MIGRATION IN 2015“International Trade Agreements and the resulting poverty coupled with a lack of social protections and violence were all recognized as reasons for the increased migration of women and children. Some countries are reporting an increase in migration as high as 50 per cent,” said Sheryl Burns one of CUPE’s delegates to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW59) meeting in New York city.

Burns along with Elizabeth Dandy, Director of the CUPE Equality Branch attended the meeting in March.

The need for decent work as defined by the International Labour Organization (ILO) was widely recognized at the UNCSW59 and supported by many representatives and delegates, including the trade union delegation. “Because temporary migration is embedded in these trade agreements, a trend of “circular migration” has emerged in which citizens are expected to migrate to receiving nations on a temporary basis to meet labour demands, subsequently returning home, with new-found skills,” said Burnes. “While receiving countries rely on migrants, they have adopted hostile immigration policies that leave migrants with few, if any rights and protections.”

Women, many of whom were migrants, spoke at the UNCSW59. Their stories told of significant pain, hardship, violence, loneliness and fear. They described years of separation from loved ones, including spouses and their children. Transgender migrants described imprisonment, torture and even death upon entry into receiving nations.

Many of these women recognize that organizing and forming alliances with trade unions is the only way to address the increasing exploitation of migrant workers and have formed powerful organizations such as the National Network for Immigrant Rights and Migrant Rights International in order to lobby on behalf of migrant and domestic workers.

“If Canada is to address its role in the exploitation of migrants, including domestic workers, they must ratify the Domestic Worker’s Convention, Convention 183 and other related Conventions,” said Burns.