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New online ratings help migrant workers avoid unscrupulous recruiters

March 16, 2018

A new web platform, aimed at migrant workers, provides peer-to-peer reviews of recruitment agencies. By helping migrants avoid falling for false promises, the website is an important tool to combat modern slavery.

 

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Bishnu, a young Nepalese man had heard about the promises of good work in Malaysia from a recruitment agent in his village.

“The recruitment agent promised me that I would get well paid work as a factory worker in Malaysia. I took out a loan and paid nearly US$1,500 to him, but when I arrived in the country, I was given a job as a painter at a much lower wage.

I tried to refuse to do the work and get the job I had been promised. But the supervisor told me that either I work or I pay him US$1,300 compensation. I contacted the recruitment agent back home in Nepal and he promised to talk to the company – but it never happened.

I worked as a painter for 3 months, and in that time I was paid one month’s wages. The supervisor told me that they were holding on to my wages as a guarantee that I would not run away from the company. I stayed for another 8 months and was only paid 5 months’ salary. Finally I went to the Nepali Embassy and managed to return home”.

While millions of workers migrate in search of a better life for themselves and their families, far too many are tricked like Bishnu by false promises made by unscrupulous recruitment agencies, including fake jobs, lower wages and unsafe working conditions, leaving them trapped in forced labour, bonded labour and other forms of modern slavery.

A new web platform has been launched to help protect migrant workers from abusive employment practices by providing them with peer-to-peer reviews about recruitment agencies in their country of origin and destination.

The Recruitment Advisor platform, developed by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), with support from the ILO Fair Recruitment initiative”, lists thousands of agencies in Nepal, Philippines and Indonesia.

The platform allows workers to comment on their experiences, rate the recruitment agencies and learn about their rights. Initially available in English, Indonesian, Nepali and Tagalog, it will be further developed in more languages.

Governments provided the list of licensed agencies and a network of trade unions and civil society organizations in all target countries, are ensuring the sustainability of the platform by reaching out to workers and speaking to them about their rights.

Public and private recruitment agencies, when appropriately regulated, play an important role in the efficient and equitable functioning of both the migration process and labour markets in countries of destination, by matching the right workers with specific labour needs and labour markets, as well as creating invaluable skills assets for countries and communities of origin when workers return home.

Ultimately the Recruitment Advisor will promote recruiters who follow a fair recruitment process based on ILO General Principles and Operational Guidelines for Fair Recruitment and will provide useful feedback to Governments regarding the practices of licensed recruitment agencies, which could be used to complement more traditional monitoring systems.

Recruitment is a critical stage when migrant workers are more vulnerable to abuse.

“Unscrupulous recruitment agencies take advantage of the lack of law enforcement by governments or because workers are simply not aware of their rights”, says ITUC General Secretary, Sharan Burrow. “It’s time to put power back into workers’ hands to rate the recruitment agencies and show whether their promises of jobs and wages are delivered.”

Typically, many workers, like Bishnu, are not aware that they should not pay recruitment fees to get a job. This principle is key and has been listed as one of the ILO General principles to ensure fair recruitment.

“This platform can help migrant workers make critical choices at the time of planning their journey to work in a foreign country. We know that when a worker is recruited fairly the risk of ending in forced labour is drastically reduced,” says ILO technical specialist Alix Nasri. “We strongly encourage workers to share their experiences so others can learn from them. A critical mass of reviews is needed for the platform to be really helpful for migrants.”

“An organized workforce cannot be enslaved, but when there is a governance failure and no law enforcement, then slavery can flourish. Together we will stop unscrupulous recruitment practices, we will eliminate slavery in the supply chains and we will end modern slavery”, says Sharan Burrow.

Now, with the help of the General Federation of Nepalese trade unions, GEFONT, Bishnu has filed a case in the Department of Foreign Employment against the agent and the recruitment agency for not providing the promised job, salary, and will also demand Bishnu’s unpaid wages.

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