PETALING JAYA: The use of independent agencies in hiring workers is a major hindrance to ensuring decent working conditions in the Malaysian electronics industry, according to the Washington-based Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition (EICC).
Because the agencies are in reality the employers, it’s difficult for the companies belonging to the coalition to ensure that its code of conduct is complied with, said EICC Executive Director Rob Lederer.
EICC is a non-profit group. It members include electronic giants such as IBM, Intel and Western Digital. It claims to be committed, through its code of conduct, to supporting the rights and well-being of workers and communities affected by the global electronics supply chain.
Speaking to FMT, Lederer said, “The trend in Malaysia is to use employment agencies as the source of employment, which proves to be very challenging to member companies. It’s very difficult in many cases to determine if our code is being complied with.
“Employment agencies have established long, rooted relationships with the government, especially when it comes to quotas. Quotas are a huge issue in Malaysia as it is culturally embedded in the society, and employment agencies have the ability to control the quota and thus make direct hiring more difficult.”
However, he said, the trend was being reversed in recent years, with more and more member companies hiring their workers directly to ensure better worker welfare.
Dan Viederman, CEO of Verité, said the study indicated that “forced labour is present in the Malaysian electronics industry in more than just isolated cases, and that the problem is indeed widespread.”
“Our report provides a clear sense of the scope of the problem in the industry, as well as the root causes underlying this egregious form of abuse, which centre on unlawful and unethical recruitment practices,” he added.
Verité also claimed that the main cause of the issue was reliance on third-party agents for the recruitment, which blurs accountability to labour conditions.