingly, Malaysia’s Human Resources Minister, M. Kulasegaran, argues the proposal is a “win-win situation” for employers and workers.2

Kulasegaran says that the wage deductions would be held in the Social Security Organization (SOSCO) and that migrant workers could claim them once their work permits expire and they leave the country.3

But migrant workers’ hard-earned pay should not be used as a bargaining chip.

“It is high time that the new government starts looking at foreign workers as humans and not as a commodity and comply with the international labor standards strictly instead of paying lip service.” said Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) Secretary-General, J Solomon.4

Amid recent reports of exploitation in Malaysian rubber glove factories5, Kulasegaran called for an independent audit of the sector.6 While this is a positive step, he continues to advance the 20% wage deduction proposal.

Kulasegaran submitted the proposal to the National Labor Advisory Council in December 2018, and the government is currently getting input from stakeholders before it is finalized. Now is the time to act. 

Tell Minister Kulasegaran: Cancel the 20% wage deduction proposal and give migrant workers their full pay.

Jan 25, 2019 Campaign Launches

Chip in and help end modern slavery once and for all.

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Philip BadizGraeme farquharGrace SureySTELLAMax Recent comment authors
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Philip Badiz
Philip Badiz

Shame that so few campaigns are willing to recognise the rabid capitalist context of labour exploitation. US and European countries especially deliberately export their labour-intensive industries to countries just like these precisely because they have minimal labour laws and refuse to police slave labour. You cannot solve the problem by merely looking at the symptoms… the roots are capitalism, which has always been exploitive.

Graeme farquhar
Graeme farquhar

How can these people social distance when they are sleeping 30 to a room and travelling to work in overcrowded busses This is modern day slavery at its worst

Grace Surey
Grace Surey

how can we be sure we are not contributing profiting this unfair business? What is the situation now?

STELLA
STELLA

ANY ACTION TO PREVENT SLAVERY IS WORTH TRYING !…

Max
Max

This is the product of modern economy, based on exploitation!

Urge Malaysia to protect migrant workers from debt bondage

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M. Kulasegaran, Human Resources Minister:

I support the recent decision of your government to conduct a full investigation and inquiry into the situation of workers.

I am deeply concerned that many migrant workers in Malaysia find themselves trapped in debt bondage due to lower than expected wages and large recruitment fees. They struggle to survive and support their families.

The proposal to deduct foreign workers’ wages by 20% is particularly pernicious and I urge you to urgently reconsider. It will make migrant workers’ position even more precarious. They deserve to keep their full wages.

It is against international labor standards to take away workers’ wages without their consent, and migrant workers’ hard-earned pay should not be a bargaining chip to control their movement.

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