Migrant Workers

Migrant Workers and Trade Unions

Briefing, 21 February 2019

Freedom of association and choosing to belong or not belong to a trade union are integral parts of a free society and are fundamental rights.

Trade unions can play a vital role in improving health and safety, addressing grievances, and improving worker well-being. Unions may represent their members at their immediate workplace or in industry-wide negotiations. National trade unions represent the interests of a wide range of workers, from labourers and cleaners to teachers and lawyers. International trade union federations bring together common concerns of trade unions at a global level, representing workers at the ILO and promoting labour rights in countries where unions are banned or restricted.

This IHRB Briefing provides an overview of the human rights risks posed specifically to migrant workers with respect to business practices and trade unions. It includes information on: 

  • the international legal standards
  • what businesses should do
  • barriers to participation for migrant workers
  • union alternatives 
  • grievance mechanisms
  • and more


This Briefing forms part of a larger series, including briefings on migrant worker accommodation and on migrant worker wages and payslips

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