Trade unions in action for the rights of migrant workers

This International Migrants Day, 18 December, the ITUC highlights the work of trade unions around the world to protect, promote and fulfil migrant workers’ rights.

The report Trade Unions in Action for the Rights of Migrant Workers, showcases organising, campaigning, advocacy and direct support activities carried out by trade union organisations from 10 countries, including:

  • La Confederación General del Trabajo de la República Argentina (CGTRA) collaborates with the ILO to equip staff at vocational training institutions to assist migrants and refugees through document regularisation, validation of educational qualifications and skills recognition.
  • The Central Organization of Trade Unions (COTU-K), Kenya, runs the Migrant Resource Centre providing information, advocating for fair recruitment and ensuring migrant workers’ rights.
  • The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) won new, enhanced government standards for accommodation for migrant workers.
  • The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) supports returning migrants with information guides and community engagement to assist their reintegration.
  • The Konfederasi Serikat Buruh Seluruh Indonesia (KSBSI), collaborates with civil society organisations to help local governments implement migrant worker protection laws and provide effective, gender-responsive counselling services for migrant workers departing abroad or returning.
  • The American Federation of Labour-Congress of Industrial Organizations’ (AFL-CIO) Injury2All Campaign won a decision by the US government to streamline a process that protects migrant workers from deportation if they report abuses of US labour laws.
  • In the UK, the Trade Union Congress (TUC) and its affiliates have exposed high levels of exploitation of migrant workers in the care sector. They are now working with the government on a national plan to tackle this exploitation. The public service union UNISON works in partnership with a charity to help provide specialist support and advice to its migrant worker members.
  • The Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions of Turkey (DISK) and the Trade Union Congress of Tanzania (TUCTA) supported migrant workers from Türkiye to recover their unpaid wages in Tanzania.
  • The Australian Congress of Trade Unions (ACTU) is campaigning and advocating for legislative reforms that would give migrant workers confidence to come forward and report workplace exploitation.

ITUC General Secretary Luc Triangle said: “The global trade union movement stands with migrant workers. For trade unions a worker is a worker, regardless of migration status.

“That is why we demand a New Social Contract to create more inclusive societies and economies, including a rights-based governance of migration that is designed, implemented and monitored through social dialogue.

“I congratulate the trade unions featured in this report; their work is inspiring and shows what collective action can achieve.”

Trade unions are key in safeguarding migrant workers’ rights, enhancing working conditions through collective bargaining and building a rights-based governance of migration through social dialogue. To achieve this, governments must:

  • Place labour standards, such as freedom of association and collective bargaining rights, at the centre of systems governing migration and respect the ILO’s Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work.
  • Scale up regular migration pathways, with full workers’ rights and non-discrimination, and create regularisation schemes for migrants in an irregular situation.
  • Ensure effective access to justice for migrant workers.
  • Remove barriers to access to social security and ensure equal treatment by social security systems of nationals and migrant workers.
  • Implement universal minimum living wages.
  • Achieve mutual recognition of skills and qualifications in origin and destination countries through social dialogue.