We recognise The SATUCC CEC

Our Partners here present.

Secretary Generals

Women and Youth Committees

The Staff of SATUCC at the Secretariat

All of you in Comrades in your different capacities are important;

We welcome everyone to the 11th Delegates Congress of SATUCC.Today is the first session of our pre- Congress activities with the two days focusing on labour migration as a critical issue for Southern Africa and for the rest of the world.

In Southern Africa almost all the 16 countries have had national dialogues on labour migration and we have seen the participation of labour movements and we are now looking at how as SATUCC can remain as a key player throughout the labour migration discussion at the regional level. Hence, we are having this meeting today around labour migration.

SATUCC has also been participating and developing policies around Trade Unions in transformation, trade, Convention C190, on SDGs, Climate and Just Transition as well as how to empower women and young workers within the trade union movement and on internet freedoms and how to organise in the digital platforms and so the third day will be dedicated to policy discussions to be adopted by Congress and inform our strategies in the work we will do moving forward.

We all know that COVID-19 pandemic hit us and caught us unaware, and it brought with it many challenges that exacerbated the problems that we have been grappling with already as trade unions. There is a lot of work that we have done as trade unions to safe guard and protect the interests of workers during the pandemic. In as much as these days we are not talking a lot about COVID -19, the effects of the pandemic are still being felt at the regional level and also at the national level. We are having this Congress at a time where we need to look at ways in which we can revitilise the trade unions, rebuild membership, the relevance of trade unions especially after the pandemic, the job losses and the challenges that have been faced, as well as to rebuild the labour movement to be more gender sensitive, more responsive to issues of sexual harassment  and violence in the world of work. This is a turning point where we need to work together as trade unions and move forward as one.

Going back to focus on the dialogue for the next two days on labour migration; this is work that we started a few years back with the support of the Solidarity Center.  Now, with the support of ILO Pretoria office led by Dr Joni Musabayana and Gloria Moreno – Fontes who is the Chief Technical Officer for the SAMM Project and has enabled us to continue to focus more on this work. We have seen this intensifying the participation and involvement of trade unions including also by capacitating and training labour migration focal persons and specialists so that we can participate meaningfully in social dialogue and advocate for decent work for migrant workers.

Trade unions have a key role to play in defending the rights of migrant workers and addressing inequality, and one way to protect migrant workers’ rights is to provide access to information on living and working in destination countries, including their rights at work.

The feminization of international and regional migration has also increased the vulnerability of women migrant workers to discrimination, exploitation, and sexual abuse. Women migrants are more susceptible than men to gender-based violence (GBV) – both sexual and physical abuse – as well as discrimination at work. The region has continued to experience extremely high levels of GBV with an unprecedented surge reported during the Covid-19 lockdowns. Gender-based violence creates a barrier to migrant workers’ participation in social, economic and political life and causes significant public challenges in both sending and receiving countries in the region. At the international level, the ILO adopted Convention 190 on ending Gender Based Violence and Harassment (GBVH) in the world of work in June 2019, during the 108th International Labor Conference in Geneva.

This dialogue therefore is necessary, considering Labor migration and Traffic in Persons (TIP), within and around the SADC region has become more complex and dynamic than ever before, presenting policymakers with both opportunities and challenges. The region lacks coherent national labor migration policies, reliable and accurate comparable labor migration data, and standardized migration information systems. It is prudent therefore as a nation that receives the largest number of migrants that we put the necessary infrastructure and governance mechanisms in place in order to address labour migration issues.

Whether we admit it or not reality is that Migrant workers contribute to growth and development in their countries of destination, while countries of origin greatly benefit from their remittances and the skills acquired during their migration experience. Yet, the migration process implies complex challenges in terms of governance, migrant workers’ protection, migration and development linkages, and international cooperation.

Due to desperation, lack of information and lack of opportunities, people especially young people find themselves in irregular migration.

An irregular or undocumented migrant is someone who is not authorized to enter, to stay or to work in the country of destination, and we have a lot of these here in our countries and we have ensure that their status can be regularised. In order to do that, we need to embrace migrant workers as trade unions and find ways in which we can organise and represent them

Irregular migrants face numerous risks that constitute human rights violations, during the transit phase of migration as well as during their stay in the destination country.

The main forms of abuse faced by irregular migrant workers in transit (mostly through being smuggled) include extortion, abandonment, theft, physical violence, harassment, gender-based violence and corruption.

Irregular women migrants appear to be particularly vulnerable during the transit phase and may face rape and sexual abuse during their attempt to cross the border.

Upon arrival, irregular migrant workers are likely to be employed under conditions of employment commonly violate labour standards, as irregular migrants are usually paid below minimum wage, are subject to unlawful deductions of salary and overtime without consent, employed in the informal economy, and may be subjected to a wide range of exploitation and abuse.

Such exploitation and abuse include, but not limited to; forced labour, debt bondage, domestic servitude, forced marriage, sex trafficking, and slavery-like employment.

Irregular migrant workers are further be exposed to harassment by public authorities. This includes illegal practices such as assault, bribery and theft by police during arrest, as well as detention exceeding statutory limits and physical abuse in detention centres.

Irregular migrant workers have: limited/no access to health-care services; more limited ability to pay for preventative and primary health care;  limited/no access to safe and legal work; and, fear of deportation has multiple effects on emotional well-being and mental health, and impacts willingness to seek health-care services.

Due to limited/no access to social protection schemes, the COVID-19 pandemic has seen more irregular migrants losing their sources of livelihood and have found themselves in extreme poverty with limited access to assistance.

As trade unions our role is to Get governments to take responsibility by improving and implementing laws, as well as ratifying international labour standards;

We are Building coalitions with migrants’ own groups and raising public awareness of the beneficial role that migrants play, especially Unions are being proactive with governments to achieve better legislation that protects migrant workers;

Unions are negotiating with the employers of migrants on the level of pay, hours of work, workplace health and safety, accommodation standards, and so on;

Unions are cooperating across borders and at a global level to strengthen respect for the rights of migrant workers in helping to provide them will services required;

We must therefore urge our government to ratify SADC Instruments and ILO Conventions on labour migration;

Develop an effective implementation of national labour migration policies;

Make Available comprehensive data on labour migration and integration of labour migration in the National Labour Migration Information Systems (LMIS);

Review of outdated bilateral migrant labour agreements (BMLAs) that integrate portability of social security benefits;

Formulate, implement, monitor and evaluation of BMLAs on labour migration and national labour migration frameworks and policies;

Combat fraudulent practices by illegal recruiters and intermediaries;

The regularization of undocumented migrants is key in this instance: Regularization is only indirectly envisaged by facilitating access for migrants in an irregular status to an individual assessment that may lead to regular status, on a case by case basis and with clear and transparent criteria; and,

The non-criminalization of irregular migration can go a long way in helping us address migration issues as, the Global Compact for Migration provides for potential sanctions to address irregular entry or stay without expressly prohibiting criminal ones, except for smuggled and trafficked migrants.

We can lead by example and be a model in Southern Africa on Migration Governance and ensuring fair and ethical recruitment process within the region as we strive towards regularisation of migration in line with SADC Protocol of Free Movement of persons.

We wish for fruitful deliberations and encourage all of you to participate throughout these two days and prepare adequately for these discussions to feed into our Congress on the last day where you will elect and usher in a new leadership who will decide based on your inputs, the new strategic direction for SATUCC. Thank you Comrades.