Monday, August 23, 2010

[olympiaworkers] Malaysia: migrant workers protest ends in victory Aug 23 2010

The migrant workers' protest (previously reported on which
took place at an electronics factory has ended in a resounding victory for
the workers.

More than 5,000 migrant workers of JCY Co. Ltd., an electronics factory in
the Tebrau Industrial area of Johor Baru, protested near the workers'
quarters over the negligence of their employer when a fellow worker died
of high fever while at work. This happened on 16th August when the
employer did not allow him to be taken to hospital in time. It is also
reported that another Nepalese worker also died on 4th August due to lack
of timely treatment.

Migrant workers from Nepal, Myanmar, Vietnam, Bangladesh and India had
united to register their strong protest over the death of their colleague
in that factory. The workers had also highlighted the mistreatment by
management, including low wages and no provision of healthcare facilities
in the factory, which employs around 8,000 workers. About 200 Police and
Federal Reserve Unit personnel were called by management to control the
enraged workers. The determined workers put forward a four-point programme
of demands, including a salary hike, in order to pressurise management
into negotiating, as well as demanding that the Nepalese embassy

The three days protest ended in a victory for the workers. Management
agreed to pay compensation of 10,000 Ringgit to the dead worker's family;
increase the minimum monthly salary from 428 to 546 Ringgit; provide an
ambulance service for emergency cases and on time treatment at a clinic on
the factory premises.

The struggle revealed that when workers are united they can win their
demands, even though the employers attempt to use differences in race,
country and religion to 'divide and conquer' workers. Recently, more and
more migrant workers in Malaysia have bravely entered into struggle to
fight for their rights.

This case of exploitation of migrant workers is only the tip of the
iceberg in Malaysia. Most of the more than 3 million migrant workers
(almost 10% of the Malaysian population) earn very low wages, work long
hours and live and work in appalling conditions. According to the Nepalese
embassy, during 2009 a total of 183 Nepalese workers in Malaysia lost
their lives, and another 81 workers in the first six months of this year,
mainly through illness and suicides. There are also many cases of deaths
due to industrial accidents involving migrant workers.

In the meantime, the employers are using low wage migrant workers as a
'threat' to discourage local workers from demanding high wages. The weak
trade unions, with a right-wing reactionary and bureaucratic leadership,
are not capable of playing a role in leading common struggles between
local and migrant workers. At the same time, almost 90 percent of workers
are not unionized, and the government's pro-employer labour and trade
union law further undermines the rights of workers.

Although local workers are given a slightly better deal in wages, when
compared to the high inflation rate their salary is not sufficient to
manage their living expenses. Many are doing two jobs to meet their needs,
and many even end up in the hands of loan sharks when they see no other
way out. Even a recent government survey of about 1.3 million workers has
shown that almost 34 per cent of them earned less than 700 Ringgit a month
- below the poverty line of 720 Ringgit per month.

The multinationals, as well as the national capitalists, have been
establishing their companies and factories in Malaysia to enlarge their
profits. They do not care whether they employ local or foreign workers, as
long as they can suck out the labour of workers to maximize their profits.
Only workers can lend support to other workers for a common class struggle
to liberate themselves from the viciousness of capitalism. An effort to
build fighting trade unions, as well as a mass workers' party, is crucial
towards achieving a society based on needs and genuine democracy without
exploitation that is a socialist society.

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