Reports indicate that:
• The right to freedom of association and collective bargaining is not upheld; Malaysia is ranked in Category 4 of the ITUC Global Rights Index 2016 which stands for systematic violation of the right to freedom of association, collective bargaining and strike; see also information mentioned in previous points.
• There is evidence confirming compulsory and/or forced labour in Malaysia: Most estimates suggest that there are 3–4 million migrants currently employed in Malaysia, which would constitute approximately 20–30 per cent of the country’s workforce. As much as half of the migrant workforce is now thought to be undocumented, while during the last several years, an increasing number of reports have documented serious labour rights abuses against migrant workers in Malaysia, including cases of forced labour and human trafficking. Since January 2016, the Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC), and the General Federation of Nepalese Trade Unions (GEFONT), have documented hundreds of cases of employer abuse of migrant workers in Malaysia, often rising to the level of forced labor.
• There is evidence confirming discrimination in respect of employment and/or occupation: Although the New Economic Policy (NEP) technically expired in 1990, many of the NEP’s race-based policies continue to be enforced and even expanded. Discrimination based on ethnicity in education, health care, finance, workforce and welfare has been increasing in the Malaysian society in recent years; Besides facing threats to their livelihoods associated directly with land, the indigenous peoples of Malaysia have also faced discrimination in other avenues of employment.
• Malaysia is signatory to 6 fundamental ILO Conventions of which 5 in force; C105 – Abolition of Forced Labour Convention, 1957 (No. 105) was denounced on 10 Jan 1990. Malaysia did not ratify C87 Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention, 1948 and C111 Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention, 1958.
• There is evidence that certain groups do not feel adequately protected related to their rights.
• Violations of labour rights are not limited to specific sectors: Examples of violations were found in relation to a wide variety of sectors.
On-site workers seldom wear personal protective equipment; first aid kits are lacking; and there is no strict enforcement of these requirements. accidents are often not reported by the FME and there is a lack of knowledge of accident statistics. There is still a lack of awareness of health and safety requirements amongst forest enterprises, particularly by small business owners/private land owners. Exposure of workers to hazardous chemicals and substances (glue, paint), lack of awareness on such hazardous substances/chemicals, high levels of dust in sawmills, hearing damage, harmful exhaust fumes and lack of PPEs are reported as risks in OSH. Lack of emergency preparedness and response, lack of hygiene were also reported as risks in this regard.
There is a risk that wages are below the minimum prescribed level. They reported examples of wages being lower than minimum pay, which often occurs through the contractor providing housing, water and electricity and deducting this from the minimum cost. This is an illegal practice, as housing and medical care cannot be used as an equivalent to wages. There is also a risk that migrant workers are not afforded the correct legal working conditions. One estimate indicates that there were or are more than 800,000 illegal workers in Malaysia. The presence of illegal workers often signifies that other labor-related laws are ignored. Other common treatment of foreign workers includes passport retention, contract violations, restricted movement, wage fraud, poor housing conditions and lack of H&S training
In Sabah and Sarawak, issues with sub-contractors have been found in relation to FMEs illegally employing short-term workers, without documentation and contracts (forest pass, immigration papers, employment contract).
The government did not effectively enforce applicable laws: The length of proceedings for the recognition of trade unions can still be excessively long; Labour unions ITUC and the MTUC allege continued difficulties to ensure the recognition of trade unions, anti-union discrimination practices, and backlog of cases in the Industrial Courts in Penang and Kuala Lumpur;