The Rights-Based Approach to Labour Migration - PSI intervention

With labour migration as a key feature of the migration phenomenon in the Asia Pacific, Jillian Roque, from PSI Philippine affiliate PSLINK, addresses the Asia Pacific Regional Review of the Implementation of the UN Global Compact for Migration, held on 10-12 March (online), highlighting the components of a rights-based approach to labour migration.

Jillian Roque's address

Warm greetings to all speakers, delegates and participants!

Addressing migrant workers’ vulnerability requires a holistic, whole of society approach.

Access to Information

Ensuring access of migrant workers to information will help address vulnerability. Governments should ensure access to comprehensive, rights-based, gender-responsive, sector-specific information at different stages of migration – from the pre-decision stage, when workers are still considering whether or not to migrate, to pre-departure, transit, arrival, employment and integration in countries of destination, to return and reintegration.

Public Services International (PSI), the global union federation of public service workers, has developed information materials for migrant health workers covering the different stages of migration.

We are now seeing more and more similar initiatives being undertaken which is promising.

Access to Quality Public Services and Social Protection

Migrants, regardless of status, should have access to quality public services and social protection. With the ongoing pandemic, this has become even more urgent in governments’ Covid response and recovery efforts. We need well-funded public infrastructure and services in order to make this happen.

Fair Recruitment

We urge states to strengthen laws, policies and systems to ensure fair recruitment. Effective, mandatory regulatory systems need to be put in place, rather than just voluntary codes, in order to ensure that migrant workers are not charged recruitment fees and related costs, as provided for by the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Principles and Guidelines for Fair Recruitment.

Freedom of Movement, Access to Permanent Residency and Family Reunification

States should put an end to all practices that limit the right to movement of migrants. Migrant workers should not be tied to a single employer or forced into indefinite seasonal or circular migration schemes.

Migrant workers must be able to exercise the option for family unity and permanent residency.

Access to Justice and Guarantees of Labour Inspection

Migrants should have access to free, effective grievance and justice mechanisms. There should be more labor inspections to monitor compliance by employers and recruiters to core labor standards.

Rights-based Bilateral and Multilateral Labour Agreements

Governments should develop more bilateral or multilateral labor agreements which guarantee protection of the rights and welfare of migrant workers. A promising example of a bilateral labor agreement (BLA) is the one between the Philippines and Germany on the migration of Filipino health workers to Germany. This BLA, which features a government to government hiring arrangement, is based on ILO and UN normative frameworks. It ensures equality of treatment and social protection for migrant workers. The BLA also applies social dialogue by ensuring that inclusion of trade unions from both the countries of origin and destination (PSLINK/Philippines and Ver.di/Germany) in the oversight committee. We urge governments to develop similar rights-based bilateral and/or multilateral partnerships that ensure the full participation of trade unions.

Migrants as Agents of Social Change

We need a fundamental shift in the way we view migrants. We need to move beyond the idea that migrants are just victims of abuse and exploitation. Migrants are social change actors. They have agency and have the power to effect change. Gender-sensitive migration and employment policies and access to trade unions, including in leadership positions, are crucial in realising the agency of women migrant workers.

Freedom of Association for All Migrants

We urge states to uphold the right to freedom of association of migrants, regardless of immigration status. They should be able to join, participate in, and form trade unions without fear of reprisal or deportation.

Towards a New Social Contract in the Global Governance of Migration

Finally the Covid-19 pandemic has exposed the failures of our current economic model and global governance of migration. Temporary migration schemes are not designed to support decent work. The pandemic has exposed the racial, ethnic, gender and socio-economic biases that allow our neoliberal economic system to define some categories of work and workers as expendable.

Therefore, now more than ever, we need a new social contract that respects the fundamental rights of all migrant workers. A new social contract that promotes decent work for all. Governments should promote the creation of decent and green jobs so that migrant workers are not forced to migrate out of necessity. We need to reduce the economic pressure to migrate which makes our migrant workers more vulnerable to illegal recruitment, human trafficking and other forms of modern slavery. Governments should create more regular migration models that have decent work at the center.

Thank you.