Migrant Labor NGOs and Trade Unions: A Partnership in Progress?

03 January 2017

Over the last two decades, the needs and interests of temporary international labor migrants in Southeast Asia have overwhelmingly been the concern of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) rather than trade unions. However, in recent years unions have increasingly been forced to acknowledge that migrant workers are a potentially important trade union constituency. This introduction provides the theoretical framework for a collection of articles which grew out of a project involving academics, trade unionists and migrant labor NGO activists on the extent of union-NGO cooperation on migrant worker issues. It argues that while unions are now much more engaged with both with temporary migrant workers and the NGOs who advocate on their behalf, unions’ approaches towards transnationalism and citizenship (and the concomitant issue of legality) – along with entrenched inter-sectoral divisions and prejudices – continue to limit their preparedness and ability to engage fully with issues concerning temporary labor migration.