Migrant workers have been a very integral part of building Malaysia's economy, sustaining the survival of various businesses and industries - treatment towards the migrant community was harsh before the global pandemic and have now merely exacerbated due to presumptions of spreading the virus.
The discrimination and prejudice against migrant workers has to end, this is the time humanity needs to stand in solidarity regardless of race, gender, age or migration status. Aside from the stigmas that plague their livelihood, migrant workers face a plethora of issues, a number of which violate human rights:
1) Low wages and wage manipulation - the deduction of wage to repay for work permits and forced labour without compensation for overtime.
2) Squalid living conditions that are a direct violation of human rights, and even unruly employers who have total disregard for migrant workers' work and living conditions.
3) Difficulties in understanding their rights - not given proper contracts, agents withholding passports, no proper work authorization or certifications provided by employers.
As an already vulnerable workforce, the unwavering hostility towards our migrant workers has rendered more and more of them AFRAID to speak up for the fear of deportation.
Believing in equality and inclusivity, Rumah Kongsi addresses the cultural barriers, deeply-rooted prejudices, discrimination, and xenophobia as their ongoing effort to relieve the plight of migrant workers facing bureaucratic, economic, and psychological hurdles. For migrant workers during the pandemic, social distancing is a privilege. Most of the time, they are subjected to living in “Rumah Kongsi” whereby most of them are crammed into a tiny room with barely the basic necessities provided to them. The recent #migranjugamanusia trend served as a stepping stone as it shows that not all Malaysians have ill feelings towards migrants. Rumah Kongsi seeks to amplify these voices and provide a platform for discourse. The different prongs of the Rumah Kongsi campaign intended to highlight that migrant workers play an integral part in Malaysian society as most often they perform the labour that Malaysians themselves opt not to do. That makes them a contributing member of society and they deserve to be treated equally and with dignity. The team is keen to explore the possibility of improving their quality of life by providing migrant workers with a platform for personal development through learning new skills such as digital literacy skills, teaching English and Math, personal finance, baking etc. Rumah Kongsi also aims to create awareness on the part of employers that they should not violate the basic human rights of migrant workers.
Labour day commemorates the struggle and movement to declare eight hours at work, eight hours to rest and eight hours for recreation. The role of our workers is more essential than ever and is recognized for their contribution and sustenance to corporations and businesses today. But are all workers being treated fairly? Migrant workers in Malaysia have long been subjected to lesser treatment and prejudice as a systemic issue deep-rooted in our country. Rumah Kongsi envisions a future where migrant workers will be treated with dignity, be accepted as an integral part of the Malaysian workforce, and be provided equitable rights to better their future in Malaysia. The lack of compassion and respect for migrant workers in Malaysia is apparent with cases of abuse, deprivation, and oppression towards migrant workers and it is still happening around us. The team aspires to change the perception of Malaysians towards migrant workers, humanising migrant workers in the eyes of Malaysians. The first step is to be aware of the discrimination and change the way we perceive migrant workers. We have to improve the way we treat migrant workers and not regard them as second-class citizens in Malaysia. This May Day, let us all take a moment to reflect on the contribution of the migrant workers to the development of our country and pause to say: "Thank you, we appreciate you and you are one of us".