Exploitation of migrant workers under the spotlight at ITUC Congress

published 20 May 2014 updated 21 May 2014

A construction worker spoke of his experiences in Qatar working on facilities for the 2022 soccer World Cup, where he was treated more like a slave than an employee helping prepare for one of the world’s biggest, and most expensive sporting spectacles.

At the International Trade Union Confederation’s (ITUC) 3rd World Congress in Berlin this week many migrant workers told similar tragic stories of exploitation and abuse.

In an effort to combat the alleged abuses in Qatar, the ITUC has organised a twitter lobby of the FIFA Executive Board meeting next week to urge board members to change their decision to hold the event in Qatar.

However, most workers don’t have the world’s attention of the World Cup to shed light on their own abuses.

A bus driver from the UK spoke of having to pay a foreman in order to get a job, and to make recurring payments to keep it. A speaker from Argentina said that migrant workers there were almost all in the informal economy with no employment rights, low pay and often physical abuse.

An African woman said that women migrants frequently could only obtain the most menial employment where they were treated like little more than slaves, often having to undertake heavy work duties, which put their health at risk.

Teachers are not exempted from exploitation.

Education International (EI) General Secretary, Fred van Leeuwen, informed the conference about the work that EI has done to promote and protect the interests of migrant teachers. He advised them that EI had supported the establishment of a protocol on terms for employment for migrant teachers within the Commonwealth Group.

He also outlined the advocacy work which had been undertaken within the Bologna process to try to improve the terms and conditions under which teachers and lecturers in higher education may transfer from country to country. He said that migrant teachers often found themselves in the most insecure and low paid of employment in education institutions with no recognition of their qualifications.

“In order to assist migrant teachers,” he said, “EI has established a special web portal, which provides them with information designed to assist them if they are migrating. EI has also undertaken a survey of migrant teachers to identify the issues which make their lives more difficult and the bad employment practices which must be eliminated.”

Further information, including the survey, is available on the Migrant Teachers’ Rights website.