By Funmi Komolafe

This edition of Labour Vanguard focuses on migrant workers. With thousands of Nigerians working in other countries and a significant number working in Nigeria, the challenges of  of migrant workers are numerous and deserve global attention.

The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC)  has started a campaign on social protection for migrant workers.    The launch of this campaign coincided with the International Migrants’ Day, marked  December 18, 2009 .
Before then, the International Labour Organisation during its annual conference in  2004 adopted a “ Multilateral Framework on Labour Migration which is a part of a plan of action for migrant workers agreed by
ILO constituents”.

ILO had noted that the population of migrant workers worldwide “ would equal the fifth most populous country on the planet”.

It projected, “The number of migrants crossing borders in search of employment and human security is expected to increase rapidly in the coming decades due to the failure of globalization to provide jobs and economic opportunities”.

The ILO explained that the 2004 framework is “ part of an ILO plan of action which aims at better managing labour migration so that it contributes positively to the growth and development of both home and host societies, as well as to the well being of the migrants themselves”.

*Nigerian oil workers taking time off to relax. There are growing campaigns for a better deal for their colleagues working in foreign countries.

Although thousands of Nigerians in search of greener pastures are working in other countries, no agency of government has taken any keen interest in their welfare yet their contributions to socio- economic development cannot be under estimated.

The ILO on its part, “ sees today’s global challenge as forging the policies and the resources to better manage labour migration so that it contributes positively to the growth and development of both home and host societies, as well as to the well being of the migrants themselves”.

Migrant workers and global recession – The ITUC in its latest report on migrant workers stated “In the current context of massive job losses, migrant workers, who are generally confined to the most precarious and least well-protected sectors, are the first to suffer as a result of the world economic crisis,”.

ITUC’s General Secretary, Guy Ryder, said some countries have put in place policies designed to encourage unemployed immigrants to return home. These programmes generally have little effect, because the economic situation is also highly unfavourable in their home country. As a result, migrants prefer to stay. Once they have no work, they also find themselves without a residence permit, which further increases their vulnerability”.

Thousands of Nigerian working abroad, fit in to the condition described by Mr. Ryder.
As part of its activities to mark the International Migrants’ Day on 18 December, ITUC drew attention to the need to provide a more effective protection for migrants “from the consequences of the economic crisis and putting decent work at the heart of strategies linking migration and development”.

ITUC recalled, “  At the 3rd Global Forum on Migration and Development held in Athens in November 2009, the international trade union movement stressed the urgency of tackling the issue of migration from the point of view of the rights of migrant workers. The ITUC has lent its support to the global campaign marking the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the United Nations Convention on the Protection of the Rights of all migrant workers and members of their families in 1990″.

The international trade union movement according to the ITUC noted “ the positive contributions made by migrant workers to the economies of their home and destination countries should be recognised, and in concrete terms this means that recognition should result in fairer treatment.

In the context of the global trade union struggle for fairer globalisation with a more human face, linking migration and sustainable development is a fundamental priority for promoting decent work for all workers, migrants included.

Protection for migrant workers -A phenomenon that threatens the security of migrant workers is the Export Processing Zone or Free Trade Zone.  In many countries, Nigeria inclusive, workers in these zones are denied their basic rights such as the right to unionise, the right to collective bargaining all in the name of promoting international trade.

In other areas, migrant workers have been victims of political struggles in their host countries. Many have been kidnapped by host communities as a means of putting pressure on governments.

Several others have been killed or maimed by contending political forces.

Why? This is because, the global market has seriously downplayed the human factor but international trade unions are of the opinion that “ within the framework of the international protection mechanisms provided by the UN and in particular the ILO, migrants should be able to exercise in full their rights to freedom of association and trade union organisation, of which they are too often deprived. They should also be entitled to an adequate social welfare system and more ethical recruitment procedures”.

ITUC leads campaign for migrant workers -The ITUC has resolved to take action  to combat discrimination and  take full account of gender-related issues.

It stated, “  Female migrant workers represent a significant and increasing proportion of the migrant labour force and suffer particularly high levels of discrimination. They also represent the vast majority of trafficking victims of all kinds”.

Three years ago,  ITUC “launched a practical “action plan” within the trade union movement to organise migrants more effectively, protect and promote their rights and improve their working conditions, in particular by insisting on the framework of collective negotiations but also in partnership with NGOs and the other players in civil society concerned”.


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