Migrant Workers

Migrant Workers and Trade Unions

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

Latest IHRB Publications

Acting on India’s POSH Act

Workplace Sexual Harassment Law Needs Effective Implementation 

For more than a year, India has been stunned by women journalists, students, actors, and other women professionals throughout the country who have gone public with accounts of sexual...

21 March 2019

Commentary by Anita Cheria, Director, OpenSpace

Dangerous Words, Deadly Weapons

Business Leadership Needed to Confront Growing Extremism

The horrific killing of at least 50 people in two New Zealand mosques is a tragic reminder of twin viruses attacking our societies - growing anti-immigrant, nationalist and racist rhetoric...

Rights and Wrongs - Amazon and New York: Lessons for the Extractive Sector

The unraveling of Amazon’s plans to set up its second headquarters at Long Island City in New York is a unique moment in the annals of corporate interface with communities opposed to their presence. 

In most instances, companies have won the...