Side Event on Condition of Workers and Labour Rights in South Asia, Including Migrant Workers at WSF2024, Kathmandu

SARTUC organised two Side Events in World Social Forum 2024 (WSF2024Nepal), Kathmandu “Another World is Possible” on 17th February 2024, in collaboration with International Trade Union Confederation – Asia Pacific (ITUC-AP), FNV Mondiaal, South Asia Gender Platform (SAGP), and Solidarity Center (SC); one of which was a Side Event on “Condition of Workers and Labour Rights in South Asia, Including Migrant Workers”, organised with the collaboration with International Trade Union Confederation – Asia Pacific (ITUC-AP) and Solidarity Center (SC).

The objectives of the side event were to provide a comprehensive overview of the current state of workers in South Asia, addressing issues such as working conditions, wages, job security, precarious work and the impact of the pandemic on the labour force; To explore the unique challenges faced by migrant workers in South Asia, including issues related to exploitation, discrimination, access to justice, and the recruitment process; examine existing labour laws, legal frameworks and protections for workers in South Asian countries, and assess their effectiveness in safeguarding labour rights; understand the impact of technological advancement and Artificial intelligence (AI) in the changing world of work, and the strategies of trade unions to cope with it; facilitate discussions on potential strategies, policies, and advocacy efforts that can contribute to improving the condition of workers, updating labour laws and strengthening labour rights in the region.

Trade unions in South Asia are passing through a critical phase, moreover, workers and trade unions are facing difficult times. The governments in South Asia are working closely with multinational companies and big corporate houses with pro-capital, anti-labour mind-sets, ignoring the conditions of workers, labour rights and labour laws. The workers’ rights which have been achieved through the tireless struggle of trade unions are getting under threat in the region. Social protection for all shall be implemented without any discrimination and the schemes are vital support for the workers, the poor and the vulnerable. The plight of migrant workers, facing health risks and exploitation exacerbated by COVID-19, underscores the need for better protection and ethical recruitment practices. Additionally, the advent of AI and mechanisation poses further challenges, necessitating up-skilling initiatives to address potential job losses and informalisation. This is a high time to advocate for a global commitment to empowering workers to escape poverty through fair employment, guaranteed rights at work, fair working conditions and adequate social protection for all without discrimination, harassment and violence, importantly, organising is a necessity for a new social contract. Solidarity and strategic action are imperative to safeguard workers' fundamental rights in South Asia, therefore, trade unions shall work under a unified platform leading the collective action and campaigning by adopting a new social contract based on six demands: jobs, rights, wages, social protection, equality and inclusion.