The International Labour Organization is providing assistance to SARTUC, which is a federation of national trade union centers in the South Asian countries. The assistance is focused on the implementation of a migrant workers’ rights charter and the plan of action finalized by SARTUC in consultation with the trade unions of the Arab States.
ILO support is provided by theILO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific and the ILO Country Office for Bangladesh through the Swiss-funded “Promoting Decent Work through Improved Migration Policy and its Application in Bangladesh” programme.
In the meeting it was acknowledged that out of the five demands made by SARTUC to the SAARC Secretariat during 18th SAARC Summit, four demands have been included in SAARC’s Kathmandu Declaration, namely (1) Minimum Wages and Benefits; (2) Social Security; (3) Gender Equality; and (4) Migration Process.
In Minimum Wages and Benefits, the trade unions called for destination countries to fix minimum salary and benefits for all migrant workers from South Asia. They also requested the SAARC Summit to approve a framework for determining minimum wages and minimum standards at the regional level.
In Social Security, they urged governments to include migrant workers in the national social security framework and to arrange for migrant workers to make contributions towards it. They also highlighted the need to ensure that the Welfare Funds of countries are only utilized for the protection and rescue of migrant workers and to ensure welfare and security for dependent family members of migrants.
For gender equality, the trade unions recommended the removal of the ban on female migrant workers below the age of 30 to go for domestic work. They also demanded that safe migration must be ensured for domestic workers going abroad. They called for gender friendly labour management policies in the counties of origin and lastly, that effective and efficient legal aid are available for victims of any exploitation or violence.
In the area of migration process, the trade unions pushed for many recommendations related to rescue and repatriation, right to vote, equal pay for equal work for all migrant workers, pre-departure orientation training, right to information, access to biometric systems, trade union involvement in foreign employment related policy formulation, etc.
While the SAARC Declaration is seen as a landmark for incorporating issues related to migrant workers, which will undoubtedly give immense scope for work to the trade unions in the region, the participants and discussants at the meeting agreed that the call for the recognition of the trade unions as a representative and legitimate body in South Asia may still be a long way off.