Tuesday, June 30, 2020

End discrimination against foreigners and migrants in Covid-19 responses Respect for Human Rights includes ending racism and xenophobia (A 39 Group Joint Statement)

Media Statement – 30/6/2020

End discrimination against foreigners and migrants in Covid-19 responses

Respect for Human Rights includes ending racism and xenophobia

We, the 41 undersigned groups and organizations urge Malaysia to end discrimination and ethnophobia against migrant workers and foreigners including in responses to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

In the beginning of May, it was reported that all migrant/foreign workers will be required to be screened for Covid-19, before they be allowed to return to work in all sectors. 

Recently, there was a report that foreigners will not be allowed to use mosque/suraus.(Malay Mail, 11/6/2020)

These are practices against Human Rights, and also that the Federal Constitution. Article 8 of the Federal Constitution, which states, ‘(1) All persons are equal before the law and entitled to the equal protection of the law.’ is clear that this guarantee of equality applies to all persons, citizens or otherwise in Malaysia.

Employment Act 1955 is also against discrimination amongst workers based on nationality, whereby section 60L(1) also states  ‘(1) The Director General may inquire into any complaint from a local employee that he is being discriminated against in relation to a foreign employee, or from a foreign employee that he is being discriminated against in relation to a local employee, by his employer in respect of the terms and conditions of his employment…’. This provision clearly captures our principle against discrimination based on nationalities of workers, and as such the Malaysian government’s current requirement that ONLY migrant workers, and not local workers have to be screened and tested before being allowed to return to work is discriminatory.

There is no rational or reasonableness for such requirements that discriminate a certain class of workers, as Covid-19 does not discriminate. 

It is also goes against the often mentioned Malaysian policy for testing and screening in response to the Covid-19, which has been reiterated many times by the Director General of Health in his daily televised reports.  

On 10th June, Malaysia reportedly had a daily testing capacity of 34,951 samples (NST, 10/6/2020), and there are over 2 million just documented migrant workers in Malaysia, and for just all the 2 million plus to be tested, it will take about two months plus. The reality is that so many others, not just foreigners, that have to be screened everyday. 

The Malaysian approach, as far as screening and testing was concerned was before a rationale ‘targeted approach’. Persons who could have come in contact with the infected, and those showing positive symptoms and other high risk groups like returnees from infected countries were the focus. 

Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah also did say that ‘…if you test everyone and then you isolate them, that’s fine…’, but the fact of the matter, is that migrants and everyone tested, is thereafter never isolated from the rest of the un-tested community and there is always a risk of contact with persons who may not be Covid-19 free, which in the case of workers, will also include the other untested local workers who work with them,‘…So that’s the next question, how often do you want to test them?...’(Malay Mail, 14/5/2020)

Malaysia’s xenophobic response to foreigners in Malaysia, also may negatively impact Malaysia’s moral standing to condemn similar discriminatory practices against Malaysians now in foreign countries – hence the ability to keep Malaysians overseas safe from Covid-19 is affected. 

Malaysia needs to act in accordance to values, principles and human rights, especially in its response to Covid-19 and its consequences.

Whilst today, the Federal Constitution guarantees equality, Article 8(2), that imposes only on government and public authorities specified anti-discrimination obligations seem to not impose the same obligations on the private sector and other employers. In short, others including private sector employers, may still discriminate workers and/or people simply ‘…on the ground only of religion, race, descent, place of birth or gender…’.

Calls for laws to impose these anti-discrimination obligations on all, including private sector employers have gone unheeded for far too long.

Therefore, we call on
- Malaysia to end all xenophobic and/or discriminatory policies and practices against migrant workers and foreigners in its responses to Covid-19 pandemic;

- Malaysia to amend laws and/or the Federal Constitution to extend the obligation to specifically not discriminate ‘…on the ground only of religion, race, descent, place of birth or gender…’ to all, including private sector employers;

- Malaysia to provide needed basic assistance to cope with the loss of income or employment to all persons affected by the Covid-19, including migrant workers, foreigners and the self-employed.
Charles Hector

Adrian Pereira

For and on behalf the 41 listed below


WH4C (Workers Hub For Change)

North South Initiative (NSI)



Center for Orang Asli Concerns (COAC)

People's Service Organization (PSO), Malaysia

Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia (SABM)

MADPET (Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture)

NAMM (Network of Action for Migrants in Malaysia)

National Union of Flight Attendants Malaysia (NUFAM)

Parti Sosialis Malaysia(PSM)

Penang Stop Human Trafficking Campaign

Gagasan Insan Progresif

Timber Industry Employees Union of Sarawak

Sabah Timber Industry Employees Union(STIEU)

Labour Behind the Label

International Black Women for Wages for Housework

International Domestic Workers Federation (IDWF)

