Currently, an exciting opportunity has come up on the South Asia level to tackle labour migration and the informal economy. Since the SAARC Declaration of November 2014, South Asian leaders had agreed to come up with policy papers on certain issues: labour migration (which would be developed by Nepal), minimum wage (Bangladesh), social security (Pakistan) etc. For more on SAARC and its relevance, see this post.

To influence this process, SARTUC organized a conference in Colombo, Sri Lanka 28-29 September 2015 with delegates from the trade unions from Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and India. ITUC-AP, some TUSSOs (trade unions support and solidarity Organisation, like the Danish LO/FTF or WSM and Global Union Federations, like UNI, as well as Migrant Forum Asia (MFA) also attended and provided input.

The meeting led to a couple of important documents to be used for advocacy: recommendations on labour migration and informal economy, draft minimum standards for bilateral agreements for labour migration to Gulf Countries and a draft standard contract which all SAARC countries could start using and which would provide better workers’ protection.

Since the WSM partners from SAARC also had a position paper regarding labour migration, WSM and its partners which were present convinced the other participants of three key issues to be included:

  • Reference to minimum wages in accordance to ILO Convention art. 3 on Minimum Wages, though the proposal of a common minimum amount of 500USD per month was not kept;
  • Ensuring access to social protection by hosting countries, the request for Welfare funds in sending countries was not retained however;
  • To avoid abuses by recruitment agencies: “All costs linked to recruitment and travel should be employer based and made transparent and publicly available

All affiliates will now lobby for these agendas in their respective countries, since SAARC doesn’t interact directly with civil society but only functions as a multilateral institution. For one of the first times however, SARTUC itself will also be attending the meeting of the focal points beginning of December in Pokhara, Nepal.  Let’s hope some of these recommendations make it through…