On 15 July the ILO launched a new project called “Work in Freedom” to provide women migrant workers from South Asia with a more secure future.
The project is funded by the UK Department for International Development to the tune of 9.75 million pounds over five years. The initiative focuses on domestic workers and garment workers. IndustriALL Global Union is a partner in the project.
The aim is to provide the women and girls with practical support and advice to enable them to avoid the pitfalls of trafficking and to contribute to a better lifestyle for their families.
At the meeting held on 15 July in London some success stories were applauded, such as the Nepali trade union centre GEFONT which has set up support committees for Nepali migrant workers in the most important receiving countries, SEWA, the Indian Self-employed women’s association which has successfully organized informal women workers and the Jordanian textile union which also organizes migrant workers.
The ILO Better Work program focuses on garment workers. In Jordan 40,000 people work in the garment sector, 30,000 of whom are migrant workers. 65 per cent of the workers are women. The issues where the Better Work program has made a difference are in stopping the confiscation of documents, the elimination of the nightly curfew, limiting compulsory overtime and changing the recruitment process.
Recently a collective agreement was signed in Jordan, which can be considered to be an achievement for the region. The contract regulates wages, working hours, union representation and dues check-off, while giving the union the opportunity and the responsibility to represent migrant workers.
This contract goes a long way toward ensuring migrant workers’ rights. In Jordan migrant workers have two to three year contracts, whereas Jordanian workers have open-ended contracts. The minimum wage in Jordan is 185 USD per month plus food and accommodation, thus attractive conditions for workers from Bangladesh.
Precarious work aids and abets trafficking. In the meantime industry and consumers are required more than ever to abide by ethical manufacturing principles. This can mean hope for the women who migrate to the Middle East looking for a better life.