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

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


3 – 4 – 5 March, 14:00 CET


Join leading trade unionists, scholars and activists and participate in an exciting discussion organised by the Global Labour University. 

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 are all the more important given globalisation trends under neoliberalism as well as the anti-immigrant policies of right-wing populists. It is important to create the space for an open engagement on the complex challenges facing migrants, trade unions and activists, as well as on the 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 will discuss the challenges posed by changing migration patterns, as well as explore union and civil society responses to these challenges. We hope to tease out lessons that can be shared broadly and identify areas of cooperation in order to support trade unions in representing migrant workers’ interests as part of strategies to build stronger and more inclusive organisations.

Register here



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 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


Pre-reads, pre-watch

In preparation for the event, please take a look at our selected articles and video, based on the topic of migration.

Constructing an Anti-Neoliberal Analysis to Arrive at Truly Alternative Alternatives

Can migrating women escape patriarchy?

The Insufficient protection of Vietnamese domestic workers in Saudi Arabia

Migrant organising as a pathway to union renewal

This documentary explores the context and events that occurred in southern Spain in 2000, when the town of El Ejido was rocked by anti-migrant violence. Migrant workers began to organise afterwards and, during the seminar, we will be hearing from worker representatives in a nearby region (Murcia) about their organising experience. For further information, you can also read this.

Made possible by:

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