Policy area

Freedom of Association

The ability to form and join trade unions is a fundamental human right, and trade unions can play a vital role in representing and supporting migrant workers. However unions face varying restrictions in law and in practice, that prevent them from playing this role and it can be more difficult for migrant workers to access the same levels of trade union protection as nationals. This is an analysis of the degree to which governments provide space for trade unions to play an active role in migrant worker protection, and how this affects worker outcomes. The ILO Guiding Principles and Operational Guidelines on Fair Recruitment stress the need for worker organisations and “social partners” (which includes unions) to participate in all key regulatory processes, and for bilateral agreements to respect existing collective agreements.

Worker organisations

    Freedom of Association in law (9.1)

    This indicator assesses whether workers have the legal right to form and join unions, and whether they can strike and collectively bargain. In some countries, migrant workers are entirely prevented from joining trade unions, while in others, workers in certain sectors are restricted from unionising.

    Freedom of Association in practice (9.2)

    This indicator assesses whether trade unions can operate effectively in practice, and whether their activities are free from disruption and harassment. Some governments allow unions in law but “co-opt” trade unions to neuter their activities, while union activists and members can face pressure, threats and worse, from both employers and governments.