KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian Bar wants Putrajaya to adopt an international convention to recognise domestic workers and give them their rights, its president George Varughese said.
He said despite intense lobbying by the Bar’s governing body, the Bar Council, and civil society, Malaysia abstained from voting to adopt the convention at the International Conference in Geneva in 2011.
“Nevertheless, for the past few years, we have seen the Malaysian government’s efforts to address issues related to domestic workers,” Varughese said in his opening address on Consultation on Domestic Workers at the Bar office here.
The meeting was held in conjunction with International Domestic Workers’ Day which is observed on 16 June annually.
Domestic workers, including Malaysian maids, are recognised as “domestic servants” under the Employment Act 1955 but are denied rights like termination of contract, maternity benefits, rest days, hours of work and holidays.
However, some 132,580 foreign domestic maids are governed by individual contracts with their employers.
Varughese said the Bar wanted the Human Resources Ministry to commence consultation to draw up a regulation on terms and conditions of employments of domestic servants which has been put on hold.
He said the regulation did not address many fundamental issues behind labour rights violations against domestic workers.
“Additionally the regulation continues to refer to them as domestic servants which perpetuates a negative and demeaning perception,” he said.
He said the Bar also wanted the 10 ASEAN member states to revive a 2007 declaration to protect the rights of migrants workers.
He said there was no adequate protection of labour rights of such workers although member states had forged bilateral labour agreements.
“In the absence of a regional regulatory framework, current national laws and regulations of each nation did not provide adequate rights and protection for migrant workers, ” he added.