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There are 17.1 million migrant workers across Africa, 44.5 million in North America, 6.7 million in Central and South America, 58.3 million in Asia and Oceania, and 64.1 million in Europe. In all of these regions at least 10 to 15 per cent are irregular migrants.

For the BWI, the current trends in subcontracting and privatization make it crucial for the trade union movement to urgently tackle this issue.

In our industries, construction has a long tradition of exploiting migrant labour from lower-wage economies. As many countries continue to rely on migrant workers, construction work has become increasingly temporary and insecure. Migrant workers are paid low wages and are not covered by social and labour legislation.

We continue to put pressure on the WTO regarding the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) which will affect the construction industry and lead to an increase of migrant and cross border work. The competences and structure of the WTO do not enable it to regulate the temporary cross-border movement of workers, as envisaged under the Mode IV negotiations, in a manner that protects migrant workers' rights and consequently the WTO should not be the place for decisions in this area. Should any governments nonetheless make offers in this area, these must be preceded by formal trade union consultation and refer to respect for national labour law and existing collective agreements in receiving countries, as well as fundamental workers' rights, in order to ensure that migrant workers receive employment conditions equal to those of nationals. We also push for an ILO standard on contract labour.

BWI affiliates are particularly encouraged to:

  • increase trade union awareness on the issue and continue to campaign against racism and xenophobia
  • gather relevant information and data on migration in our sectors and exchange information between sending and receiving countries
  • urge their governements to adopt appropriate global legislation and protection
  • establish agreements between unions in source and destination countries and to
  • organise migrant and cross-border workers and ensure equal pay for equal work for employees regardless of their origin and nationality.

    Furthermore, as indicated in article 7 of our statutes, "Where the members of one of the affiliated organisations are posted to another country, they shall be entitled, on the basis of their membership, to obtain advice and information free of charge from the affiliated organisation(s) in the country of employment. Where a member of one of the affiliated organisation is migrating to another country, the affiliated organisation in this country shall take the necessary steps to ensure that an uninterrupted membership can be guaranteed."

    Thus, BWI continues to recommend bilateral co-operation, agreements and exchange of information. Affiliates in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Belgium, Holland, Czech and Slovak Republics, Poland and in the Nordic countries developed a variety of activities such as co-operation agreements on collective bargaining, mutual recognition of membership for cross border workers or legal assistance for their members. An agreement on migrant workers was signed in April 2005 between NFCCWU from Taiwan and NUBCW from the Philippines. Workers who will migrate to either country will be assured same salary and conditions of service and trade union membership.