International Labor Migration Initiative
- Responsible Organizations: Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) (Civil society)
- ILO Regions: Arab States; Asia
- Country(ies): Global coverage
- Theme(s): International cooperation on labour migration; Prevention of abusive practices; Protection of migrant workers
- Start date: 2007; End date: 2009
The initiative aims to:
a. Increase private sector awareness of the dimensions and impacts of South-South labour migration;
b. Provide recommendations and suggestions for companies on how to integrate greater protections for migrant workers in their supply chains;
c. Encourage business to support the development of collaborative solutions to protect migrant workers through engagement with key stakeholders and participation in international migration dialogues.
- John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Grant
Activities, processes and steps involved:
Identifying the increasing importance of international migration in the global workforce and the vulnerability of migrant workers to rights violations and exploitation, BSR launched an initiative to engage businesses in operational and policy efforts to protect the rights of migrant workers in global supply chains in South and South East Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa. The International Labor Migration initiative started with outreach to experts from business, government, civil society, and academia concerning labour migration in emerging economies. The research helped BSR identify key risks and potential opportunities for company engagement. In 2008, BSR published ¿International Labor Migration: A Responsible Role for Business¿, which provides companies with information on South-South labour migration, problems encountered by migrant workers in global supply chains, case-studies of best practices, sources for more information on labour standards and labour migration issues, and suggestions and recommendations for how to improve the protection of migrants and bolster supplier compliance. At the BSR Conference 2008, a panel on migrant workers in global supply chains highlighted these issues, and gave rise to a Migration Focus Group.
The focus group, launched in 2009, brings together companies to discuss the issues affecting migrant workers in supply chains at the local, regional, and global level. The group seeks to promote the rights of migrant workers, their greater protections, and increase the capacities of suppliers to engage with policy makers and other key stakeholders. The three-step business engagement strategy asks companies to:
¿ Educate themselves: Understand the issues and best practices to better protect migrant workers in supply chains through engagement with experts; assess the presence and state of migrant labour in supply chains; determine the level of protections in place implemented by governments and regional bodies and under existing codes of conduct.
¿ Engage with suppliers: Work with stakeholders to address key, systemic issues in international dialogues and implement supplier-focused, on-the-ground tools, policies, and resources to support sound practices. This would involve: adjusting the company¿s code of conduct; training suppliers; and tying purchasing decisions to ethical treatment of migrant workers.
¿ Expand their influence: Move toward systemic change through broader stakeholder engagement at national, regional and international levels. Companies would work with governments to improve laws and dispute resolution processes, civil society and workers¿ organizations to reduce risks in the recruitment process and use existing networks and programmes for migrant workers¿ protection, and participate in international dialogues.
In addition to publishing a resource book for companies, BSR participates in international forums, such as the Global Forum on Migration and Development, collaborates with a Malaysian NGO for a pilot project to build worker and factory management capacities around rights and responsibilities, workplace communication, and cultural understanding. BSR collaborates with the ILO/IFC¿s Better Work programme and runs the Buyers¿ Forum in Jordan and Viet Nam. These forums allow buyers to work with local stakeholders, including government officials, trade union and enterprise representatives, for shared solution to improve working conditions.
Businesses and migrant workers in South and South East Asia, the Middle East and North Africa
Partners in the initiative include organizations from the private sector, civil society, and government agencies. BSR also works with the ILO/IFC¿s Better Work Programme.
Resource book: ¿International Labor Migration: The Responsible Role of Business¿ (2008).
Relevant criteria for assessment
1. Respect for migrant worker rights:
The identification of the need for better protection of migrant workers¿ rights forms the basis of the International Labor Migration initiative. BSR works with companies to address common violations of workers¿ rights, including passport retention, non-payment of wages, overwork, and physical abuse, among others, and to work towards more socially responsible business practices. The initiative draws upon the ILO Conventions and the 1990 UN Convention on the protection of the rights of migrant workers and their families to inform companies of migrant workers¿ human and labour rights.
The practice effectively addresses the need of companies for information and assistance in how to implement effective and efficient oversight of their supply chains. BSR has developed a strategy to assist companies in increasing their knowledge on labour migration issues and migrant labour in their supply chains, assessing the terms and conditions of work in supplier factories, improving supplier compliance to company codes of conduct, and building partnerships with the relevant stakeholders to promote the protection of migrant workers. Engagement with the private sector, governments, civil society organizations, and trade unions is a key component of this strategy.
3. Potential for replication and extension (adaptability):
The initiative has the potentially to be adapted to fit other contexts and international labour migration apart from South-South migration. The BSR annual report and continued engagement in international dialogues provide an opportunity to assess the impact of the project and areas for improvement.
The initiative is unique in that it represents a pioneering effort to engage companies in an assessment of South-South labour migration and its impact on global supply chains. It provides companies with the knowledge and tools to collaborate with the relevant stakeholders to find solutions to common violations of migrant workers¿ rights.
5. Broad-based and participatory:
The initiative promotes collaboration and cooperation among all relevant stakeholders, including government agencies, workers¿ and employers¿ organizations, and civil society.
The initiative meets its objectives by making companies aware of the issues relating to South-South labour migration and employment of migrant workers in their supply chains and offering companies advice on how to improve oversight over their supplier¿s activities and to cooperate with other stakeholders to promote the protection of migrant workers.
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