Press Release

Viet Nam, Malaysia’s trade unions ink agreement to strengthen protection of migrant workers

16 March 2015

  • HANOI, 16 March 2015 – Leaders of Viet Nam's and Malaysia's trade unions this afternoon (16 March) agreed to co-operate to protect the former's workers in Malaysia – one of the top four destination countries for Vietnamese working migrants.

With support from the ILO, the Viet Nam General Confederation of Labour (VGCL) and the Malaysian Trade Union Congress (MTUC) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) which covers a range of important issues such as the establishment of an official bilateral co-operation and awareness raising on labour migration. They also include engaging in dialogues to promote the ratification of relevant ILO conventions, raising concerns of migrant workers to the authorities and policy-makers, and addressing occupational safety and health issues, particularly in hazardous sectors.

Viet Nam has sent more than 220,000 workers from all over the country to Malaysia over the past 10 years. On average, about 12,000 workers, mostly low-skilled ones, depart for this South-east Asian country for work per year. There are now some 80,000 Vietnamese nationals working in 12 out of 13 states of Malaysia, mainly in manufacturing, garment and construction.

"Both the sending and receiving countries have tried their best to create favourable conditions for the workers to live and work in Malaysia. However, in reality, Vietnamese workers in Malaysia meet some difficulties and to tackle them, strong co-operation between the two trade unions is much needed," said VGCL Chairman Dang Ngoc Tung at the signing ceremony.

Some issues faced by Vietnamese migrant workers in Malaysia include high costs of migration; having their passports retained by employers; illegal recruitment; contract substitution; delay of salary payment, unauthorized wage deductions, or the withholding of salary; and being denied days of rest.

"Trade unions can offer significant assistance to migrant workers in addressing the challenges during the migration process, including increasing their capacity to be well-prepared and deal with workplace issues such as underpayment of wages or poor safety standards, and reducing their vulnerability to the most serious forms of exploitation – forced labour and human trafficking," said ILO Viet Nam Director, Gyorgy Sziraczki.

Therefore, the MoU is expected to open a new chapter in the co-operation between the two trade unions in the area of labour migration, which will become increasingly important due to demographic changes, income gaps and economic integration to be particularly pushed forward by the introduction of the ASEAN Economic Community at the end of this year.

Viet Nam started to send workers to Malaysia in 2002. The two countries signed an MoU on recruitment of workers to migrate to Malaysia in December 2003.

Within the framework of the Tripartite Action to Protect Migrants Workers from Labour Exploitation project, the ILO also published a pre-departure manual for Vietnamese workers who are going to Malaysia in 2014 to equip them with adequate information and skills to protect themselves from falling into the traps of human trafficking and labour exploitation.

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