Migrant worker issues: Asean must buck up

Published by rudy Date posted on May 27, 2011

Statement of civil society organisations in Asean to the Asean Senior Labour Officials Meeting and Labour Ministers Meeting in Penang June 23-26 2011.

The civil society organisations (CSOs) in Malaysia reaffirming and echoing more than 1,300 civil society organisation delegates who had gathered in Jakarta, Indonesia between 3-5 May 2011 at the Asean Civil Society Conference/Asean Peoples’ Forum (ACSC/APF), urge the Senior Labour Officials Meeting and Labour Ministers to adopt and implement the recommendations at the ACSC/APF which was communicated and received by all Asean Heads of State. In relation to labour and migration;

1. Asean member states must eliminate the contract and labour outsourcing system and stop discrimination by giving all workers permanent employment status.

2. We urge Asean to adopt welfare state systems to ensure social security for all peoples in the region

3. Asean member states must allow all workers including migrants to establish independent and autonomous trade unions for the protection of labour rights. Asean member states must ensure that all migrant workers receive the full protection of labour laws in the countries, which they are working.

4. Asean must act against attempts by employers to disguise or evade employment relationships to the detriment of labour or worker’s rights.

5. Asean members must recognise domestic work as work and provide domestic workers full labour rights and legal protection. All Asean members should support and commit to the ILO Convention on Domestic Workers.

6. As Asean countries are members of the ILO, we urge Asean to respect ILO Core Convention 87 and 98.

7. As elaborated in Article 22 of the Declaration, we call on all state parties to make efforts to comply with the provision of the declaration; the secretary general is to submit annual report cards in regard to the compliance of the state parties to the Declaration.

8. All Asean member states should work together to fast-track the process of adopting a legally-binding instrument that protects and promotes the rights of all migrant workers and members of their families. This process must be transparent and actively involve migrant associations, trade unions and other representatives of civil society.

This is even more necessary and urgent in light of the failure of the Asean Committee on Migrant Workers in its deliberations over three years to arrive at any agreement on the scope of coverage of the Asean Framework Instrument for the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of migrant workers.

As long as migrant workers had worked, they, irrespective of documentation status should have access to labour rights such as claiming for unpaid wages. Therefore, the scope of coverage should include undocumented migrant workers.

9. Recognising the increasing numbers of women migrant workers in the region who are working in precarious conditions, states parties should remove reservations to the Cedaw and the CRC. At the same time, it should also recognize Cedaw General Recommendation 26, adopted in November 2008.

The instrument should reflect this commitment to address the specific working and living conditions of all women migrants.

10. All Asean member states must repeal policies of contractual termination and deportation on the ground s of pregnancy and communicable diseases, such as HIV/AIDS.

11. States must provide social protection that includes provisions for health care and medical insurance, and that promote safe working environments for all migrant workers and their families.

12. Given the movement of migrants in the Asean region, Asean must support a residence-based (as opposed to a citizenship-based) health care system. This requires universality and a single, high standard of health services.

In addition, the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia and the Malaysian Trade Union Congress over two years ago have recommended the following;

13. The Malaysian government should implement a national retrenchment scheme to aid retrenched workers. Similar to the Employees Provident Fund (EPF), this would require financial contributions from both employers and employees.

14. The government should establish a minimum wage policy to ensure that all workers enjoy a decent standard of living.

15. The government should conduct a study to assess the actual need for foreign labour

16. The government should ensure employers issue a clear contract of employment and breach of the contract would hold the parties liable before the law.

17. The government should immediately revoke the licenses of errant outsourcing companies.

18. The government should monitor labour disputes and ensure that both workers and employers have access to a resolution mechanism.

The above statement is endorsed by:
1. Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD) ( A regional network in Asia Pacific)
2. CARAM Asia ( A regional network on migration across Asia and Middle East)
3. CARAM Cambodia
4. Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) Malaysia
5. Dignity International (DI- A Global NGO on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights)
6. Peoples Service Organization , Selangor
7. Pusat KOMAS
8. Singapore Working Group on ASEAN Migrant Workers
9. Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM)
10. Task Force on ASEAN Migrant Workers (TFAMW)
11. Tenaganita
12. Think Centre (Singapore)

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