The Global Union Federations and Temporary Labour Migration in Malaysia

05 January 2017

Since the mid-2000s, the Global Union Federations have played a pivotal role in the reshaping of Malaysian trade unions’ attitudes towards temporary migrant workers, providing the conceptual tools and material resources – and, in many cases, the motivation – required to reach out to this most non-traditional of non-traditional constituencies. This article documents the different approaches taken by a number of Global Union Federations as they seek to apply lessons learnt from the experience of their European affiliates in the Malaysian context. It argues that while Global Union Federation agendas are largely determined by donor and head office priorities, those agendas are mediated, and sometimes transformed, as they are rolled out through the Global Union Federations’ regional offices and to local affiliates in ‘target countries’ like Malaysia. This finding not only has consequences for temporary migrant workers in particular destinations, but also for our understanding of the structures of the international labour movement and the practices of trade union aid.