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New ILO initiative to help protect migrant worker wages in Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (ILO News) – Migrant workers in Malaysia are set to benefit from a new initiative that will help protect their wages.

The ILO’s Migrant Workers Empowerment and Advocacy (MWEA) project launched its second phase today (3 February 2023) in Kuala Lumpur, that will help strengthen Malaysian policies and mechanisms on wage protection for migrant workers.

The initiative, which will run until 2026, is funded by the United States Department of Labor (USDOL).

The Government of Malaysia committed to strengthen the right to organize and wage protections for migrant workers, with the adoption of the National Action Plan on Forced Labour (NAPFL)  in 2021. The MWEA project will collaborate with the government and relevant stakeholders to support the implementation of these commitments, with a particular focus on the plantation, manufacturing and electronics sectors.

Specific areas of action include measures to promote wage protection, supporting migrant workers to calculate and claim their wages, and working with relevant organizations to assist migrant workers making cross border claims.

Mr Nilim Baruah, Senior Migration Specialist, based at ILO’s regional office in Bangkok, said: “Migrant workers are entitled to their full and due wages and benefits. This initiative will support the Government of Malaysia’s efforts to enhance wage protection. It will also help build the awareness amongst migrant workers of their rights and what to do in the event that these rights are abused. I am confident that this project can make a real difference to the lives of migrant workers in Malaysia.”

The first phase of the MWEA project (2016-2022) supported efforts to protect the rights of women and men migrant workers in Malaysia. The second phase will continue to build on these past achievements by working in collaboration with trade unions and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs).

Awareness raising and training activities will be carried out for migrant workers on areas including labour rights, calculating working time and due wages as well as filing wage and social security claims. Support services will be extended to Sabah and Sarawak in Eastern Malaysia where large numbers of migrant workers are employed, particularly in the plantation sector.

Non-payment of wages or wage loss is a key issue facing migrant workers in Malaysia, a situation which was exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. A regional survey conducted by the ILO in October-November 2021, which included 92 migrant workers in Malaysia, found that 52 per cent of laid-off or retrenched respondents had not been fully paid for work they had completed.

Source: International Labour Organization

Image: Freepik

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