Migration and trade unions – migrant labour struggles and challenges for organising


3 – 4 – 5 March


In this edition of Reshaping Work Onward, organised by the Global Labour University, trade unionists, scholars and activists participated in an exciting discussion on labour migration and organising. 

While the free movement of goods and capital has been widely advocated by mainstream economists and politicians as a way to promote progress, there has been much less enthusiasm about allowing the free movement of people with full respect for their rights as workers. This has contributed to making migrant workers vulnerable. Trade unions have played a key part in protecting these workers, even in the face of deliberate attempts by capital to divide and rule. Unions have however not been immune to anti-migrant sentiments, have shown at times reluctance to organise migrant workers, or struggled with finding the most effective organising strategy.

The protection of migrant workers by trade unions is all the more important in the context of neoliberal trends that exacerbate the global nature of labour markets combined with right-wing anti-migrant policies. It is therefore important to create space for an open engagement on the complex challenges facing migrants, trade unions and activists, as well as on positive examples of responses to changing migration patterns, whether in the area of innovative forms of organising; or the development of transnational trade union networks.

The workshop discussed the challenges posed by changing migration patterns, as well as union and civil society responses to these challenges in order to build stronger and more inclusive organisations.

Read the post-event discussion report here. https://onward.reshapingwork.net/publications/ 



Note: All the plenary session will have a live interpretation into French, Spanish and Portuguese.

3 March 2021

14:00 – 15:30 CET: Plenary Session: Situating migration in global labour transformations

Chair: Mark Anner, PennState / GLU

Neoliberal capitalism and migrants – Praveen Jha, Jawaharlal Nehru University / GLU

Migrant organising as a pathway to union renewal: Experiences from east and southeast Asia – Michele Ford, The University of Sydney

How trade unions fight for migrants – and what we can do better? – Chidi King, ITUC

4 March 2021

14:00 – 15:30 CET: Plenary Session: Organizing migrant workers: Trade union initiatives and challenges

Chair: Clair Siobhan Ruppert, CUT / GLU

Protecting migrant workers in Tunisia: A trade union-led approach – Zoubeida Nakib, UGTT

Organising workers within the Germany-Philippines bilateral labour agreement on nurses – Herbert Beck, Ver.di and Jillian Roque, PSLINK

Organising migrant construction workers in Qatar – Ambet Yuson, BWI

5 March 2021

14:00 – 17:30 CET: Plenary Session: Migrant self-organizing and civil society partnerships

Chair: Martina Sproll, Berlin School of Economics and Law / GLU

Beyond ‘integration’: Migrant self-organizing inside and outside traditional unions – Gabriella Alberti, Leeds University

El Ejido 20 years later: Lessons from organising migrant workers in agriculture – José Antonio Moreno Diaz, Comisiones Obreras

The role of immigrant workers on revitalizing the labor movement – Yanira Merino, LIUNA & LCLAA

Closing Session: What’s next?

Chair: Nicolas Pons-Vignon, SUPSI

With the participation of Ambet Yuson (BWI), Mostafa Henaway (IWC), Sara Cullinane (Make the Road), Elisabeth Tuider (University of Kassel, Irene Peano (University of Lisbon), Helen Schwenken (University of Osnabrück) and Joel Odigie (ITUC-Africa)


The Global Labour University (GLU) is a network of trade unions, universities, the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung and the ILO (International Labour Organisation) to deliver high-level qualification programmes. The GLU is a new approach to increase the intellectual and strategic capacity of workers’ organisations and to establish stronger working relationships between trade unions, the ILO, and the scientific community. Join to GLU Facebook Group

Speaker Highlights

Martina Sproll

Department of Business and Economics, Berlin School of Economics and Law

Herbert Beck

Executive Board member, Public Services International

Chidi King

Director of the Equality Department at the International Trade Union Confederation

Mark Anner



Plenary Session 3 March

Plenary Session 4 March

Plenary Session 5 March


Read a post-event publication by the GLU, offering an overview and reflection on discussions held in working group sessions.

Made possible by

This conference is supported in part through a grant from the Open Society Foundations

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