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Translated from the Russian

by the seminar on the problems of labour migration in the CIS and protection of migrant workers’ rights held by the General Confederation of Trade Unions in Moscow, 2 November 2004

Migration of the population is part of the globalisation process. The ILO estimates that, as a result of the growing mobility of people, the overall volume of migration in the world totals 174.9 million people, with 86.3 million of them being migrant workers. Women account for almost half the number of migrants.

The reasons behind the cross-border movement of people are diverse and complex. The most serious of them include poverty, wars, hunger and repression. Today’s migration can to a considerable extent be explained by the widening disparity among the nations, and by the absence of conditions for productive employment and decent work, personal security and civil liberties.

Migration plays an increasingly outstanding role in compensating for demographic deficits and manpower shortages in some countries, and in solving the problems of employment and poverty reduction in others. The countries of origin regard migrant workers both as a source of material well-being for their families, and as investors contributing to the economic growth of their nations. Meanwhile, illegal migrant workers enter into serious competition with local populations in various spheres of activity and exert pressure on the local labour markets by undercutting the wages, occupying jobs and increasing the burden on social services. Illegal migrants are responsible for a sizeable part of organized crime, which causes anxiety among the population considering the growth of terrorist threat and drug trafficking.

The CIS member states first faced the challenge of mass migration after the breakdown of the single state. The migration flows have since been very sensitive to any changes in the socio-economic and political life of the Commonwealth countries. The CIS states have exerted influence on the forms of migration (internal or external) and on its categories (refugees, forced migrants, repatriates, labour migrants, transit migrants, etc.). To solve the arising problems, appropriate political approaches will be needed for each of the categories. Seminar participants dwelled on the issues of labour migration.

The level of legal labour migration in the CIS countries is currently not high, involving an total of not more than 500 thousand people a year. However, the scope of illegal labour migration causes anxiety, as it has become a profitable business, often a kind of slave-trade industry including trafficking in women and children. According to some expert estimates, a considerable part of illegal migrants in CIS countries are employed in the shadow economy. Their status practically forbids them to seek legal and social protection. Being the object of the criminal interests of the employers and agents, migrants often become their debt-slaves and find themselves in the conditions of forced labour.

Participants in the meeting believe that such a situation is possible primarily because of the absence of an efficient mechanism for regulating migrant processes in the CIS countries, and, more generally, the lack of well-balanced national policies and coordinated actions vis-a-vis labour migration in the Commonwealth. The legal management of the issue needs to be improved both at national and interstate levels. In most CIS states, the laws on migration are dominated by prohibitive and administrative measures. Citizens of the Commonwealth countries, while enjoying a visa-free regime of movement, have considerable difficulties in legalizing their labour migration status, and, therefore, often take up illegal employment in their country of destination. Hence, the illegal status is seldom the result of their free-will choice.

Neither the national trade union centres nor other trade union organizations have yet identified their proper role in the settlement of labour migration issues. Participants stressed that the unions must be more actively involved in the elaboration of national migration policies, based on a realistic assessment of the current situation in the labour market and prospects for demographic, economic and social development. The meeting pointed to the necessity for trade unions of all levels to step up their activities to unionise migrant workers, protect their rights and interests, and build closer cooperation among the respective industrial trade unions of the Commonwealth countries to that effect. Participants took note of the opinion expressed by the Workers’ Group of the ILO Governing Body that organizing migrant workers was a pressing task for trade unions and that any legislation preventing migrants from joining trade unions, as well as any provisions in trade union constitutions or regulations that keep migrants from becoming their members must be abolished.

While noting that CIS states were increasingly interested to develop cooperation in the sphere of labour migration with a view to accomplishing the tasks of economic and social development, participants in the meeting expressed their conviction that labour migration problems could only be tackled through close cooperation of the parliaments, governments, employers’ organizations, and trade unions. It is essential that the control over migration processes be organized in a way mutually beneficial both to the receiving countries and to the migrant workers themselves.

In this context, participants in the meeting consider it expedient to recommend that:

1. The countries of the Commonwealth together with the social partners:

1.1. Regard the struggle against poverty and the improvement of living standards for all citizens as a top priority of their national policies. With this end in view, ensure the guarantees for productive employment and decent labour.

Proceeding from their national interests and the interests of private business, the governments of the receiving countries in conjunction with the employers’ organizations should consider the possibilities of increasing investment in such CIS states as experience serious difficulties in providing employment to their populations, including the establishment in those states of branches or subsidiary enterprises of interstate industrial and financial groups and transnational corporations.

1.2. Speed up the formulation and realization of their national migration policies that could help to find civilized solutions to the issues of labour migration and raise its efficiency, combine the long-term interests and the economic feasibility of a foreign manpower intake with the measures protecting their internal labour markets and preventing illegal workforce migration, ensure the respect of human rights and the rights of migrant workers, and protect them from any acts of violence, forced labour, xenophobia discrimination, and all sorts of transnational organized crime, including human trafficking, and, particularly, trafficking in women and children.

The development of a mechanism for regulating the migration processes might, among other things, include such steps as establishing stricter control over the intake and employment of migrants, facilitating the registration procedures for migrant workers from the CIS countries, making use of special programmes of their legalization provided they have a job, reinforcing the structures dealing with migration, and particularly with labour migration, and extending their functions for them to be able to assist migrants in the search for jobs and in getting the appropriate documents executed, and protect them against any swindle or abuse in employment.

