Unions Unite for Migrant Workers’ Rights in Asia Pacific

In a memorandum of understanding signed last week the regional offices of the global unions BWI, PSI and UNI together with Migrant Forum in Asia and ASETUC commit to increase their cooperation on migrant workers’ rights through organizing, political advocacy as well as assistance and support to migrant workers.

Millions of workers every year migrate between countries within Asia and many countries depend fully on their work – for example 94 per cent of all workers in Qatar and 69 to 80 per cent of all construction workers in Malaysia are migrants.

Also in Australia and New Zealand the industries have become more and more dependent on migrant workers.

Yet, across the region migrants are generally paid low wages, work in unsafe and dirty working conditions and have limited access to benefits and social safety net. Cases of serious abuse and forms of modern day slavery are common.

The issues that migrant workers face stretches beyond working conditions, as they are often also denied basic rights such as health care, freedom of movement and social security. Racism and xenophobia are other threats.

The parties therefore agreed that trade unions need to cooperate to reach out to organize and protect the human rights of migrant workers. By signing the memorandum of understanding the organizations agreed to the following:

Develop and implement joint activities and programs to outreach and recruit migrant workers into trade unions.

  • Cooperate to advocate for legislative changes and amendments at the national level to protect and promote the rights of migrant workers and enable migrant workers to join trade unions.
  • Cooperate to advocate the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, Association of South East Asian Nations; and the Gulf Cooperation Council to adopt the policies and programs that promote and protect the rights of migrant workers and their families.
  • Cooperate in providing services, advice and assistance to migrant workers in need.
  • Improve communication and collaboration of members of the signed organizations to work closely together at the national level to support the organizing of migrant workers into trade unions, to disseminate information to migrant workers, provide access to services and advice to migrant workers in need, and to work on national campaigns against xenophobia and discrimination.

Present at the signing were Chris Ng, Regional Secretary for UNI APRO, William Gois, Regional Coordinator of Migrant Forum in Asia, Ramachandra Khuntia, Vice-President of BWI Asia Pacific Region, Apolinar Tolentino, Regional Representative for BWI Asia Pacific Region, and Ambet Yuson, General Secretary of BWI.  Witnessing the signing of the MOU were representatives of BWI affiliates from India, Nepal, and Malaysia.

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