PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian Bar says it is concerned that an agreement among the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) for its 10 member states to uphold foreign workers’ rights in their respective countries is not legally binding.
In a statement in conjunction with International Migrants Day today, its president George Varughese said the Bar welcomed the adoption of the Asean Consensus on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers on Nov 14.
“However, we are concerned that the Asean Consensus is non-binding, and implementation of the articles is subject to national laws, policy and regulations of Asean members states, which are, as they stand at present, inadequate to protect the rights of migrant workers in the region,” he said.
He added that the Asean Committee on Migrant Workers, tasked to draft the action plan for the consensus document, should ensure that all stakeholders, including civil society organisations and bar associations, are included in the consultation, drafting and implementation of the plan.
The consensus was signed during the 31st Asean Summit in Manila.
Varughese also called on Putrajaya to implement the recommendations of the Bar’s document titled “Developing a Comprehensive Policy Framework for Migrant Workers” prepared in 2011.
He said it called for the government to, among other things, work closely with migrants’ countries of origin to fine-tune the recruitment system, and equip the workers with necessary skills in tandem with their employment as well as knowledge on their labour rights and obligations.
It also called for the burden of the foreign employees’ levy payments to be shifted to employers, Varughese said.
The Bar also recommended that proper housing guidelines be formulated to ensure migrant workers have adequately sized, clean, hygienic and secure accommodation.
It also asked for the Employees’ Social Security Act 1969 (ESS) to be extended to cover migrant workers, or for the Workmen’s Compensation Act 1952 to be amended in tandem with the benefits accorded under the ESS, Varughese added.