Migrant and Local Workers: Unite and Collectively Fight for Rights, Lives and Dignity

Statement of the IMA for the May 2013 International Labour Day

End the Neoliberal Globalization Agenda Now!

Migrant and Local Workers: Unite and Collectively Fight for Rights, Lives and Dignity

Migrant workers all over the world will go out today to join their local brothers and sisters in celebrating the 2013 International Labor Day.

A momentous day to be celebrated by remembering the many victories of many years of united and collective struggle from the working class – livable wages, eight working hours, better working conditions, fair and just contracts, rights and welfare benefits. It is worthy to include in these victories those that have been won by migrant workers themselves – passage of international conventions and national laws aiming to protect the rights of migrants, increase in wages of a few sections of the migrant sector, recognition of domestic work as work, among many others.

Yet, such a momentous day deserves to be celebrated with renewed fervor and renewal of commitment from the International Migrants’ Alliance (IMA) as many of these rights and victories are being eroded.

With the global economic crisis only worsening, migrant workers, much like their local counterparts, have not been spared from the negative impact. Governments of underdeveloped and even developed countries have now resorted to labor migration and themselves becoming virtually like recruitment agencies for their unemployed workers offered as cheap labor.

Many countries in the European Union continue to suffer massive unemployment and wage erosion that they begin pushing big countries like Great Britain to be open to the human labor the former will be sending. Poorer countries race the price of their labor forced to the bottom. This issue of forced labor migration remains a very urgent concern that needs to be raised to the United Nations as it leads the High Level Dialogue on Migration and Development in New York this October.

Just the same, migrant-receiving country governments are not merciful in their ways of treating migrant workers. We have witnessed in the recent years how migrant and local workers have been pitted against each other. Governments make scapegoats out of migrants as stealers of jobs and locusts of social welfare benefits.

The recent judicial seal placed by the Hong Kong government on social exclusion is but one proof. Its Court of Final Appeal decided to bar foreign domestic workers (FDWs) from being eligible to apply for permanent residence. Such reasons provided were the very unconstitutional and unjust laws placed by the government on FDWs – unfair visa arrangements though the New Conditions of Stay and being denied the option for a live-out arrangement.

As this happens, more than 200 dockworkers have gone on strike against business mogul Lee Ka Shing on charges of underpayment, severe working conditions, working on 24-hour shifts, no allowed rest or toilet break, among others.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia does not come clean either. Early this year, it executed by beheading Rizana Nafeeq, a Sri Lankan domestic worker charged of killing her ward but was discovered to be only 17-years old when the case happened. Not a few months after, its Nitaqat, or Saudization of labor, has caused a massive crackdown on migrant workers, arresting and deporting more than 200,000 workers.

The many cases of human labor trafficking in the USA bring forth the worrying situation of migrant workers. Both temporary local workers and migrant workers become vulnerable to hazardous working conditions without benefit of protection. Despite this, immigration policies remain stringent targeting undocumented migrants.

Labor flexibilization is part and parcel of a neoliberal globalization design to further depress the rights and welfare of workers, both migrants and their local counterparts. Gradually, genuine trade unions and workers’ collective rights become archaic as union-busting becomes more apparent and even legalized.

The struggles of both migrant and local workers are one and the same. The sowing of disunity by imperialist governments and their cohorts is aimed at weakening the solidarity that binds both of us in collectively exposing this exploitation of our rights as workers and as people.

As this devastation on our rights and livelihoods happens, we have also witnessed the resurgence of a strong local-migrant workers solidarity movement in many countries as we assert for the recognition of our rights and dignity and for the abolition of neoliberal frame of commodifying labor.

The establishment of the IMA in 2008 is proof of a resurging movement of migrants, immigrants and refugees all over the world in not only having their voices heard but raising their fists and expressing united assertion of their rights and dignity and expressing solidarity with their local working brothers and sisters who, like them, are also being attacked.

The verdict of the recently concluded International Migrants’ Tribunal on the GFMD is the one that the IMA will bring as its position against and call for the abolition of the Global Forum on Migration on Development in New York, where the mentioned UN HLD will occur.

Modern-day slavery is becoming commonplace as many of us suffer from slave-like wages and working conditions. Yet this can be stopped by our collective unity and struggle. The many years of struggles and victories won in these struggles shall be our inspiration in continuing to and raising the ante of our fight.
We are workers, we are not slaves!

Down with imperialism!

Long live the migrant-local workers’ solidarity!

Long live international solidarity!

For reference: Eni Lestari, IMA chairperson (852-96081475)

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