When ETI published its Access to Remedy Guidance in 2019, it detailed everything a business needs to know about ensuring access to remedy for workers in its supply chains; but it also gave rise to a further crucial question: How do we ensure access to remedy for migrant workers, specifically?
According to ILO estimates, there are 164 million migrant workers globally. Migrant workers often face barriers and vulnerabilities that prevent them from reporting workplace issues and abuses. They have often paid significant recruitment fees to obtain their jobs, are statistically far more likely than other workers to be trapped in debt bondage, unable to speak the local language and/or to lack a local social support network.
Since 2019, ETI has collaborated on a two-part project funded by the Home Office, Modern Slavery Innovation Fund Phase 2. The programme set out to:
Develop a set of Access to Remedy Principles that provide practical guidance on how to set up an operational-level grievance mechanism (OGM) that works for the particular circumstances and challenges facing migrant workers.
Empower migrant workers through the development and pilot of a worker-owned app – JustGoodWork Malaysia providing workers with accessible information on their rights and help in deciding what advice and support they need, as well as who to approach for help.
The Access to Remedy Principles have been developed in conusltation with a wide range of stakeholders including businesses, trade unions and NGOs across several countries - 28 Principles have been devised. Ultimately, the project confirmed the fundamental importance of collaboration, in the form of trust and shared responsibility, in order for OGMs to be effective. Workers should be involved alongside other stakeholders in the design and implementation of an OGM, and all stakeholders need to be engaged.
While the primary audience for the Principles is brands and retailers at the head of supply chains, they also outline the roles and responsibilities of a range of supply chain stakeholders – suppliers, businesses, trade unions, local NGOs and governments – in facilitating effective access to remedy for migrant workers.
Migrant workers and the JustGoodWork Malaysia app
As of December 2017, Malaysia had a migrant population of 2.7 million, including 1 million female migrants (migrant workers are predominantly from Indonesia, Bangladesh and Nepal).
In addition to the challenges regularly faced by migrant workers, the global Covid-19 pandemic has had an additional and wide-ranging impact on migrant workers. After company closures, many migrants were left unemployed and unable to go home due to restrictions to travel. Workers reported not being paid their wages and overtime since the lockdown in March 2020. Another impact of the Covid-19 outbreak was the misrepresentation of migrant workers in the wet markets and detention centres as contributing to higher Covid infection rates than Malaysians; this led to a rise in xenophobia in Malaysia, further degrading the rights of migrant workers at an already challenging time.
With an eye to improving conditions for migrant workers in Malaysia, ETI has collaborated with our members, the Malaysian NGO Our Journey, UK-based tech non-profit Fifty Eight, and two Malaysian rubber goods companies to develop and pilot a version of the JustGoodWork Malaysia app. It draws on extensive surveys and interviews with workers in the two companies, and provides information on migrants’ legal rights, from the start of the recruitment journey in their country of origin to their workplace in Malaysia. It guides them on what they can expect from their employers and working environment and how to raise an issue at work. It also provides a confidential, third-party grievance reporting route, if other routes fail. The JustGoodWork Malaysia App is accessible to migrant workers in seven languages.
Collaborating with business to reach more workers
Collaboration is key to helping migrant workers in real time. We are working closely with ETI member, The Very Group, who have been developing a similarly supportive migrant workers’ app, to merge our technology and promote one app more widely in Malaysia, countries of migrant origin and within recruitment corridors.
Key programme features
Pilot Country: Malaysia
Sectors: Migrant workers in Manufacturing (with initial trials in the rubber sector)
Delivery Partner: Our Journey
Technology Partner: Fifty Eight
Donor: UK Government, Home Office, Modern Slavery Innovation Fund Phase 2