In January 2008 the union started the desk for the Migrant Workers’ Service Centre, initiated and funded by the IUF Asia Pacific Region.  The operation of the Centre is covered with the term of reference - to expand activities to protect migrant workers particularly in the plantation, provide assistance, claim their rights and organize them.

The union has set up a Committee, comprising the IUF affiliates and the unions serving the plantations. Its role is to manage, assist, organize and plan the needful activities for the migrant workers. The Committee is assisted by a full time worker.

Since its inception the union with close cooperation of the National Union of Plantation Workers (NUPW), a workers’ union in the plantation, we have recruited more than 5000 migrant workers into that NUPW membership.



Since 1997, Malaysia has become one of the largest importers of foreign labour in Asia, recruiting migrant workers from 20 countries in Asia .

In Malaysia , employment of foreign workers is allowed in the construction, plantation, service domestic servants, hotel industry, trainers and instructors and in manufacturing sectors.

There are about two million migrant workers in Malaysia . Of these two million migrants about 300,000 are domestic workers, most of whom are women. It is a fact there are one (1) million illegal or undocumented migrant workers spread over Malaysia .

The number of violations reported, as well as the high number of undocumented migrant workers in Malaysia point to issues in the country’s labour migration policies and labour protection systems.



The government has termed the migrant workers as foreign workers.

The Government has an ad hoc policy on management of migration. Frequent policy changes by the state lead to lack of clarity, abuse by different stakeholders and increase the vulnerability of migrant workers.

Approving Authority of Migrant Workers

The Task force on Employment of Foreign workers, under the Ministry of Home Affairs, is the approving authority for the employment of foreign workers belonging to the skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled categories.

An annual levy on foreign workers is imposed. The rates of levy on various categories of workers are based according to the sectors.

The government issued around 270 licenses for what it calls outsourcing companies. These outsourcers do not operate in any particular sector, but they are not employed by the company they work.

The problem here is what union to join, as Malaysian unions are organized along sect oral lines.

Outsourcing also means that the collective agreement signed with the company does not apply to these migrants, even though they work in the company.

The agencies that send migrants are very active; they send as many as they can because they obtain large sums of money from these workers.

Problems of Migrant Workers

The migrant labour tends to undermine pay and working conditions, as well as exacerbating the exploitation of migrants.

The number of reports are documented of labour and human rights violations against migrant workers during the recruitment process and their employment in Malaysia .

The government had set up a Task Force on Foreign workers in 2009 to find out the requirements and to reduce gradually the dependency of foreign workers.

The government recently announced of a new Act for foreign workers signals a commitment to address the plight of these workers.

Problem of Illegal Workers

Those who entered illegally found no employment had caused problems when they turn to negative activities, including crime.

He said their large number also caused difficulty for industries that needed foreign workers but could not find sufficient number of required workers.

Workmen’s Compensation Act 1952

Under section 26(2) of the Amended Act, it is mandatory for every employer to insure all the foreign workers employed by him under an approved insurance scheme in respect of any liability he may incur under the Workemen’s Compensation Act 1952.

Any employer who fails to insure the foreign workers under the approved insurance scheme shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable, on conviction, to a fine not exceeding RM20, 000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2 years or both.



Government Ministries need to develop a comprehensive policy framework for migrant labour force including a new act of which the government has promised to implement.

The Union recognises the positive contributions of migrant workers in the development of the country and its economy, the principle that all workers should be treated with fairness, dignity and equality. The laws of Malaysia do not discriminate against migrant workers but in practice, the rights of migrant workers are not fully protected.

The right of migrant workers to join a trade union is guaranteed under the Trade Union Act of 1959, However, administrative practices and unscrupulous employers often discourage migrant workers from joining trade unions.

Our policy is that even if a migrant worker has signed an individual contract, wherever there is a union and a collective agreement, the latter applies to everyone, including migrants workers.



Migrant Workers

Service Centre at AMESU

Malaysian Government Policy and Union Policy towards migrant workers