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Labor unions in Malaysia, U.S. demand workers' protection in free trade deal

Labor unions in Malaysia, U.S. demand workers' protection in free trade deal

Labor unions in Malaysia and the United States said Monday they opposed a free trade agreement between their two countries unless it incorporated mechanism to protect labor and social rights.
In a joint statement, the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, or the AFL-CIO, and the Malaysian Trades Union Congress slammed authorities over the lack of transparency in ongoing talks and failure to consult trade unions and other civil societies.
Negotiators held a fourth round of talks earlier this month in San Francisco, and are due to meet again next month in Malaysia.
The two labor organizations expressed concern that a deal could erode workers' rights, undermine government's ability to regulate in public interest and offer excessive protections for multinational corporations.
"There is evidence that the Malaysian government continues to oppose any labor protections in the trade agreement," the statement said.
The unions also alleged that workers' rights in both countries, including those of migrant workers', were not being protected by authorities.
For example, Malaysia's government bans electronic workers from forming a national trade union and there is no minimum wages in sectors such as plantation and manufacturing which hires many foreign laborers, MTUC president Syed Shahir Syed Mohamud told The Associated Press.
A Malaysian trade official, who asked not to be named because he is not authorized to speak to the media, said the government would ensure that the country's interests _ including those of workers _ are protected.
"We will not blindly enter into an agreement. We will make sure that our national interests and that of our consumers, workers and industries are taken into account," the official told the AP.
The AFL-CIO is the largest U.S. federation of unions, representing over 9 million workers. The MTUC represents some 750,000 workers in Malaysia.
The two groups called for mechanisms to protect labor and social rights, compensation policies to correct inequities due to restructuring and a more humane migration regime.
Unless their concerns are addressed, the two groups warned they would "strongly oppose the continued negotiation of the U.S.-Malaysia FTA and work together to ensure that it is not implemented."
Malaysia is the United States' 10th-largest trading partner, with US$44 billion (


Updated : 2021-08-02 03:17 GMT+08:00