Task Force on ASEAN Migrant Workers
Message of the
Task Force on ASEAN Migrant Workers
for International Migrants Day, 18 December 2008
On this important day for migrant workers worldwide, the Task Force on ASEAN Migrant Workers (TF-AMW) welcomes the continued priority placed by national and regional policymakers on the ASEAN Declaration on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers. We believe that effective implementation of the Declaration is critical for the future of a “sharing, caring” ASEAN that is now moving forward with the adoption of the ASEAN Charter.
The Task Force also applauds the ASEAN Member Governments’ initiative to formally establish and hold the first meeting of the ASEAN Committee on Migrant Workers (ACMW) in Singapore this past September. The ACMW will play a critical role in developing the regional agreement to protect migrant workers as envisioned by the Declaration. The TF-AMW pledges its strong support and looks forward to closely collaborating with the ACMW in the coming months and years.
We have now developed the 4th draft of the TF-AMW “Framework Instrument on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers” that reflects the recommendations of our civil society and trade union partners as expressed in 7 national consultations and 6 regional consultations. The TF-AMW plans to conduct several more national consultations and finalize the Framework Instrument to be proposed to ACMW, other national and regional policymakers in early 2009.
On this International Migrants Day, the TF-AMW urges ASEAN Member States to intensify efforts to implement the ASEAN Declaration, and to pro-actively act at the national level to harmonize their labour laws and practices with international labour standards. Concerted efforts to ensure that migrant workers are treated in accordance with the principle of non-discrimination and national treatment are critical as job losses grow in ASEAN nations during a time of global recession.
There is great need for continuing ASEAN Solidarity that ensures a fair and just deal for both national and migrant workers. Already there are great worries among migrant workers that they will be the first to be terminated. These workers fear they will be sent home in an impromptu way, still bearing the burden of recruitment fee debts and facing a future of difficulty finding employment that will mitigate the negative impact on the livelihood of the workers and their families. It is urgent to undertake common efforts to find alternatives to retrenchment (such as shorter hours of work, use of training schemes to upgrade skills, introduction of greater flexibility in deploying to other jobs) with the full participation and involvement of all key stakeholders – employers, trade unions, embassy labour attachés, Government officials, and representatives of the migrants themselves. Ensuring fairness for migrant workers will require continued openness to effective consultations between these partners.
As ASEAN looks at achieving economic integration by 2015, it must be remembered that migrant workers bring together nations while benefiting both the economy of their home country as well as the nation where they work – meaning that investing in creative solutions now for migrants will bring dividends in the future.
Finally, in this pivotal year for ASEAN transformation, an important symbol of ASEAN’s continuing commitment would be a decision by the ACMW to declare December 18 now and forthwith as “ASEAN Migrant Workers’ Day” and promote activities with ASEAN civil society and trade unions to increase public awareness of the rights of all migrant workers. The TF-AMW strong believes in the value of an annual celebration to recognize and celebrate the contributions of the fathers, sons, mothers, daughters, brothers, sisters who are working as migrants overseas, supporting the livelihoods of so many at home while making critical contributions to building of the economy where they live and work.
Let us work together to ensure that migration benefits all concerned countries both the sending and receiving countries.
In Solidarity with all migrant workers,
Convenor – Task Force on ASEAN Migrant Workers
15 December 2008