Media Statement by Johore DAP Policy Director and Senai State Assemblyperson Wong Shu Qi on 27th August 2014 (Wednesday):
Government should conduct a through investigation to ascertain whether accusations made by migrant workers against their employer in the latest strike at Kulai are true
The strike that happened yesterday at Kelapa Sawit industrial area following the strike against the same employer at Tebrau area have given us a clear warning that government must conduct a thorough study and investigate into the migrant workers issue.
Government must first investigate the accusations made by the migrant workers against their employer, including about working hours and wages, lodging and ill treatment by certain administrative staff.
The accusations are serious and will definitely tarnish our national image if taken lightly by the authorities. The government must also not forget that we have just downgraded to Tier 3 in the Human Trafficking Report released by US State Department that has made a bad name for us globally.
Secondly, government must realize that our economy can no longer rely on unskilled migrant workers.
In the midst of developing Iskandar region, we have attracted investments from all over the world. Yet, the industries are still highly labour intensive as there are no sufficient incentives for SME and SMI to undergo mechanization.
We are competing for talents with our neighbouring countries and we are losing. Malaysia loses millions of skilled talents to other countries especially to Singapore while we recruit only unskilled migrant workers that will also eventually drive our local women workers out of the labour force.
Third, with the low wages paid to unskilled migrant workers, our own Malaysian women workers are reluctant to join the labour force since the pay may not even be able to cover the cost of childcare. Hence, quitting job seems to be a better choice for a lot of middle-lower income family since we have not come up with a better working environment for family with children.
While our women labour participation still remains low at 52.4% in 2013 if compared to neigbouring countries like Thailand (70%) and Singapore (58%). We are actually losing a lot more resources that we have invested in public education. There are about 6 female students to 4 male students enrolled into tertiary institutions while we have only slightly more than 50% women choose to work.
This is a structural issue and can only be resolved with firm political will that can change our economic pattern, provide better living quality and higher wages to all.
I must remind the government that the latest migrant worker strike happened in Kulai will neither be the first nor the last one if the government doesn’t address the real issues. Proper actions must be taken immediately.
Wong Shu Qi