Tackling the chain and financial institutions

We want decent, safe, and healthy work and working conditions for construction workers in low- and middle-income countries, including migrants.

Decent work bij changing policy

With their metros, power stations, dikes, highways, and dams, low- and middle-income countries have made considerable progress in recent decades. As a result, the construction sector, which has many labour migrants, now accounts for one-eighth of the employment in these countries. Many of the large construction projects are financed by international financial institutions. Mondiaal FNV strives to achieve decent work in particular by changing their policy.

Safety and health

Most construction work in low- and middle-income countries is heavy, unsafe, poorly paid, informal, short-term, and of low status. Construction workers are exposed to dust and chemicals, and have to lift heavy loads and work at great heights. This results in many accidents and considerable damage to health. At the same time, construction sites often lack basic necessities, such as protective equipment, toilets, clean drinking water, and first-aid materials. Women – under-represented in the construction industry – have an extra hard time. Among other types of difficulties, they also have to cope with sexual harassment.

Migrant workers

Construction companies often recruit their staff from poor rural areas. For people without land or education, working in construction is often the only option. Thousands of migrants from India, Pakistan, and Nepal, for example, ended up in Qatar to help build the football stadiums for the 2022 World Cup. They had to cope with the kafala system that exists in various Arab countries. This nefarious system changed employment into servitude, in which workers’ passports were taken away, and changing employers was not allowed without permission from your boss.] Pressure from the trade union movement forced Qatar to abolish the kafala system. Working conditions during construction of the football stadiums were degrading, with, among other things, migrant workers having to work in temperatures of 45 degrees. Countless deaths occurred as a result.

Our goal

We want decent, safe, and healthy work and working conditions for construction workers in low- and middle-income countries, including migrants.

This calls for:

  • Strong, active, and representative trade unions, both on construction sites and in the migrant workers’ countries of origin;
  • Governments that respect the rights of workers (including migrants) through laws and policies based on core labour standards;
  • Employers who provide decent work and working conditions throughout the chain;
  • International financial institutions that enable decent work and working conditions throughout the chain through fair public procurement, contracting, and monitoring.

How do we operate?

These are four focal points:

  • Address financial institutions. Through global union federations like Building and Wood Workers' International (BWI), we exert pressure on international financial institutions that finance construction projects to implement basic labour and social standards. In the Netherlands, the FNV, as an FMO shareholder, would like to see this development bank move in a more socially-oriented direction, and encourages the government to exert a positive influence on organisations such as the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank.
  • