HR minister: Malaysia willing to cooperate with US to tackle forced labour issue

Foreign construction workers are pictured in Kuala Lumpur January 20, 2021. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Foreign construction workers are pictured in Kuala Lumpur January 20, 2021. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

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PUTRAJAYA, July 13 — Malaysia is ready to enter into strategic cooperation with the United States (US) to address the human trafficking issue, especially forced labour, said Human Resources Minister Datuk Seri M. Saravanan.

In a discussion with the US ambassador to Malaysia Brian McFeeters today, Saravanan said he had expressed the ministry’s willingness to enter into strategic cooperation with the US in efforts to improve enforcement to increase the number of convictions concerning forced labour cases.

He said the discussion also revolved around the 2021 US State Department’s annual report on human trafficking.

“The forced labour issue, especially involving foreign workers, is given a priority by the government, following the US State Department’s report as well as several other reports and studies conducted by various international institutions,” he said in a statement today.

He said the latest study carried out by the Modern Slavery and Human Rights Policy and Evidence Centre (The Modern Slavery PEC) also touched on the issue of forced labour in the rubber glove manufacturing sector entitled “Forced Labour in the Malaysian Medical Gloves Supply Chain during the Covid-19 Pandemic”.

Saravanan said he also briefed McFeeters on the initiatives implemented by the ministry to address the issue including the enforcement of the Employment Act 1955 (Act 265) and the Workers’ Minimum Standards of Housing and Amenities Act 1990 (Act 446) whereby throughout last year until June this year, a total of 194 investigation papers had been opened.

He also said that the ministry is collaborating with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to develop a National Action Plan on forced labour and child labour which is expected to be finalised and launched in the fourth quarter of this year.

According to him, the Working for Workers (WFW) mobile application was launched in May to address labour issues and as of July 11, it had received a total of 5,675 complaints of which 4,105 had been addressed by the ministry.

Saravanan said the ministry was in the midst of reviewing the US State Department’s report as well as the Modern Slavery PEC study to improve existing measures and ensure a comprehensive approach to deal with labour issues. — Bernama

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