Malaysian worker abuses
New report highlights role of corporations
Electronics brands Hitachi, JVC, Mitsubishi, Panasonic, Samsung, SONY, Sharp and Toshiba are all mentioned in a recent report outlining workers' rights issues in Malaysia.
Research from campaign group SOMO and MakeIT fair outlined a number of issues in the country which has high levels of foreign investment from multinational corporations outsourcing their labour-intensive production.
The report says that Malaysia is attractive to foreign businesses because of its low-cost workforce, low levels of unionisation and weak labour rights. Malaysia maintains a highly restrictive labour legislation, which limits collective bargaining rights and the right to strike.
In particular, Malaysia’s Industrial Development Council (MIDA) advertises its special economic zones (Free Industrial Zones) with “no minimum wage legislation”, “minimum conditions of employment” and “responsible trade unions and harmonious industrial relations” ie no trade unions.
The report found a number of issues linked to these industrial zones and lack of union representation including low pay, repetitive and tedious tasks and long exhausting hours up to 72 hours per week.
This in turn leads to a high turnover rate of staff at factories, and the lack of local workers. The electronics industry therefore relies heavily on migrant workers.
SOMO’s field research confirms that migrant workers in Malaysia’s electronics industry are typically employed on a temporary basis and confronted with contract fraud (false promises about wage levels, not receiving a copy of the contract and/or in a language not understood by the worker), debt bondage and subsistence wages for above-average working hours, including structural unpaid overtime.
Outsourced workers are discriminated against with regard to working hours, overtime and gender, plus they faced additional disciplinary measures and threats of deportation. All workers reported that sick days were deducted from their salaries by the agencies.
The report also concluded that anonymous complaint mechanisms are virtually absent or not made accessible to migrant workers by failing to provide information in their native language. Most workers reported their passports were being held by the outsourcing agencies, some received threats of deportation when they complained about working conditions. In two of the three factories, hazardous working conditions with inadequate protection were reported.
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