The right not to migrate and the right to sustainable development



The phenomenon of migration from the perspective of trade unions in the Americas, results essentially from the lack of development opportunities and social justice.

This is the meaning of the expression “the right not to migrate” reiterated and highlighted by Victor Baez, General Secretary of the Trade Union Confederation of the Americas (TUCA) during his address to the international seminar held in the TUCA offices in São Paolo on 3-4 September.

Participants came from trade unions in Chile, Brazil, Colombia, Paraguay, the Dominican Republic, Panama and Mexico, in addition to Italy’s Confederazione Generale Italiana del Lavoro (CGIL), Germany’s Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Foundation and the International Labour Organization (ILO).

The right not to migrate and the right to sustainable development are medium-term objectives.

In the intervening period however, trade unions are organising to guarantee aid and access to fundamental labour rights for migrants who cross Latin American borders in search of better living conditions.

Bolivian, Paraguayans, Peruvians, Ecuadorians, Haitians and Nicaraguans are amongst the millions of workers that migrate to a labour market that is exploitative and without rules and without respect for human and labour rights.

This is taking place in a Latin America where the majority of countries forbid foreigners from joining trade unions, leaving them – without protection and without the right to collective bargaining – in the hands of middlemen and traffickers (“coyotes and rescatiris”), and other criminals that continue to act as if we were still in the era of slavery.

“Capital has more rights than people.” This is the reality and the contradiction that persists in the neo-liberal model of our societies and that professes to respect universal human rights but that in practice fosters exploitative economic and trade relations.

Those affected, in the first instance, continue to be those in the poorest and most vulnerable sectors. People such as forced migrants – men and women that have no other choice but to migrate, unprotected, ready to do any type of work to survive.

The reality, which is supported by the feedback given by the trade union delegations, is that there is a need to develop a coordinated strategy and action plan between the trade unions in the source and destination countries for the migration flows.

Argentina and the Dominican Republic appear to have the most advanced trade union experience in the region in this area.

Also noteworthy is the launch of a pilot trade union aid and training project for migrants supported by Brazil’s CUT , CGIL’s migrant’s aid service, INCA, in collaboration with TUCA in São Paolo.

This project will be operational in the coming months and will provide guidelines and share experiences between the Latin American trade union movement as a whole.