Migrant workers recruited on a legal basis must be provided with social and working conditions equal to those enjoyed by citizens of the receiving country. For this purpose, it will be necessary to sign the Convention on the Protection of the Rights of Migrant Workers and Their Families in the CIS States, and ratify the international instruments concerning migrant workers, including the UN Convention on the Protection of All Migrant Workers and Their Families, ILO Convention No.97 concerning Migration for Employment of 1949, and ILO Convention No.143 concerning Migrations in Abusive Conditions and the Promotion of Equality of Opportunity and Treatment of Migrant Workers of 1975.

Urgent steps must be taken to curb illegal migration and prevent unlawful import and export of workers, and trafficking in people. The observance of irregular migrants’ rights should be guaranteed in accordance with universally recognized international instruments. Measures must be taken to expand the basis for legal employment of citizens of CIS countries, including organized hire of migrant workers. The responsibility of employers for using illegal workforce should be raised, while the employment of illegal migrant workers should be made economically unprofitable.

The mass media must be engaged in objective coverage of problems relating to labour migration.

1.3.Intensify the cooperation of CIS countries with the purpose of coordinating their policies and actions regarding migrants, and, in particular, illegal migrants. To achieve the goal, they must:

- hold consultations among the Governments of the Commonwealth countries on the key issues of migration policy that are of mutual interest, and between the countries that export and import workforce. Regulate the migration flows on the basis of bilateral interstate agreements;

- speed up the development of the Concept of Regulating Migration Processes on the Territories of the CIS States based on the national interests and the rules of international law;

- ensure implementation of the earlier agreements on migration issues, among them the Agreement on Cooperation in the Sphere of Labour Migration and Social Protection of Migrant Workers, the Agreement on Cooperation of CIS States in Combating Illegal Migration, and the Concept of a Stage-by-Stage Formation of a Single Labour Market and the Regulation of Workforce Migration in the CIS States; amend these documents proceeding from the changes in the countries’ migration policies, and from the need to solve the pressing problems;

- improve and bring together the legal and normative frameworks for labour migration of the CIS countries to achieve a clearer legal definition of problems relating to labour migration control, including the procedure for recruiting migrant workers from the Commonwealth countries (with the aim of facilitating the procedure of employment and registration);

- take steps to establish, on a bilateral and multilateral basis, an interstate system of preventing illegal hiring of labour, export of workers and trafficking in people;

- maintain close cooperation among the state bodies in charge of labour migration issues, provide timely information to one another about any amendments to their national legislations on migration, organize a permanent exchange of information on the availability of vacant jobs, terms of work remuneration, living conditions, residence regulations and rules for labour activity, and secure free access of citizens to such information. Create an efficient interstate system of building and utilizing a database, for which purpose intensify the activity of the Consultative Council for Labour, Migration and Social Protection of the Population of the CIS States. Promote the establishment of a common mechanism for exercising control over the use of foreign labour in the CIS countries and the observance of migrant workers’ rights;

- consider the possibility of the establishment, in the member-states of the Single Economic Space and the Eurasec, of such a procedure for employment of migrant workers from these states that would be based on the principle of notification rather than permission seeking.

2. The trade union centres and trade union organizations of all levels must:

- insist that trade unions be involved in the formulation of the national migration policies and the mechanism for enrolling migrant workforce with due consideration for the current demographic situation, the goals set for the development of the country’s industries, the geographical region, the territory, and the maximum possible use of national labour force;

- stipulate in the statutory documents of the unions concerned that migrant workers are entitled to join a trade union in the receiving country; unionize migrant workers;

- ensure that that the coverage of their collective agreements also includes the migrant workers, stop any cases of discrimination against them and violation of their rights in what concerns their work remuneration and working conditions, and expose the facts of employment of illegal workers;

- organise trade union training in the problems of labour migration and protection of migrant workers’ rights. Oppose any manifestation of xenophobia and intolerance against migrant workers;

- consider the possibilities of rendering legal advice to those union members who wish to go to another CIS country in search of employment, as well as to migrant workers already employed in a receiving country;

- insist that the appropriate state bodies together with trade union representatives should monitor the use of foreign labour in organisations;

- make a practice of holding mutual consultations on labour migration issues between the appropriate trade union bodies of the CIS states, and exchange information on job opportunities for migrants and on the possibilities of protecting their rights;

- consider the possibility of signing agreements among the Central (Republican) Committees of industrial trade unions of the CIS countries on cooperation in servicing the union members that are looking for employment in an organisation/enterprise of the appropriate industry in a CIS country or already employed there. Generalise the experience gained in the process of conclusion and implementation of such agreements.

3. The GCTU leadership must communicate these recommendations to the parliaments and governments of the Commonwealth countries, the CIS Inter-Parliamentary Assembly, the CIS Executive Committee, the Inter-Parliamentary Assembly of the Eurasec, the Eurasec Integration Committee, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Union of Belarus and Russia, the Standing Committee of the union state, the CIS Consultative Council for Labour, Migration and Social Protection of the Population, the International Congress of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, and national and international trade union organisations.