Education International
Education International

Teacher unions scale up measures to defend the rights of migrant teachers

published 25 March 2011 updated 13 April 2011

International migration, including skilled labour migration has become a global phenomenon that is rising to the top of the policy agenda. UN data shows that around 214 million people – or 3.1 per cent of the world’s population – live outside their country of birth. Women constitute about 50 per cent of all international migrants (1).

Migrant teachers, in particular, continue to be treated as a cheap and replaceable labour pool that have their rights violated in far too many instances. Exploitation occurs at the hands of both employers and recruitment agencies, and includes problems such as loss of professional status; inferior conditions of service; exorbitant fees; job insecurity; rigid contracts and barriers to acquiring legal resident status.

The rampant violation of migrant teachers’ trade union and labour rights has prompted EI and its affiliate members to scale up measures to protect migrant teachers and their families, stopping their exploitation, and promoting the right to decent work for all education workers.

Unions protect rights of migrant teachers

The Commonwealth Teachers’ Group (CTG), comprising of EI member organisations in Commonwealth countries, has laid a good foundation for work on teacher migration, and has contributed to the development and implementation of a Commonwealth Teachers’ Recruitment Protocol (CTRP). This is a crucial instrument – endorsed by EI, UNESCO and the ILO – to protect the integrity of vulnerable education systems, while respecting the right of individual teachers to migrate and have their labour and professional rights upheld.

The Council of Global Unions has also established a Working Group on Migration to coordinate Global Unions’ policy positions on international labour migration, organise joint activities and participate in the Global Forum on Migration and Development. Global Unions are currently supporting a petition campaign for European and other countries to ratify the UN Convention to Protect the Rights of all Migrant Workers, which came into force in July 2003. This campaign is part of the Global Unions’ joint action and a key message for this year’s International Migrants Day on 18 December.

EI is currently developing the Teacher Migration and Mobility Campaign with a task force comprising of EI member organisations from sending and receiving countries. Their work will enable EI to shape and develop more policies and strategies to prevent the exploitation of migrant teachers and to create a global network of migrant teachers using the EI website.

By Dennis Sinyolo, Education International

This article was published in Worlds of Education, Issue 37, April 2011.

(1) Source: World Migration Report 2010: The Future of Migration: Building Capacities for Change, published by the International Organisation for Migration