EI: Migrant workers crucial for sustainable and sound societies

published 18 December 2014 updated 19 December 2014

On International Migrants Day, Education International is calling for fundamental changes in global migration policies, considering that migrant workers are essential to the functioning of today’s economies.

Without migration, key public services and even whole economies would break down, and societies and cultures would be severely diminished. Yet, a populist and sectarian sentiment is spreading, with extremism and intolerance moving to center-stage in too many national political environments.

Education International (EI) believes that teacher migration is a growing trend with many different forms and motivations that range from exemplary professional development to gross exploitation. It reaffirms teachers and education staff’s commitment to ensure globally that migration is an option rather than a necessity, happens ethically and supports the development of teacher professionalism and quality public education systems in all affected countries.

Exposing and opposing abuses and exploitation of migrant workers

The EI 2014 Research “ Getting Teacher Migration & Mobility Right” shows a declining role for direct employer recruitment and increasing roles for private agents. This trend increases worker vulnerability to manipulation by unscrupulous recruitment agencies. Without effective regulation, internationally recruited workers in both high and low wage sectors face a host of serious abuses, including fraud, discrimination, economic coercion, retaliation, debt bondage, and even human trafficking. Teachers have not been spared from these forms of exploitation, and the EI research has made these stories visible.

Education International also denounces the fact that the European Union, whose prosperity has been built on a workforce including millions of migrant workers and whose vibrant cultures reflect a myriad of traditions, has taken this year an enormous step backwards, with its decision to stop rescuing refugees at sea. With a terrible human cost: at least 3.072 people died in the Mediterranean Sea in the first nine months of 2014. At a time when the world is facing the greatest refugee crisis in 70 years, this callous disregard for the lives of people desperate to escape conflict, deprivation and exploitation will cost yet more lives.

Next year is the 40th Anniversary of ILO Convention 143, which aims to stop the exploitation of migrant workers. This, and other key ILO Conventions, including on freedom of association and collective bargaining, must be the cornerstone for global migration policy. Migrants need to be recognised as human beings with human rights, not as commodities for sale and profit.

Teacher unions defend migrants’ rights

Teacher unions around the world are in the forefront of the fight for equal rights for migrant workers, and for migration policies that are rights based.

“Teachers bring important lessons to young students and workers and can prevent bullying by countering hate speech and actions against migrants of right wings groups,” said EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen. “Educational institutions should offer a safe environment and prevent bullying and racism, improving the ability of students, teachers, education staff, and parents to respect each and every one in their differences and diversity.”

The General Secretary added that EI’s determination, in cooperation with other Global Unions, to fight for equal rights for all, regardless of ethnicity or origin, remains as strong as ever, and that EI and its affiliates “will continue to bring it to bear in our campaigning for social justice, in our advocacy in international fora, in our organising for workers’ rights everywhere, and within our own organisations and activities.”