Sweat or no sweat: foreign workers in the garment industry in Malaysia

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Journal of Contemporary Asia, Vol: 40, Issue: 4, Page: 589-611

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Crinis, Vicki
article description
In the last decade factory owners, in response to brand-name Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) parameters, have joined associations that verify (through a monitoring and audit system) that management does not exploit labour. There have been no reports of violations of codes of conduct concerning Malaysian workers but for foreign workers on contract there are certain areas that have been reported. These areas, including trade union membership, the withholding of workers' passports and unsuitable accommodation, generally escape notice because auditors who monitor factory compliance do not question the terms of contracts as long as they comply with national labour standards. This paper is based on research with foreign workers in Malaysia and argues that despite the success of the anti-sweatshop movement in a global context, the neo-liberal state in Malaysia continues to place certain restrictions on transnational labour migrants which breach garment industry codes of conduct. Available evidence does not support the assumption that CSR practices provide sufficient protection for both citizen and foreign workers on contract in the garment industry.