Andy Hall wonders if MARGMA is really committed to debt-free recruitment
MIGRANT worker rights specialist Andy Hall is optimistically supportive but remains cautious and critical of the latest response by the Malaysian Rubber Gloves Manufacturers Association (MARGMA) that it “has been advocating for an open and transparent recruitment policy in line with the industry’s commitment to zero debt bondage”.
According to Hall, a key issue that shouldn’t be forgotten is that often enough in the past, human resource (HR) personnel of glove companies and their senior management too (MARGMA members) have actually joined hands – and still are – with manpower agents and brokers in Malaysia as well as in source countries to exploit impoverished migrant workers for kickbacks and massive illicit profits.
As such, the London-born labour activist said it is not just greedy recruitment agents in Malaysia and source countries who need to be controlled to ensure zero cost or ethical responsible recruitment becomes a reality.
“The list also encompasses greedy government officials, employers/HR/management of Malaysian companies and of course the recruitment syndicate leaders and software kingpins manipulating security, health and visa issuance processes to take their slice of the cake from migrants suffering, high into the corridors of power,” he told FocusM.
“They (MARGMA) can take the high ground now to claim commitment to ethical recruitment, but the past intention of company officials has too often been to profit from migrant worker exploitative recruitment processes for which government officials and syndicated power brokers/software kingpins on all sides also take their cut.”
Above all else, Hall said there also needs to be accountability for the past failures that led to US$150 mil in recruitment fee reimbursement to avoid US forced labour sanctions and to prevent this from happening again.Andy Hall
“Company officials have been grossly enriched at the expense of workers, houses, land and cars purchased in bribes and kickbacks shared between all the abusive actors,” he stressed.
“Let’s be clear, it is government officials, employers and brokers/agents both at source and in Malaysia that join/joined hands to exploit the desperate migrant workers… none of the actors are free of guilt here for sure, all were enriched.”
Yesterday (Feb 22), MARGMA president Dr Supramaniam Shanmugam said the association fully supported a recent statement made by the Malaysia International Humanitarian Organisation (MHO) which called on all stakeholders to adopt an open, transparent and equitable policy towards the recruitment of migrant workers.
“The long-standing debt bondage recruitment policy, which had resulted in charging exorbitant fees to job seeking foreign workers, had only benefitted unscrupulous recruitment agents in the source countries and had victimised both employees (foreign workers) and employers in hiring countries,” Supramaniam had pointed out.
“We should put a halt to these greedy recruitment agents profiteering on job seeking foreign workers in their quest to take up good work opportunities and employment in Malaysia. The workers should not be held under duress to borrow money and start their employment in Malaysia with a debt to agents.”
To resolve this debt bondage issue, Supramaniam added that employers in the rubber glove industry have taken lead out of no choice to remediate the workers on those exorbitant recruitment fees lest they fall foul of the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) forced labour requirements.”
“Another crucial question is whether MARGMA can also confirm that all its 70 or more members have indeed taken the first step to remediate fully and fairly their past indebted workers, too, or only the bigger members have done so?,” questioned Hall. – Feb 23, 2022*