The migration of workers to the European countries has been on the rise for the last few decades but several divergences on the issue have hindered the implementation at the EU level of measures guaranteeing a common set of rights for all migrant workers.
Beyond the phenomenon of irregular migrants working in undeclared labour, which is mainly due to the mismatch between political restrictions on labour mobility and the economic demand for manpower, migrant workers are more exposed to atypical employment contracts and precarious working conditions.
Recently, SOLIDAR, a Brussels-based network of NGOs, has published three case studies which focus on working conditions of migrant workers: the briefing no. 16 on posted workers from non-EU countries to Romania; the no. 17 on migrant workers in the Italian building sector; the no. 18 on migrants working as caregivers in Italy.
Are posted workers from third countries protected from abuses?
The case of posted workers from third countries to Romania is particularly interesting since there is no legislative framework, neither at national nor at the EU level, to regulate their activity. Ado Sah Rom, a Romanian NGO, analyses the juridical limbo for which this category of workers are not considered as migrants nor are they included in the scope of the EU directive on posting of workers. The Romanian Labour Inspectorate found many irregularities such as sub-contractors which do not draw up the necessary official documents for posted workers or employers which do not pay salaries on the dates due or pay in Romanian lei instead of Dollars or Euros as it had been promised by the foreign intermediary who recruited the workers. In addition, a study on the working conditions of foreign workers in Romania carried out by the Romanian Forum for Refugees and Migrants (ARCA), the Group for Dialogue Initiative and the Pro-Women Foundation has revealed further problems: abuses by recruiters, inobservance of the initial agreement with the recruiter, inobservance or modification of contractual clauses, unpaid salaries, lack of information in a language the worker can understand and other improper working conditions.
Migrant workers keep Italian business alive despite discrimination and exploitation.
In the Italy’s construction industry, still the most dangerous in the country, foreign workers make up about 17% of the workforce. This research, carried out by IRES, a think tank of the Italian trade union CGIL, shows how migrant workers have been exposed to discrimination, exploitation, poor health and safety standards as well as difficulties in their social and cultural inclusion. Discrimination takes multiple forms and the most common problems migrant workers face are downgrading, lack of retirement benefits and lack of severance pay. Foreign workers are also frequently confined to the lower grades, perform the hardest tasks and are far more vulnerable to blackmail compared to Italian workers.
A private welfare for the care of elderly people relying on migrant workers
In Italy, as in other European countries, the family is still central in supplying care services. Families, which besides are major users of irregular immigrants, need welfare services better equipped to ensure adequate care for elderly people who are no longer self-sufficient. As analysed in the case study carried out by ISCOS, an Italian NGO member of SOLIDAR, alongside ANOLF, an organisation providing assistance to migrants, many families are now turning to foreign family assistants to care for their elderly relatives and this system of private welfare has led to a weakly protected sector. Irregular contracts are widespread and many workers are still in an irregular situation. Despite a national collective agreement on domestic work, working conditions are often inadequate with caregivers who have to stay at the work place, sometimes even without a private room, night and day for a salary that varies between 600 and 800 Euros. Further, wages not entirely declared, no paid vacation, no access to healthcare, are just some of the indecent working conditions found out through interviews with migrant caregivers working in the Piedmont Region.
It is definitely time to address these problems developing a rights-based approach which would improve the integration of migrants and enhance their rights. Both at national level and at the EU level, new policies are needed in order to guarantee the rights not uniquely of high-earning professionals and of migrants admitted on short-term contracts.
link to ILO publication – International Labour Migration. A rights-based approachMauro Striano