In a bid to strengthen labour migration governance, African trade unions and their counterparts in Asia have agreed to build strong solidarity to address rising cases of abuse of migrant workers’ rights in both continents.
With many workers from Africa and Asia migrating to countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), trade unions in both continents have lamented protracted abusive and exploitative practices perpetrated against migrant workers, especially in GCC.
Migrant workers, especially domestic workers in Middle East countries say they have experienced forced and bonded labour, excessive working hours, delayed and denied wages as well as verbal and physical abuse.
Trade unions during the virtual meeting said it is not enough to just lament about the situation, but to look for solutions by developing strategies, mutually, to address the challenges
Trade unionists and CSO experts from both continents in a series of virtual meetings, shared practical experiences on what they are doing at national level to give voices to migrant workers.
Discussions during the virtual meetings centred on trade unions supporting migrant workers to get unpaid wages and other dues, or compensation for harm suffered, including the context of racism and discrimination and through a gender-based perspective.
The participants agreed that ensuring access to justice for migrant workers is one of the key objectives for CSOs and trade unions and one of the most challenging issues in the Arab States because of the poorly functioning and inaccessible dispute resolution systems.
According to Comrade Joel Odigie, the Deputy General Secretary of ITUC-AFRICA, trade unions and civil society organizations (CSOs) in both African and Asian countries have been working to organise workers in the countries of destination, run advocacy campaigns focusing on governments in countries of origin and missions, facilitate access to justice.
He, however said there has been a limited opportunity for dialogue directly with one another, to share lessons learnt and build solidarity.
The NLC focal person on migration, Comrade James Eustace while also reacting, said the essence of the meetings is to build cross country collaboration in line with Global Compact on Migration (GCM) objective 23.
According to him, such collaboration should also be at non state actors level, adding that trade unions in African and Asia have shown willingness to collaborate and build a strong solidarity.
He said, “It brings us closer as trade unions and gives us opportunity to consider common issues that are common to all migrant workers both in countries of destination and in countries of origin. The beauty of this meeting is that it has created opportunity for the two continent’s non state actors to brainstorm and collaboratively work towards the protection of rights of migrant workers.
“It is quite important so that we are not left behind as states are working at bilateral level to have bilateral labour agreements. Therefore, it is critical for trade unions to work at both bilateral and unilateral level to have some common understanding on the protection of rights of migrant workers or seeing migrant workers as equal as national workers. This collaboration is dear to us.
“We will be able to share experiences how trade unions in destination countries are going about protecting the rights of migrant workers and how counties of origin can also ensure that migrant workers fit into trade unions in counties of destination and how they can identify with those trade unions to be able to gave a voice and representation in their various countries.”
Trade unions from Nigerian, Kenya, Bahrain, Zimbabwe, India and a host of others have participated in the series of virtual meetings.