ILO’s commitment to capacity building for trade unions raises hope for African migrant workers


By Michael Oche

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) has said it will continue to support trade unions in Africa by building their capacity to ensure that they improve their skills and advocacy strategies for advancing policies that protect migrant workers, especially on fair recruitment.

Trade unions in Africa both at national and continental level have been vocal about the need for governments in the continent to speed up domestication of relevant ILO instruments that promote rights based migration.

With more Africans seeking to migrate in search of greener pastures and with the lessons learnt from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, trade unions have expressed displeasure with some of the Bilateral Labour Agreements (BLAs) entered by governments in Africa and some receiving countries of African migrant workers, especially in Gulf Corporation Countries (GCC).

The unions argue that some of the BLAs only focus on remittances from the migrant workers while ignoring aspects that ensure their protection thereby making them more vulnerable to exploitation.

However, ILO has said it will continue to improve the capacity of trade unions in their quest to change the narrative for migrant workers.

Our correspondent reports that the ILO in recent years, has scaled up capacity building for trade unions on better migration governance. This has led to improved visibility of trade unions’ activities on labour migration.

Speaking recently at a workshop organised for members of the African Trade Unions Network on Migration (ATUMNET), ILO Regional labour migration specialist based in ILO office in Abidjan, Coumba Diop said the ILO wants trade unions to go beyond activities and begin to take actions that will led to more ratifications and implementation of standards.

She said the ILO is aware of the key roles trade unions have to play in better migration governance, and will continue to support them.

She said, “we know that trade unions have been actively engaged in promoting effective labour migration governance in Africa. As ILO, once again, we are happy to provide assistance to trade unions through building their capacity. But most importantly, building their capacity to influence labour migration policies that are rights-based, and gender responsive.

“We build the capacity of trade unions to raise awareness about the importance of the ratification and implementation of key international and continental labour standards to improve fair recruitment practices.”

Also speaking, Comrade Joel Odigie, ITUC-Africa deputy General Secretary, said building the capacity of trade unions is important to achieving better protection of the rights of migrant workers.

He noted that the long term vision of ATUMNET is to achieve voluntary migration where people migrate on their own and not forced by the exigencies of their environment and conditions.

Comrade Odigie said ITUC-Africa’s collaboration with ILO and other stakeholders have achieved some notable results on improved labour migration governance.

He said, “we have been doing it for a while and we can say we are achieving results.”

He said further: “For last year (2021) it was action plan development. Where we developed our plan of engagement for 2022 – 2024. And this meeting is part of the implementation of that action plan. Because capacity development was identified as one of the action and so having this meeting is a fulfilment of that action plan. And this meeting is focused on how the focal persons can have the requisite skills, knowledge, capacity and network to be able to deliver on issues of pro-rights migrant governance.”

The workshop held between December 19 – December 21 was organised by ITUC-Africa with support from the International Labour Organisation (ILO).