Strengthening cross-border cooperation of trade unions to advance fair recruitment agenda, end forced labour, and ensure decent work for migrant workers

Oct 2023
United Nations
Migration, Bahrain, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Pakistan

Trade unions from South Asia and Bahrain met on 19-20 October 2023 in Manama to strategise on advancing fair recruitment agenda for migrant workers in the Gulf Countries and to end forced labour and ensure decent work for all workers, including migrant workers. The ITUC-Asia Pacific and ITUC co-organised the event together with the General Federation of Bahrain Trade Union (GFBTU) as well as the Arab Trade Union Confederation. The event is a follow-up of interregional meeting on migration held in Nepal in December 2022 among unions from origin and destination countries.

During the meeting in Manama, unions discussed how to continue strengthening the now established cross-border networks, including planning for capacity building to organise migrant workers along corridors and to engage in social dialogue on labour migration to push for further ratification and implementation of relevant ILO Conventions such ILO Convention No. 97 (Migration for Employment Convention), No. 143 (Migrant Workers [Supplementary Provisions] Convention, No. 189 (Domestic Workers' Convention), No. 181 (Private Employment Agencies Convention), and the Protocol of 2014 to the Forced Labour Convention. Such implementation must also be observed at the bilateral and regional levels, including in the Global Compact on Migration and International Migration Review Forum.

In addition, unions from Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Bahrain also agreed to formalise cooperation by signing the memorandum of understanding (MoU) for joint efforts to organise migrant workers and to protect their rights. The signing of the MoU was done by GFBTU (Bahrain), Hind Mazdoor Sabha (India), Pakistan Workers Federation (Pakistan), Sri Lanka Nidahas Sevaka Sangamaya (Sri Lanka), ITUC-Bangladesh Council, and ITUC-Nepal Affiliates Council. The Self-Employed Women's Association (India) and the Indian National Trade Union Congress (India) will soon start the discussions to sign the MoU with GFBTU.

In the meeting, unions emphasised the important role of Migrant Resource Center (MRC) in origin and destination countries that are hosted by trade unions to provide information and services to migrant workers (e.g., potential migrant workers, returnees, active migrant workers) and expressed the need to find support to establish MRC in more countries. With support from different stakeholders including local authorities, MRC can provide orientation for migrant workers about their rights and responsibilities in destination country and play role as watchdog to ensure migrant workers are recruited fairly from the origin country.

Shoya Yoshida, General Secretary of the ITUC-Asia Pacific said:

"Trade unions are advancing a fair recruitment agenda and ensuring dignified work for migrant workers in the GCC region through united cross-border cooperation. This collaborative effort marks a significant step towards protecting the rights of workers across borders."

On 21 October, the unions' delegations also had a chance to meet around 100 migrant workers in Gulf Cleaning Company, who mainly working as street sweepers. The migrant workers were able to talk in their local languages with unions representatives from Pakistan, Bangladesh, India and Nepal and shared their experiences about their recruitment process and working conditions using RecruitmentAdvisor questionnaire. The unions expressed commitment and interest to further develop the ITUC RecruitmentAdvisor as a tool that allows unions to monitor the recruitment of migrant workers and prevent workers from exploitation.

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