Teacher migration and mobility is a global phenomenon that requires a concerted and coordinated effort from the trade union movement to curb the violation of migrant teachers’ labour rights.
Following a decision of its Executive Board in October, EI set up a taskforce of union members from both sending and receiving countries to address teacher migration and mobility issues across the globe. To help EI stop the exploitation of migrant teachers and promote decent work for all education personnel, the group has been mandated to establish a virtual network of migrant teachers using the EI web site; carry out research into aspects of migration and mobility, and facilitate information sharing and exchange among EI member organisations.
The taskforce held its first meeting in Washington, USA, from 15- 16 April. This was hosted by EI’s affiliates in the United States, the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). The meeting reviewed current trends and developments in teacher migration and mobility and discussed the benefits that accrue to individuals as well as sending and receiving countries as a result of teacher migration. The taskforce also discussed the challenges faced by migrant teachers.
The picture that emerged from country and regional reports presented by members of the group, and research studies conducted by EI affiliates, was that migrant teachers have their labour rights violated in many instances. Cases of abuse include non-recognition of qualifications, resulting in many qualified overseas-recruited teachers being paid as unqualified teachers, while some recruitment agencies have exploited migrant teachers by charging them exorbitant fees and treating them as indentured labourers.
In an address to members of the taskforce, the leading civil rights and equalities campaigner, the Reverend Jesse L. Jackson, called for the protection of migrant teachers’ rights. He summed up the moral imperative for unions to engage by stating that “teachers’ rights are workers rights and workers rights are human rights.”
Key issues identified for follow-up and action by the taskforce included:
- The need for research and data collection, including the compilation of accurate country-level data on the number and categories of migrating teachers;
- Investigation and documentation of the practices of recruitment agencies in order to lobby governments to regulate the activities of such agencies;
- Addressing the issue of non-recognition of qualifications, particularly when teachers migrate from developing countries to developed countries;
- Ensuring professional development, orientation and induction programmes for migrant teachers are instituted;
- Creating a platform for migrant teachers to share their experiences and interact with each other;
- Addressing teacher migration issues at all levels (global, regional, national and local), including pursuit of bilateral and multilateral arrangements between and among countries and unions in sending and receiving countries;
- Lobbying countries to ratify international migration instruments, including the UN Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families and ILO Migrant Conventions (97 and 143);
- Collaborating with other organisations, including UNESCO, the ILO, IOM, OECD and regional inter-governmental organisations to promote and defend the rights of migrant teachers.
The taskforce meeting was preceded by a national forum involving the NEA, AFT, George Washington University and other stakeholders, to develop a code of ethical recruitment of teachers into the USA.