On 21st March, the Malaysian Government ratified International Labour Organization (ILO) Protocol 29 on Forced Labour, in another major development for labour rights and for workers throughout Malaysia.
Senior ILO officials were present in support of the government’s efforts, including ILO Director-General Guy Ryder, and ILO Pacific Regional Director, Chihoko Asada Miyakawa.
This is the latest positive and proactive step taken by Malaysian institutions – both private sector and government – to address concerns around forced labour put forward by importing countries. It follows hot on the heels of the Malaysian palm oil industry committing to ending recruitment fees for foreign workers, which can lead to debt bondage. The industry’s new Responsible Employment Charter sets out multiple other reforms that the private sector is undertaking to demonstrate its good labour practices.
Chairman of the Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC), YB Tuan Larry Sng Wei Shien, reacted to the news of the government’s ratification on ILO Protocol 29:
“The Malaysian palm oil sector strongly welcomes and endorses the government’s ratification of ILO Protocol 29. The private sector is committed to the principles set out by ILO on eradicating forced labour, and we will continue to work with the government to ensure these measures are enforced and followed.
“The palm oil private sector remains committed to making real and substantive changes to resolve concerns around labour rights. We look forward to continuing our discussions with U.S. authorities, and we trust that the commitment shown by Malaysia’s government and industry will be formally recognized by our partners.”
In addition to specific reform measures, such as ratification of ILO Protocol 29, the Malaysian Government is adopting a systematic approach to resolving questions around labour rights in the country, including:
- Launched a comprehensive National Action Plan on Forced Labour (NAPFL), supported by the ILO
- Signed Memorandum of Understanding with Bangladesh, to support labour rights for future workers
- Undertaken 40,000 workplace inspections at places of work to ensure workers are treated correctly
This commitment will continue, as outlined by MPOC Chairman YB Larry Sng. It is also time for importing countries to formally recognize that these commitments are being made, and are real.