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posted 6 May 2013, 20:10 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 6 May 2013, 20:12 ]
The major issue of migrant workers as an increasingly important international issue was ventilated at a two day interactive workshop held at the Hotel Normandie in St. Ann’s on Thursday 2nd and Friday 3rd. May

The workshop was titled – African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) National Training Workshop for Civil Society Organisations on Migration and Development. It was organised by The African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Migration Facility

Among the participant were Oilfields Workers Trade Union (OWTU), National Union of Domestic Employees (
NUDE), National Workers Union (NWU), Emancipation Support Committee, Traditional African Women Association, Living Waters, and The Center for Grassroots Organization, representatives of government, the International Labour Organization and several other local non-governmental organizations (NGO’S).

Discussions centred on critical issues facing migrant workers such as their rights to Union representation, equal treatment, occupational safety and health conditions, fair wages and other benefits such as an eight hour day, accrued retirement benefits and other fair benefits extended to workers of the host country. 

These rights are enshrined in several ILO conventions ratified by many countries including Trinidad and Tobago. However many countries, including ours, have failed to effect these conventions.

ints for the interactive sessions.

Some very informative facts were disclosed at the first day of the session -:

Migrant workers mainly result from unequal development in countries (developed and undeveloped) and the growing inequality in societies.

Migrant workers are sometimes the victims of human trafficking and human slavery, particularly in household and sex work.

Migrant workers transfer critical skills and help develop the host country.

Migrant workers bring new cultural forms to the host countries.

Migrant worke
rs contribute to the GDP of the host country.

Migrant workers through remittances contribute to their home countries and in some cases these remittances constitute the highest portion of the home country’s GDP.

Migrant workers are subjected to violence and extortion from some employers and some law enforcement agencies.

Migrant workers suffer gross exploitation.

Migrant workers make extreme sacrifices to ensure that remittances are sent back home to take care of dependents in dire need.

Home countries consular services are sometimes not available to Migrant workers who are most times left to fend for themselves.

Migrant work is a two way street. Migrant Workers from Grenada and other islands helped build our oil industry. Workers from T&T and the Caribbean built the Panama Canal. Workers from T&T helped rebuild Britain after the devastation of the Second World War. Many of our workers are employed in all parts of the World. There is an agricultural migrant-worker program with T&T and Canada.

Mainly immigrants through the Cédula de Población of the 18th century peopled Trinidad and Tobago. This immigration has never stopped because of the relative prosperity of T&T and our population size over the last two hundred odd years. However within recent years immigration to T&T has increased.

Immigrants from the Caribbean, South America, Africa and Asia are increasingly coming to T&T to work, earn a meagre living and send back money to their home countries. With the exception of the elite immigrants in high paying jobs, the majority of immigrants work in low paying jobs in f
ast foods and restaurants, retail services, security, construction, domestic work, night club services and sex work 

We, as descendents of immigrants, must ensure that our society treats these workers fairly and humanely. International Conventions protecting these workers must be applied to them. After all immigration is a two way street that is beneficial to the home country as well as the host country.

Cecil Paul represented the National Workers Union at the first day of the workshop and Rae Samuel attended the second day.

The second day of the conference sought to deepen the discussions of the first day. The dominant themes were: reasons for migration; issues arising out of the process e.g. the need to protect the 'human rights' of workers whatever the migratory status and the economic and social impact on the home country and the destination country..

As soon as the word "globalisation" re-appeared in the discussion, the whole atmosphere in the forum became more animated to the point where the moderator, acknowledging the value of the shift in animation, reminded that there was an agenda to complete. For at that point the discussion sought to define processes from different perspectives: What is development? Does one separate 'economic' and "human ' development?
From left Patrick Taran, Facilitator International Training Centre, ILO
Chanzo Geenidge, Technical Assistant, ACP Migration Facility

Recognising that the general trend in migration, internal or external, is from the less developed to the more developed centres, the conference looked at the reality that some developing countries may be simply preparing their artisans, technicians and intellectuals to be more competitive in foreign labour markets.
In closing, the conference recognised that the issues raised were best addressed by organised labour since the primary stimulus for migratory movement is economic need. Organised labour has the responsibility to all workers in the host country to ensure protection coded in domestic legislation and to hold governments to honour international conventions which enshrine these human rights