KUALA LUMPUR: The Government should allow all workers, including foreign ones, to form unions to protect their welfare, said the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam).
Commissioner Datuk N. Siva Subramaniam said that as a member of the United Nations and in keeping with the Federal Constitution and Human Rights Act, Malaysia should have by now automatically recognised and ratified the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention 87 on freedom of association.
“Associations and unions are not kongsi gelap (secret societies) but to protect workers' welfare, employment terms and entitlement while ensuring that labour laws are followed,” he told reporters at the Suhakam roundtable talk with trade unions yesterday.
He also said foreign workers needed a formal avenue to voice their plight and get redress.
The discussion was participated by MTUC, Cuepacs, Bar Council, Tenaganita, Suaram and the Malaysian Employers Federation.
Suhakam vice-chairman Tan Sri Panglima Simon Sipaun said the views relayed would be studied by Suhakam, which would then make recommendations to the Government.
MTUC secretary-general G. Rajasekaran said the Government had reasoned that Malaysia was still at a developing stage and was not ready to adopt the ILO Convention No. 87.
Tenaganita director Dr Irene Fernandez said foreign workers were susceptible and vulnerable to exploitation because they were not allowed to form or join unions.
At a separate press conference, Bar Council vice-chairman Ragunath Kesavan said that the body had submitted a memorandum to the Government on July 16 recommending 16 ways which were discussed at a forum earlier this year to produce a more comprehensive labour policy.
He said among the topics raised were overcrowding prisons with foreign workers at the expense of taxpayers, accessibility for them to seek justice, protection of domestic servants, documentation of migrant workers and Rela's inability to verify documentation.