KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 18 — Starting next year, the 2.2 million legal foreign workers in Malaysia will be fully covered under the Social Security Organisation (Socso) Act 1969 for any employment-related injuries.
The Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) announced today that coverage will take effect from January 1, 2020.
Its secretary-general J. Solomon said many foreign workers face difficulties in obtaining assistance such as medical treatment and compensation.
“MTUC is also very concerned about the fate of millions of undocumented workers in Malaysia, who are denied any form of coverage in the event of industrial accidents at workplaces,” he said in a statement.
By providing such coverage to undocumented workers, Solomon said the government will not only be complying with Convention 19 (C19) of the United Nation’s International Labour Organisation (ILO) but can also put in place the necessary mechanism to legalise these workers.
The ILO sent a direct contact mission to Malaysia in June to help locals implement its recommendations after the government said in January that it needed more time due the insurance policies purchased under the Workmen Compensation Act 1952.
The mission also determined if Malaysia was abiding by C19, which requires signatories to ensure equality of treatment for all workers.
The MTUC secretary-general, who assisted the ILO during its mission to Malaysia, said its members examined the effectiveness of access to medical care in cases of workplace injury.
One of the mission’s general findings was that problems with full Socso coverage could not be properly addressed due to the absence of effective consultation with tripartite social partners.
Although the government said in January this year that foreign workers would be covered, more time was needed due the insurance policies purchased under the Workmen Compensation Act 1952.
“Despite the government announcing foreign workers would have Socso coverage, many still faced teething problems in the full implementation of its benefits for migrant workers.
“This included Putrajaya’s role to ensure all migrant workers — legal and undocumented — have Socso coverage benefits on par with local workers. It was concluded the tripartite consultative and communication process can be improved to benefit from their insights into the implementation and work plan, with effective follow-up,” said Solomon.
The mission will report its findings on Malaysia’s compliance with C19 and make the necessary recommendations to the ILO which will then take up the relevant issues with Putrajaya.
“It is important to ensure migrants do not remain vulnerable in Malaysia, which has a direct connection to the vulnerability of national workers and their right to basic human rights and decent living,” he said.
Originally, foreign workers were protected under the Socso Act when it was first enacted, but in 1993, the government placed them under the Workmen Compensation Act, resulting in their unequal treatment, compared to national workers.