Building and Wood Workers International (BWI) Asia Pacific Region

Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC) South East Asian Coalition

Odhikar, Bangladesh

Migrant Care, Indonesia

Persatuan Pekerja Rumah Tangga Indonesia (PERTIMIG) di Malaysia

All Arakan Students' and Youths' Congress (AASYC), Burma/Myanmar

Rights Defenders and Promoters-HRDP in Myanmar

Radanar Ayar Association from Myanmar

Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha(MASUM), India

Programme Against Custodial Torture & Impunity(PACTI), India

AMMPO-SENTRO- Association of Filipino Nationalist Workers in Malaysia

Workers Assistance Center, Inc, Philippines

China Labour Bulletin

Women of Color - Global Women’s Strike, United Kingdom

Payday Men’s Network UK

Collectif Ehique sur l’étiquette (France)

Campagna Abiti Puliti – Italy

Women Against Rape

Payday Men’s Network US

Clean Clothes Campaign International Office

Jaringan Solidariti Pekerja

Datuk Dr Ronald McCoy

See related post - that contains relevant news reports:-

DISCRIMINATION against foreigners in Mosque and Workplace - Covid-19? All PERSONS are equal before the law

Monday, June 29, 2020

RM2,700 salary will draw Malaysians to tough jobs, says MTUC(FMT) - Higher Minimum Wage for 3D jobs

WORKER's WAGES - Malaysia sadly has kept worker's wages low, and its current minimum wage of RM1,100 is simply too low given the current cost of living.

When workers complained, the then BN government politicians absurdly suggested that workers take a 2nd job > Does the government not respect workers' right to work 8 hours, rest 8 hours and enjoy family/social life for 8 hours. It was utter nonsense to suggest workers work more hours just to survive in Malaysia today.

When employers paid too low, many local workers simply could not survive --- and employers would have been 'forced' into paying a more JUST wage > but then the government stepped in to provide employers with 'cheap labour' in the form of migrant workers. 

Then, indirectly they created a propaganda that certain work were beyond local workers - i.e. the 3D work(Dirty, Dangerous, Demeaning) -- and it was then taken up by migrant workers.

Today, post-Covid, many workers are unemployed - and some politicians are trying to convince them to take up these 3D jobs 

One way forward to encourage Malaysian workers to take up these so-called 3D jobs is to increase MINIMUM WAGE for these jobs, maybe a minimum wage of RM1,500, or more realistically RM2,700.

YES - Malaysians minimum wages should be raised to RM2,700 reasonably especially for factories, plantations...owned by corporations employing more than 10 workers, who make annual profits exceeding RM500,000. 

For the smaller employers, the minimum wage could be lower - like sundry shops, small vendors/businesses, - where profit sharing with employees coulod be encoraged, say maybe 40% of profits should flow back to workers at least.

RM2,700 salary will draw Malaysians to tough jobs, says MTUC

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The government has announced a freeze on new intake of foreign workers until year-end.
PETALING JAYA: The country’s largest workers group has mooted a living wage of RM2,700 per month for workers in big cities to lure Malaysians to take jobs usually taken up by foreign workers.
Malaysian Trades Union Congress secretary-general J Solomon said the living wage is among the measures that the government and employers can take to ensure there is no labour shortage from a government freeze on the intake of foreign workers.

The freeze is aimed at ensuring that Malaysians can fill the vacancies.

The Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers has voiced concern that a blanket ban could stifle the expansion of some industries.

However Solomon said: “If workers are paid better, and if working conditions improved, there will be no problem in getting locals to do the jobs foreigners usually work in.

“Thousands of Malaysians work dirty, dangerous and difficult (3D) jobs every day overseas, from Singapore to Australia to South Korea.”

Malaysians did not take up such work here because of low wages, poor working conditions and labour policies.

“We should work towards a living wage based on the costs of living in an area. For example, for those working in KL, Johor Baru and Penang, the basic take-home pay should not be less than RM2,000. Which means their gross pay should be at least RM2,700.”

Workers in the “3D” jobs should be employed full time rather than on contract and be accorded benefits such as EPF contributions, Socso protection, medical coverage and accommodation among others.

“The labour department should also be effective in their inspections and enforcing labour laws that protect the workers,” he said. The government could come up with incentives for employers to replace foreign labour with local workers.

However, the government should stop mollycoddling employers, Solomon said.

“They have reaped their just rewards from years of government help and benefits. and it is time to do their national service by helping the government to keep the unemployment rate low.”

“Covid-19 had shown the employers that without the workers, there is no factory or firm. Let a sense of humanity return. Top management salaries should come down and a ceiling set.”

Solomon also called for employers to stop union-busting, ensure a safe workplace, and that workers are adequately insured. - FMT, 28/6/2020