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9 December 2020

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Malaysia: Massive capitalist exploitation of migrant workers exposed by Covid pandemic

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Yuva Balan, Sosialis Alternatif (CWI Malaysia)

News of the spread of Covid-19 in factory hostels across Malaysia has come at a time when Malaysians are facing the highest number of infections since the start of the pandemic in early March this year.

The latest and most threatening Covid-19 infection cluster, that originated from the Top Glove factory migrant workers' dormitory in Meru, has now reached 5,000 cases and continues to increase every day.

As in Singapore in April this year, when thousands of migrant workers also contracted Covid-19, the current situation in Malaysia has exposed the poor living and working conditions of migrant workers throughout South East Asia.

Top Glove, the largest glove manufacturer in the world, gained tremendous profits when the Covid-19 pandemic increased global demand for latex gloves and PPE.

Huge profits

Consequently, Top Glove - with its 43 companies and nearly 30% share of world markets - increased its profits by more than four times this year, along with other giant companies such as Hartalega and Kossan Rubbers.

Furthermore, with the second and third wave of Covid-19 spreading worldwide, these companies are expected to continue to generate very high profits for the next few years.

Despite being able to make a lucrative profit each year, large companies like Top Glove have reportedly treated migrant workers like 'slave labour', with excessive working hours, low pay and poor protection against Covid.

These companies also constantly relinquish their responsibilities and allegedly use their influence within the government to violate any existing employee protection regulations. Not only Top Glove, but most of the factories in Malaysia, are indeed oppressing migrant workers without any supervision from the authorities or the government.

The Malaysian government and politicians, including the Human Resource Ministry, have repeatedly defended Top Glove on many occasions and downplayed all allegations against it.

Multiple documented cases of migrant worker mistreatment have led to the US authorities banning imports of Top Glove products. This forced Top Glove to agree to repay 136 million Malaysian ringgit ($33.4 million) to workers who were forced to pay recruitment fees to secure their jobs (ie debt bondage).

However, despite the UK government saying it is committed to tackling "modern slavery in supply chains," Top Glove medical supplies have been stockpiled by the Department of Health and Social Care.

Top Glove owner Lim Wee Chai has never pleaded guilty or apologised, despite all the evidence made public regarding the mistreatment of workers in his factories. Instead, Lim was quoted as saying that the workers had been 'allowed' to work beyond the time limit at the urging of the workers themselves, and that their passports were confiscated as a "safeguarding" measure!

Although the United States imposes restrictions on Top Glove, there is a sea of factories in South East Asia which are practicing blatant human slavery, many far worse than Top Glove.

Disclosures regarding the situation of migrant workers in hostels and workplaces in Malaysia also reveal the glaring shortcomings of the free market system that prioritises investors and wealthy capitalists who ignore the interests of society in order to protect their personal profits.

While the working class and the common people are working hard on the front line to deal with the pandemic, the ruling class and capitalist politicians are preoccupied with rising profit rates and share-market value.

To this day, both employers and the government have not come up with any solution to find better accommodation for the millions of migrant workers who have to spend their lives in small, overcrowded rooms lacking basic facilities.

Conditions

Top Glove migrant workers are now confined to crowded dormitories as the government has imposed a lockdown of them. Workers from several hostels were reportedly forced to climb the perimeter fence and exit the factory premises, in secret, to buy necessities.

The working class, community organisations, and trade unions, should stand in solidarity with the migrant workers and demand a better solution from the government. At the same time, the guilty employers must be strictly punished. Giant companies like Top Glove should be nationalised and run under democratic workers' control and management.

The working class must fight to replace the capitalist system as the only solution that can truly solve all the problems that society is facing. Such a socialist agenda begins with the struggles in the factories, the strengthening of the working-class leadership and by establishing solidarity with all working classes and the oppressed.

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The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

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In The Socialist 9 December 2020:


News

Fund NHS, not Tory crony contracts

Covid vaccines only first step - fight job losses, austerity and 'virus' of capitalism

High street jobs, safety and pay: We have to fight

Super-rich tax evasion costs 34 million nurses worldwide

Luxury for some, poverty for the rest of us


What we think

Should Corbyn stand for London Mayor?


Workplace news

RMT gen sec election - vote for Steve Hedley

Further education workers win pay rise in Wales

HMRC pay talks - PCS needs to organise members now

Reinstate sacked Unite London bus rep Judith Katera

South London council workers vote to strike


International news

Right populism after Trump

Malaysia: Massive capitalist exploitation of migrant workers exposed by Covid pandemic

International news in brief


Engels

Engels and the answer to the housing question


Campaigns news

Welsh trades councils rally against the pay-freeze

Why I joined the Socialist Party

Tenants and workers unite to take on landlords

'Oxford, Cut the Rent!' campaign kicks off

York students determined to build for rent refunds and free education

London Socialist Party hits the streets


Readers' opinion

TV review: Red, White and Blue

The Socialist Inbox


Obituary

Obituary: Roger Priest


 

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Related links:

Malaysia:

triangleInternational news in brief

triangleWhen the world economic crisis makes landfall in S Asia

triangleSocialist Party Malaysia facing brutality

Workers:

triangleCapitalism discriminates against us - Disabled people fighting for our rights

triangleBus workers protest Go-Ahead's 'fire and rehire'

triangleThurrock bin workers solid in strike against pay cuts

triangleRetail workers desperately need a fighting and democratic union

Migrant workers:

triangleBooks that inspired me: The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

triangle39 migrants found dead in Essex lorry container

triangleTory and Blairite racist policy is behind Windrush fatality

Covid:

triangleDon't trust the Labour right's empty promises

triangleCovid and precarious workers - union organisation vital

Capitalist:

triangleYouth under attack

Government:

triangleFight to stop cuts

Article dated 9 December 2020

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Protesting in  Leeds as part of  a Socialist Students day of action on the education funding crisis. 21st April 2021

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