The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the General Federation of Bahrain Trade Unions (GFBTU) have agreed to build a functional working relationship as part of a move to effectively contribute to the protection of the human and labour rights of African migrants in general and those of Nigerian extraction in particular. The collaboration between the two trade unions from Africa and the Arab region will also explore ways and means that trade unions can effectively contribute to the fair and safe return and reintegration of migrants.
The decision to collaborate became necessary following the steady increase of Nigerian migrants inflow into Bahrain in recent years as well as the growing cases of infractions and attacks on the human and labour rights of African migrants in the Middle East. The attacks threw worse and were incessant during and in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak.
After initial discussions and exchanges of correspondences, the decision to establish a formal collaborative relationship was reached during a virtual meeting held recently between both trade unions. Both trade union organisations expressed firm commitment to entering into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that will guide and dictate the direction and scope of the collaboration. The virtual meeting was part of a project on Return and Reintegration of Returnee Migrants by the NLC supported by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Abuja Office under the FAIRWAY Project.
Speaking during the meeting, Comrade Ishmael Bello, the Acting General Secretary of the NLC, said For the NLC, the need to engage in contributing to pro-rights labour migration governance is both ideological and strategic in the sense that capital has continued to move and traverse the globe unhindered. He said the Congress believes that people and workers should also move and operate in ways that their rights are not undermined and that migrants share in their contributions to their host and origin countries.
Further, the NLC indicated that it wants to seek, build and sustain a working relationship with the GFBTU focusing on how the two centres can work to ensure the better protection of the rights of labour migrants. The Congress said it believes that such collaboration and relationship will include sharing information and learning from one another in terms of the contexts, realities and challenges that African migrants face working and living in the Middle East, particularly those in Bahrain.
Also speaking, Comrade Hasan Halwachi of the GFBTU, said the Union is excited about the opportunity to collaborate with a trade union from Africa to contribute to advancing the rights of migrant workers. He noted that this collaboration will, hopefully, provide the opportunities to assist the migrant to deal better with these issues around how they live and work in Bahrain, their skills and the nature of their contract as well as repatriation, which are some of the issues that African migrants face in Bahrain.
Both parties affirmed that working-class solidarity, giving voice and representation to all workers, including migrant workers and the need to build workers power are underlining considerations why this collaboration is useful, necessary and timely.
The two trade union centres also agreed that the path to developing and signing a Memorandum of Understanding is possible and should be explored. The ITUC and ITUC-Africa as well as the ILO will be consulted and their technical and institutional support sought and utilised in the development and finalization of the MOU and implementation of the same.
They also considered the possibility of physical visits to the countries of both parties to give a further commitment to the strengthening of the relationship.