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> MIGRANT Home > Good practices database - Labour migration policies and programmes > Model bilateral agreement for trade unions in countries of origin and destination to protect migrant workers

Model bilateral agreement for trade unions in countries of origin and destination to protect migrant workers

  • Responsible Organisations: International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) (Trade Union); International Labour Organization (ILO) (International Organisation)
  • ILO Regions: Africa; Americas; Arab States; Asia and the Pacific; Europe and Central Asia; Global
  • Country(ies): Bahrain; Burkina Faso; Côte d'Ivoire; Global coverage; Guinea; Jordan; Kuwait; Niger; Sri Lanka; Togo
  • Thematic areas: Protection; Ratification campaigns and implementation; Strengthening workers' and employers' organisations
  • MLFLM: 8.; 9.(a),(b),(c); 11.; 8.; 9.(b); 10.; 2.; 6.


While trade unions attempt to organise migrant workers, it can be difficult for migrants - especially those involved in temporary and circular migration programmes - to join unions. Cooperation between unions in countries of origin and destination can be useful in addressing these protection gaps. The ILO's Bureau for Workers' Activities (ACTRAV) has provided support in the establishment of such agreements, which are based on the text of a model agreement elaborated with the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and adopted at an ILO-ACTRAV sponsored meeting involving representatives from countries of origin in Asia and countries of destination in the Middle East.

Reaffirming that freedom of association is a central and non-negotiable principle and that the participation of migrant workers in trade unions contributes to their integration in countries of destination, signatories to the ACTRAV model trade union agreement also commit themselves to promoting the ratification of and respect for ILO Conventions relating to migrant workers (such as the Migration for Employment Convention, 1949 (No. 97), Migrant Workers Convention, 1975 (No. 143), and the Domestic Workers Convention, 2011 (No. 189)). The agreement stresses that the situation of migrant workers should be addressed through the principles of international trade union solidarity, social justice, equal treatment, equal opportunity, and gender equality.

The model agreement commits signatories:

- To raise the specific concerns of migrant workers in their national tripartite labour committees and encourage affiliated unions to integrate them in collective bargaining with employers; and ensure that labour legislation and collective agreements fully protect all migrant workers, including those involved in temporary labour migration programmes.

- To develop initiatives aimed at securing the involvement of trade unions in the development of bilateral agreements between the governments of origin and destination countries, and the setting up of national tripartite consultation mechanisms and bilateral cooperation fora to discuss and formulate rights-based migration policies, taking into account labour market needs and the possible expansion and facilitation of legal channels as a means of eliminating the exploitation and abusive conditions of workers trapped in irregular situations.

- To promote cooperation between the governments of countries of origin and destination with a view to enhancing migration governance relating to: the establishment of legal avenues for labour migration; strengthening of labour inspection; legal cooperation in cases of trafficking and abuse; issues of maintenance of social security entitlements; the strict supervision and control of activities by recruitment and employment agencies (in conformity with the ILO Convention on Private Employment Agencies, 1997 (No. 181)) and subcontractors; as well as the elimination of abuse in sponsorship schemes.

In May 2009, the first three bilateral cooperation agreements for the protection of the rights of migrant workers were signed between trade unions in Sri Lanka and unions in Bahrain, Jordan, and Kuwait. This was an important breakthrough given issues of abuse and exploitation of temporary migrant workers in the Arab States. The model agreement has since been used in bilateral and multilateral agreements in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. The Trade Union Confederation of the Americas (TUCA) pledged to promote the model agreement in their region in December 2009. In 2010, trade unions from Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Guinea, Niger, and Togo adopted the model agreement at an ILO-sponsored trade union training seminar in Nouakchott. At a September 2012 Global Unions Strategy Meeting on migration in Brussels, the ITUC and Global Union Federations stressed that 'cooperation agreements between trade unions in countries of origin and destination can also facilitate workers' organisation in trade unions'. A number of the cooperation agreements have been signed under the umbrella of the ITUC.


last updated on 06.05.2015^ top