Foreign construction workers are pictured in Kuala Lumpur January 20, 2021. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 20 — The Bangladesh government said it is seeking transparent, fair and safe migration of its workers to Malaysia that complies with the provisions of the International Labour Organisation (ILO).
This was communicated by its Expatriates Welfare and Overseas Employment Minister Imran Ahmad in a letter dated January 18 to Malaysian Human Resources Minister Datuk Seri M Saravanan.
The Bangladeshi minister also pointed out in his letter that under the recent MOU signed between the two countries, recruitment agencies shall be selected automatically through an online system from a list provided by Dhaka.
“The government of Malaysia shall ensure transparency and fairness in the selection and distribution of quota (for the recruitment agencies),” Imran said in his letter to Saravanan.
This January 18 letter by Imran was in reply to an earlier January 14 letter by Saravanan. Malay Mail sighted both letters today.
In his January 14 letter, Saravanan told Imran that the MOU for Malaysia’s recruitment of Bangladeshi workers — which they had signed on December 19, 2021 — had taken effect on the day of signing itself.
Saravanan also told Imran that Malaysia had unfrozen its moratorium on hiring workers from Bangladesh that very same day.
Saravanan stressed on the importance for both Malaysia and Bangladesh to ensure “swift and smooth implementation” of the recruitment of Bangladesh workers to Malaysia.
He also noted that Imran had “agreed” in their February 2021 discussion “on the involvement of 25 main Bangladesh Recruitment Agency (BRA) with 10 associate BRA respectively under each main BRA for the recruitment process of Bangladesh workers”.
“In total, 250 recruitment agencies from Bangladesh will participate. Additionally, Malaysian recruitment agencies will also be involved for the employment process of Bangladesh workers in which their responsibilities are clearly spelt out in the existing MOU,” Saravanan said in his letter to Imran.
The Bangladeshi minister responded to Saravanan in his January 18 letter, stressing that his government wants to follow provisions that ensure “transparent, fair and safe migration” of its citizens to Malaysia.
Imran cited ILO charters as well as Bangladesh’s own Competition Act 2012 “by keeping the opportunities open to all the valid licensed Bangladeshi Recruiting Agencies (BRA) as mentioned in Chapter C (v) and Chapter C (vi) of the Appendix B of the MOU”.
Imran also expressed his team’s readiness to work with Saravanan’s team to finalise the recruitment flow process to start the recruitment as early as possible, and suggested an early meeting of the MOU’s joint working group for this purpose.
On December 19 last year, the MoU was signed in Kuala Lumpur by both Saravanan and Imran.
The agreement was for the terms to be in place for five years until December 2026.
The MoU was in line with the Malaysian Cabinet’s approval for it to be immediately finalised and also replaced the previous MoU which had expired on February 17, 2021.
Saravanan had on December 19 said the MoU included the outlining of both the Malaysian government and Bangladeshi government’s responsibilities including Malaysian employers and Bangladeshi workers, as well as the responsibilities of private job agencies in both countries.
As of November 30, 2021, a total of 326,669 Bangladeshi citizens were working in Malaysia with the majority being in the manufacturing sector (111,694) and construction sector (136,897), Saravanan said.
With the signing of the new MoU, he said it is expected to meet urgent demand for foreign labour especially in the plantation sector, which had previously also received special exemption from the Cabinet for 32,000 such workers.
This is due to restrictions in the recruitment of Indonesian workers for the plantation sector until Malaysia signs an MoU with Indonesia.
Saravanan said employers recruiting non-Malaysian workers would have to prepare accommodations in line with the Workers’ Minimum Standards of Housing and Amenities Act, which is intended to deal with forced labour elements.
On December 10, 2021, the Malaysian Cabinet agreed to allow the recruitment of foreign workers for all sectors except the plantation sector and also for the signing of the MoU with Bangladesh.
Local worker rights group Tenaganita was reported by news portal Free Malaysia Today on January 1 questioning the alleged secrecy over the MoU’s details and had said recruitment should not be done in a secretive manner which could lead to claims of forced labour.
Saravanan was reported on January 10 by FMT as questioning when MoUs have been made public in Malaysia.
Bangladeshi news outlet The Daily Star had on December 22 published a list of expected benefits for Bangladeshi workers based on the MoU with Malaysia, including Malaysian employers expected to pay for the workers’ flight to Malaysia and back to Bangladesh, immigration costs upon arrival in Malaysia, insurance costs, injury compensation, and work-related death payments to the family, while workers are also to be given annual leave and one day off per week and payment for overtime work.
According to The Daily Star’s reports, Malaysia had imposed a moratorium or froze the recruitment of Bangladeshi workers from September 2018 (until it was lifted on December 19, 2021), after claims of forced labour and high recruitment costs along with allegations of a recruitment syndicate.
The Daily Star said that the Bangladesh government had proposed 745 recruiting agencies but that the Malaysian government had in 2016 picked only 10 such worker recruitment agencies, which then led to an alleged monopoly that allegedly caused labour exploitation. This went on until 2018 when Malaysia then froze the recruitment.