Lowest wages and poor treatment of migrant workers hurt economic development, US and UK envoys tell Putrajaya | Malaysia

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Putrajaya had launched a national action plan on forced labor in November last year to eliminate such practices by 2030. — Photo by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb. 9 – Low wages and poor treatment of migrant workers will hurt Malaysia’s economic development and macro-level growth, two foreign diplomats said today.

In a joint opinion piece published in the New Strait Times (NST), British High Commissioner to Malaysia Charles Hay and US Ambassador Brian McFeeters added the problems stemming from the mistreatment of migrant workers here, and the image this creates for Malaysia. in the global economy also increases the value of manufacturing. chain and the creation of skilled and well-paid jobs for Malaysians more difficult.

According to the duo, it also hampers broader aspirations for growth and development.

“The National Action Plan is an excellent step to encourage Malaysia to tackle the problem of forced labour. But plans must turn into action, including holding perpetrators criminally accountable.

“This action plan, the result of cooperation between government departments, industry and non-governmental organizations, supported by the International Labor Organization, is a welcome step in the fight against forced labor in Malaysia.

“In addition, society as a whole, as well as those who consider themselves Malaysia’s friends, can play a role. Police and labor inspectors can identify those who exploit victims for forced labor and root out any attendant corruption, without prejudice, to prosecute perpetrators and protect victims, they said.

Putrajaya had, in November last year, launched a national action plan on forced labor to eliminate these practices by 2030.

In the past two years, seven Malaysian companies, including the world’s largest glove maker and palm oil producer, have faced US import bans over allegations of forced labor.

In November last year, British high-end home appliance maker Dyson Limited severed ties with its main supplier, Malaysian firm ATA IMS, over working conditions.

Dyson told Reuters it was ending its contract with the supplier, following an audit of the company’s labor practices and allegations from a whistleblower.

“It’s a global phenomenon. Governments are often reluctant or too lacking in resources to take meaningful action, if at all. And, as a result, millions of people suffer from systemic abuse.

“Over the past 10 years, many countries, businesses and consumers have realized the magnitude of the problem and are taking action to address it,” Hay and McFeeters added.

They said the UK passed its Modern Slavery Act in 2015 and the US passed the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act 2015 to bolster efforts to ban slavery. importation of goods produced by forced labour.

Hay and McFeeters pointed out that consumers and investors in many countries are increasingly aware of the evolution of the global supply chain and are demanding fair treatment of its workers, adding that the fight against forced labor is no is not just a human rights issue, but an economic issue. .

“The costs of tackling forced labor once it is in the supply chain far outweigh the measures needed for prevention. It is better from the start that the recruitment of workers is ethical, completely transparent and at no cost to the workers. It is much better for companies to provide fair and legal wages and adequate working conditions.

“It is far better to retain workers with good jobs, not by coercion. It is much better to avoid damage to reputation and finances and to have confidence in the workforce. As attention to the issue continues to grow, international companies will seek out business environments that allow limited space for modern slavery. By seriously addressing the problem of forced labour, Malaysia will present itself as an even more competitive option,” they added.

The duo said Putrajaya and the Malaysian Parliament can provide the regulatory framework to ensure a rigorous standards regime, with companies being proactive in using quality, no-notice auditing processes to eradicate forced labor in their supply chains. sourcing and recruiting ethically.

They said the government must take proactive and sustained action to prosecute traffickers and protect victims, with businesses also playing a role, while consumers can continue to demand ethical standards for their products and activists continue to “ troubleshoot, expose and accelerate the pace of change”. .”

“Indicators of forced labor are well known and these practices violate Malaysian law. Businesses must commit to preventing and addressing the problem of forced labor and proactively eradicating these practices at all levels to avoid further trade actions – and do their part to improve, rather than diminish, international reputation from Malaysia.

“Malaysian companies are rightly proud of the quality of their products. What if they could be just as proud of how they treat workers? It would force owners and managers of large, medium and small businesses to make such a decision and take steps to treat workers well. The United Kingdom and the United States are ready to work with Malaysia.

“Our countries face similar challenges at home. We stand ready to share, support and build Malaysia’s capacity to make the country a global leader in the fight against forced labour,” they said.

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