Group should be held on equal terms and not have forced labour practices imposed on them: MEF President

KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) has urged government and private sector employers to treat migrant workers with respect and dignity, and ensure that forced labour practices in the country are stamped out.

Its president Datuk Dr Syed Hussain Syed Husman told theSun: “We should not forget that migrant workers leave behind their families, often for years, to earn a living in Malaysia and help raise our economy.

“In the process, they even learn Bahasa Melayu and speak the language well to integrate into society.

“The least we can do is to treat migrant workers with some respect and dignity for their efforts, apart from ensuring that forced labour practices are not imposed on them.”

Syed Hussain said about 100 participants from government agencies, private sector employers, civil society organisations and academia attended a physical and virtual roundtable discussion on forced labour recently.

It was hosted by the MEF and Institute of Labour Market Information and Analysis (ILMIA), with the support of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and Global Business Network on Forced Labour (GBNFL).

Stakeholders present during the discussions included representatives from the Human Resources Ministry’s policy division, ILMIA, ILO-GBNFL, Malaysian Trades Union Congress and private sector employers as panellists.

Among the matters discussed were the challenges of recruiting migrant workers, fair recruitment and eradication of forced labour, the labour chapter of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, the national action plan on forced labour, and the way forward.

Deputy Human Resources Minister Datuk Sri Abdul Rahman Mohamad, who attended the roundtable discussion, said the government is responsive to human resource development needs and will not tolerate any form of forced labour.

“We are open to hearing opinions and suggestions from all stakeholders in our effort to eradicate forced labour and promote fair recruitment of migrant workers.”

Syed Hussain said the MEF is committed to meeting ILO conventions on migrant workers and the eradication of forced labour in Malaysia.

“The MEF agrees that migrant workers are needed to fill vacancies that Malaysians are not keen to take up. But once they are in the country, these workers must be treated on equal terms.

“In line with the Madani concept that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has envisioned, no worker should be left behind as the country progresses economically and attains high-income status.”

Syed Hussain said going forward, the MEF, together with the ILO-GBNFL will conduct several key activities related to fair recruitment of migrant workers and the eradication of forced labour.

He said one of the federation’s first initiatives for selected members was to introduce the due diligence toolkit on fair recruitment so that they could share their thoughts on guiding and educating employers on the recruitment process of migrant workers.

The toolkit was launched at an online country briefing last month by MEF-ILO-GBNFL, in partnership with ILMIA.

Syed Hussain said during the briefing employers shared about the challenges they faced when recruiting migrant workers.

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