Tuesday, August 9

Wahid Omar: Urgent need to address foreign labour issue

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Tan Sri Abdul Wahid Omar

KUCHING (September 9): There is a pressing need to address the current foreign labour issue in Malaysia which is currently affecting global companies’ investment sentiments on businesses based in Malaysia.

This was highlighted by Economic Club of Kuala Lumpur (ECKL) Advisory chairman Tan Sri Abdul Wahid Omar in his opening address during ‘The National Recovery Summit’, held yesterday.

“There is one pressing matter that needs immediate attention and that is the allegations of forced labour and modern slavery, currently affecting some plantation companies and rubber gloves manufacturing companies.

“Many of these allegations relate to the bonding of the foreign workers by recruitment agents in their country of origin, because of the huge debt that had to incur before they come to Malaysia.

“This is a major pressing issue that needs to be addressed by the government in two years,” Wahid Omar pointed out.

In particular, he suggested that the government should look into the aspect of engaging with the US government to secure the upliftment of the Withhold Release Order (WRO) by the US Customs and Border Protection, issued currently to four million companies.

“And second support will be in the aspect of the policy on the appointment of foreign recruitment agents, which charge very high fees on foreign workers. Unless we address this urgently, the WRO, and also the categorisation of Malaysia as a Tier Three country under the Trafficking in Persons Report will cause untold damage to the Malaysian economy.

“This is because in line with global commitments towards sustainability and ESG, many global businesses will exclude companies that are accused of engaging in forced labour practices and modern slavery from the supply chain. And if this spreads to the E&E sector, the damage will be irreparable,” he added.

Of note, in July, Malaysia’s forced foreign labour issues came under the limelight when US’ State Department’s annual ‘Trafficking in Persons’ report downgraded Malaysia to a ‘Tier 3’ for failing to meet the minimal standards for elimination of trafficking and the lack of efforts of eradicating this problem. Malaysia joins the ranks of countries such as China, Russia and North Korea.