Training for Trade Unions in International and National Labour Migration Regimes and Policy Frameworks

On the 15 June 2013, the Labour Migration Project, conducted a day-long training in International and National Labour Migration Regimes and Policy Frameworks for the trade union members of the National Coordination Committee for Worker’s Education (NCCWE)

15 June 2013, Dhaka: The project “Promoting Decent Work through Improved Migration Policy and its Application in Bangladesh” supports the tripartite constituents of the ILO – Workers Organizations, Employers Organizations and the Government – to strengthen labour migration governance in Bangladesh. It does so by providing technical assistance for the formulation of sound laws and policies and their implementation. By doing so it aims to reduce the exploitation of migrant workers and enhance the abilities of the national stakeholders to promote decent work through safe migration. The project is funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).

On the 15 June 2013, the above-mentioned project, also known as the Labour Migration Project, conducted a day-long training in International and National Labour Migration Regimes and Policy Frameworks for the trade union members of the National Coordination Committee for Worker’s Education (NCCWE). The event was organized by the NCCWE while the technical inputs were provided by the ILO.

The training was aimed at both the leadership level trade unionists as well as upcoming leaders. About 38 trade unionists participated in the training. It was produced by the ILO to cover a broad range of issues, including the international and national labour migration regimes, labour migration and national development, role of the recruitment agents and laws in a few countries of destination and methods for analyzing policies. The design of the training was associated with the demand for this form of capacity building support requested by the trade unions in December 2012. Focusing on the role of the trade unions, the training endeavoured to acquaint the participants with a broad range of legal and policy issues concerning the migrant workers.

Welcoming the participants, MS Nisha, Chief Technical Advisor of the ILO, pointed out support for the migrant workers should be a part of the Bangladeshi trade union movement. She pointed out that trade unions’ engagement in the issue is crucial to ensure that the rights of the migrant workers are spoken about in a vacuum rather have firm bases to demand from. Taking the discussion further, the chairperson of the opening session, Mr Naimul Ahsan Jewel, General Secretary of the Jatiya Shramik Jote and the Member-Secretary of the NCCWE, stressed the need for a trade union to trade union memorandum of understanding between Bangladesh and some countries of destination. Fazlul Haque Montu, Executive President of the Jatiya Sramik League also spoke on the occasion and highlighted the need for urgent action by the government for immediate action to address the violations of the rights of the migrant workers.

The training was organized into four sessions. Each session included presentations on the on fundamental topics relating to the migrant workers by the trainer, Dr Ridwaul Hoque, and discussions facilitated by two leading trade union leaders, Mr Zafarul Hasan, General Secretary of the Jatiyatabadi Sramik Dal, and Ms Shirin Akhter, President of the Jatiya Shramik Jote.

Discussions were broadly around a few issues: an understanding of the way employment scene is changing and the consequences of these changes for workers rights, inclusion of migrant workers in the representations by the trade unions, giving the trade unions a better awareness of law/policy and migrant workers rights related relationships, and the actions that need to be taken by the trade unions.

Speaking on the occasion, ILO’s Deputy Director, Mr Gagan Rajbhandari, reminded the trade unions of the four common minimum agenda that they adopted on 03 December 2013. The common minimum agenda is as below:
  1. Developing expertise and specialized knowledge among the trade union members in Bangladesh on labour rights, wages and working conditions as well as specific obstacles that women migrant workers face in the countries of destination.
  2. Identifying access and leveraging outreach to most vulnerable groups of Bangladeshi workers in the countries of destination and meeting their specific needs, including support and legal assistance in the country of destination through counterpart trade unions and their confederations.
  3. Linking up with the non-governmental organizations, other community based organizations and Diaspora organizations for advocacy and using targeted strategies to reach out to the outgoing workers and the returning migrant workers for providing information on labour rights in the specific country of destination before departure as well as about their rights and services due to them upon their return to Bangladesh.
  4. Developing policy advocacy and running joint campaigns right to association of the migrant workers’ and for the formation of democratic structures of the migrant workers (that can be registered as trade unions when legally made possible in Bangladesh and in the countries of destination).
During discussions, the participants expressed their eagerness to go through a training specifically on the proposed Overseas Employment and Migrant Workers Bill 2013 as soon as it is passed as an Act by the Parliament of Bangladesh. They discussion the shortfalls of the Emigration Ordinance 1982 and expressed that the Ministry of Expatriates Welfare and Overseas Employment should ensure early and uncompromised passage of the Bill in this session of the Parliament. It was shared that the Bill was approved by Cabinet on 15 April 2013 and has been with the Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs for vetting. They expressed that the proposed Bill should be placed before the Parliament for passage strengthening the legal framework to protect migrant workers in the overseas employment and migration process.

NCCWE members expressed their satisfaction with their participation in the legal and the policy consultation processes of the ILO on the issue of labour migration. The training was concluded by remarks from Dr Wajed-ul Islam Khan, the NCCWE focal person to the ILO on labour migration issues and the General Secretary of the Bangladesh Trade Union Centre (BTUC). Dr Wajed-ul Islam Khan urged the trade unionists to demand that the government bring the proposed Bill before the parliament during this session, that trade union and migrant workers’ representation is ensured in policy-making and all forums and boards, and the various bi-lateral government to government agreements related to labour migration are shared with the trade unions and migrant workers associations at all stages.