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KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 17, 2014:

The government must come up with a comprehensive policy for the hiring of foreign workers to safeguard their rights and avoid them from being mistreated by their employees.

Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) president Mohd Khalid Atan said this in response to the recently published study conducted by Verite, an international labour rights group funded by the US Department of Labour.

The study found that nearly one-third of around 350,000 migrant workers in Malaysia’s electronics industry were being mistreated and worked in a forced condition.

Khalid toldThe Rakyat Postthat this was a common complaint heard from nearly four million migrant workers in the country.

“There has to be a realisation that these companies need employees, and it was due to this need that these foreign workers are coming into the country.

“So why are we burdening them with long hours, low wages, and poor treatment? Without these workers who are also known as cheap labours, foreign investors will not be coming in.”

According to Reuters, based on Verite’s study, most of the migrant workers in the country’s electronics industry were in situations of “forced labour” through factors which include being in debt from excessive fees charged by recruiters.

Khalid said that on average, the whole sum paid by migrants who wished to work in the country came to around RM 7,000 to RM 9,000.

“The recruitment fees are really high and this is a burden for those who come here to make an honest living.

“There should be no fees charged on them as they are boosting our economy. Whatever fees incurred to get them in should be borne by the employers.”

He added that in a meeting held by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) last year, it was recommended that its member countries do not charge any fees for migrants.

“Malaysia is a member of ILO. It was also present during the meeting and so it should respect and heed the decisions made there.”

Khalid said most migrants, especially those from less developed countries, such as Indonesia, Nepal and Thailand, have suffered abuse from their employers who had taken advantage of their desperation.

“They make these workers work long hours without overtime payment, hold back their salaries, and some even hold on to the workers’ passport, limiting their movements.

“It is high time the government started implementing methods to monitor these employers so that abuse will not take place.”

Malaysia was recently downgraded to Tier 3 in the US State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons report.

Reuters said that the report cited Malaysia’s lack of progress in protecting the rights of about four million of its foreign workers as one of the contributing factors of the downgrade.

“The government needs to rectify this by taking the workers’ rights seriously. It has to do its research and be strick against any companies found guilty of abusing the rights of their employees,” said Khalid.

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