BY EILEEN NG
Published: 3 December 2014
“In the case of Sabah, the study shows children of foreign workers accompanying their parents to the work area due to lack of supervision at home and assisting in simple tasks such as loose fruit collection.
“However, this is only allowed after school hours, weekends and holidays,” the ministry said in a statement to The Malaysian Insider.
The survey was based on International Labour Organisation (ILO) guidelines which covered workers, employers and labour contractors. Interviews with workers were conducted without the presence of the employers.
The finding did reveal cases of employers withholding the passports of foreign workers, but said such instances were minimal, amounting to 0.4% of the total respondents.
It added that there was an active labour market in oil palm plantations where foreign workers could find alternative work.
“The ministry will coordinate the outcome of this study with the relevant ministries and agencies to strengthen labour laws and regulations in oil palm plantations,” it stated.
Malaysia appeared in the latest list of goods produced by child labour or forced labour issued by the Department of Labour’s Bureau of International Labour Affairs (ILAB).
It was released on December 1 as part of biannual reporting to the US Congress and to fulfil requirements under the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorisation Act (TVPRA) 2005, to monitor and provide information on human trafficking for forced labour.
In a press statement on the department of labour’s website, it said palm oil was a new addition to the list of goods made with child labour, and cited Malaysia for it.
ILAB had said it focused on information about children under the age of 18. It also defined “child labour” as work done by a person below 15 that is similar to slavery, for illicit purposes, and which harms “the health, safety and morals of children”.
It said the list was derived using data from “publicly available primary and secondary sources”, and these included data from the International Labour Organisation, site visits by ILAB and American government staff, national surveys as well as information compiled by academic institutions and non-governmental organisations.
“To ensure a transparent process, we only use publicly available information to develop the list,” spokesman from the US embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Drake Weisert, had told The Malaysian Insider, which had sought details on child labour in the palm oil sector.
The information sources in a bibliography attached to the list are of news reports by Malaysian and foreign media outlets, and reports by the US embassy in Kuala Lumpur as well as migrant rights’ group, Tenaganita.
The ministry said it did not condone any act of forced and child labour and that it took such allegations and findings seriously, adding that the palm oil sector was one of the most highly regulated industries in Malaysia.
“Currently, the palm oil industry subscribes to more than 60 laws and regulations which include criteria on labour practices. The palm oil industry recognises the importance of workers and has taken great efforts to ensure the welfare of the workers is taken care,” it said.
The ministry added that Malaysia adhered to local and international laws concerning forced labour and child labour.
This includes Article 6 of the Federal Constitution which stipulates that that no person shall be held in slavery and that forced labour is prohibited. There is also the Children and Young Persons (Employment) Act 1966 on providing regulations to protect children and young persons who are engaged in employment in terms of working hours as well as type of work.
Malaysia is also a member of ILO, which binds the country to the organisation’s conventions on child and forced labour, and will also be implementing the Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO) certification scheme beginning January next year, whereby the criteria for certification include compliance to labour laws and regulations, health, safety and employment conditions.
“The oil palm industry is a major component of the agriculture sector and a major export revenue earner. In this context, the government will continue to undertake measures to project the positive image of the industry,” the ministry added.
Malaysia’s inclusion on the TVPRA list will not lead to sanctions as the list is not meant to be punitive, but is an awareness tool for governments, corporations and civil society to take action for further improvements in labour rights and industry best practices. – December 3, 2014.
– See more at: http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/citing-study-ministry-denies-us-claims-of-child-labour-in-palm-oil-sector#sthash.NCpdpnsp.dpuf