Malaysia: Major Improvements Needed in Respect for Core Labour Standards

A new report by the ITUC on core labour standards in Malaysia, published to coincide with the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) review of their trade policies, has found many workers barred from exercising their right to organise, to collectively bargain and to strike. Migrants’ suffer from blatant disregard of their rights, including the use of violence.

The report finds that workers’ rights to organise and to bargain collectively under the law are extremely limited, due partly to the procedures for recognition and registration of trade unions. In some cases employers refuse to recognise unions even after a favourable court decision has been achieved. Migrants and those in certain classifications in the public sector face particular restrictions on the right to organise and to bargain collectively. Moreover, the right to strike is not adequately recognised, and many legal restrictions exist, with workers being denied the right to strike and with procedures that make it difficult and often virtually impossible to hold industrial action.

Discrimination in employment is prohibited, but there are no legislative provisions regarding equal remuneration for work of equal value. Women are often underpaid and are underrepresented in managerial positions. Sexual harassment cases are treated at the enterprise level through a voluntary code. Malaysia also lacks a legal framework for the rights of indigenous people, who face particular difficulties entering the labour market.

While child labour does not appear to be a big problem in Malaysia, the report finds that human trafficking for sexual exploitation and forced labour is widespread. Thousands of young Indonesian women work as domestic labourers under potentially abusive circumstances such as the confiscation of travel documents until the end of their employment contract. An armed civilian force called RELA is known to engage in abuses of migrant rights, and border police and other officials have been reported as being involved in trafficking activities.

Among other recommendations, the report calls on the government of Malaysia to ratify the three ILO core Conventions that it has not ratified, to improve its legislation so that it provides an adequate framework for the application of core labour standards, and to improve its implementation of the penalties that are foreseen by the law.

To read the full report

The ITUC represents 175 million workers in 155 countries and territories and has 311 national affiliates.

For more information, please contact the ITUC Press Department on: +32 2 224 0204 or + 32 476 62 10 18

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