The regional workshop was commenced with the formal opening session with three main speakers: Mr. Laxman Basnet, General Secretary, SARTUC; Ms. Sonia Mistry, Senior Program Officer, Solidarity Center; and Mr. Richard Howard, Country director, International Labour Organisation (ILO). Mr. Laxman Basnet extended a warm welcome to all the trade union participants from seven South Asian countries (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka). He briefly talked about the three major objectives of the workshop – i) understanding the changes in the world of work, the exponential growth of labour migration, and the process for safe and orderly migration; ii) understanding the crucial role of the voice of organized labour in sound labour policy; iii) to begin the process of a forging a South Asia Labour Alliance willing to engage on migration nationally, regionally and globally. Ms. Sonia Mistry, on behalf of Solidarity Centre welcomed all the workshop participants. In her welcome remarks she emphasized that all the trade unions should organize to raise the collective voice. Mr. Richard Howard gave a keynote speech on world of work with a presentation titled ‘Work for a brighter future’. His discussion was primarily focused on human-centred development agenda for the future of work.
Mr. Joseph Jude from India briefly presented the situation of India’s largest labour strike that was held on 8 January 2020. He discussed about the issue, participants, reactions from the government of India, civil society and public in general. Ms. Smriti Lama from General Federation of Nepalese Trade Unions (GEFONT) and Janak Raj Pandey from Nepal Trade Union Congress (NTUC) shared their experiences and the roles of trade unions on addressing the issues of labour migration in country of origin as well as in destination countries particularly Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries. Mr. Prajwal Sharma, a representative from International Organisation for Migration (IOM) shared some of the initiatives of IOM on labour migration. He highlighted on the roles and facilitation of IOM Nepal, particularly on the development and implementation of morally binding frameworks such as Global Compact for Migration (GCM). Mr. Laxman Basnet facilitated an interactive discussion to orient the participants on why is labour migration issues important for trade union and the importance of regional and global processes such as SAARC declaration, Colombo Process (CP), Abu Dhabi Dialogue (ADD), and GCM to address the issues of labour migration. A group presentation lead by a team of Bangladesh trade union and Ms. Lily Gomez of Solidarity Centre shared about the trade unions’ experiences on creating a common platform in a coalition with other civil society stakeholders such as NGOs in Bangladesh.
Mr. Jeevan Baniya, assistant director, Centre for the Study of Labour and Mobility (CESLAM) Nepal presented the comparative studies of labour migration in South Asian region. He shared the comparative analysis of remittance and GDP contribution, recruitment costs in various corridors, implications of migration costs and other various aspects of labour migration in South Asia. Furthermore, he also gave some crucial recommendations to the trade unions on what trade unions can organize or how can they strategize to address the issues of labour migration in their respective countries. Similarly, Mr. Basanta Kumar Karki, national project coordinator, ILO gave a detail presentation on GCM. He explained, GCM as a globally negotiated standard for an orderly and safe migration. He further discussed on the process of GCM’s implementation, follow-up and review process, structure of the UN migration network and its working group, eventually suggested on how can trade unions engage with respect to its implementation.
The participants were grouped according to countries for group work and discussion. All seven countries discussed and prepared their presentations in response to three questions: i) how can unions engage with government on a sound labour migration policy? ii) how can unions get more unions to engage and actively involve? iii) how can unions be part or be in coalition with CSO and NGOs. In response, team Nepal prioritised the need of joint forums and emphasised that the unions should internalise that issues of labour migrations are also their issue; team Pakistan also pointed on the importance of dialogue and participation as well as need of greater alliance for labour migration issues; team India shared that independent unions at local level are taking up the issues of labour migration, however, there is need of wider discussion with the government; team Bangladesh pointed out the need of support from other CSO stakeholders, networking as well as advocacy and lobby with the government; team Maldives prioritised the engagement with regional and global processes of migration, raise awareness on the issues of labour migration, and strengthening the union’s movement; Sri Lankan participants focus attention on the amendment of migrant workers’ Act and the revision of existing laws allowing migrant workers to unionise; and the participant from Afghanistan stressed on trade union and NGOs to work together on the issues of labour migration.
Mr. Alonzo Suson, country program director, Solidarity Centre facilitated an interactive session on ‘Forging South Asian Labour Alliance to interact on Migration Policies’ during which he asked the participants that, what kinds of support do they need to be fully engaged in migration and be part of labour alliance? What kinds of mechanisms do they want to communicate with each other? and what kinds of concrete steps can be done in developing concrete action plan on a sound labour migration policy? In response to these questions, participants highlighted on coordination with stakeholders, advocacy and lobby with the government, media campaign, mass awareness and networking, review of existing labour migration policies, capacity building, resource mobilisation, and effective involvement of trade union in ILO tripartite committee etc. And, Mr. Alonzo Suson gave the closing remarks thanking all the participants and the organisers after receiving feedback and commitment of the participants to implement the action plans which they prepared and presented during the workshop.