MY Voice: Project to Combat Forced Labor and Child Labor in the Production of Goods in Malaysia
The MY Voice project will combat forced labor and child labor in the garment and palm oil industries in Malaysia in three main ways: 1) building the capacity of workers and civil society organizations to advocate for labor rights; 2) elevating the role of worker voice in private sector social compliance systems in these industries; and 3) increasing access to remedies for workers exploited for forced labor or child labor.
As the world’s second largest palm oil producer, Malaysia exports much of its palm oil for use in consumer products, ranging from cookies and crackers to soap and laundry detergent. These products come at a high cost as some plantations force adults into debt bondage and children to work illegally. At others, workers suffer exposure to toxic chemicals during production.
In the country’s garment sector, migrant workers sometimes face abusive labor conditions and fall prey to deceptive recruiters who trap workers in debt bondage, make improper wage deductions or provide unsafe or inadequate living conditions.
In such environments, workers often lack the means to voice their concerns and access remedy for labor violations. Migrant workers in particular may face barriers to participating in organized labor or other forms of collective worker voice. In addition, civil society organizations that advocate for the rights of these workers often lack sufficient capacity and coordination to address the scale of the problem. Despite efforts by various actors, there remains a need for more coordinated, worker-informed, multi-stakeholder action to address forced labor and child labor in Malaysia.
Implementing in Peninsular Malaysia and Sabah, Malaysia, this project will deliver training modules and workshops to build the capacity of trade unions, civil society organizations, migrant worker community leaders, government labor inspectors, and recruitment agencies. These sessions will aim to increase their understanding of the root causes of forced labor and child labor and encourage them to take action to prevent, identify, and remediate cases of such labor rights abuses in the palm oil and garment sectors.
The project will create two multi-stakeholder consultative platforms (for the palm oil industry and the garment industry, respectively) to build consensus on solutions for better labor management practices, policies, enforcement, and access to justice for affected workers. These platforms will include representatives from government agencies, think tanks, research institutions, civil society organizations and NGOs, trade unions, and industry bodies.
The project will help elevate workers’ voices in the palm oil and garment industries through a number of strategies, including training and workshops to incorporate worker perspectives into palm oil and garment companies’ management and compliance systems. This will include incorporating worker perspectives into company risk assessments, policies, communication, compliance monitoring, performance reporting, and remediation efforts. It will support the development of high-quality worker grievance mechanisms as well as developing and testing models to better remediate forced labor and child labor.
The project will leverage partnerships with multinational companies to improve Malaysian suppliers’ compliance with labor standards through models that integrate worker voice. It will create customized compliance tools; establish social performance teams within their private sector partners and their supply chains; assess existing social compliance management systems and performance; develop improvement plans; and produce a handbook of best practices and case studies. The project will also seek to promote decent work in the palm oil and garment industries by conducting training for businesses in the palm oil and garment supply chains on remediation best practices. MY Voice will also publish a toolkit containing practical guidance, templates, and forms to implement a remediation system.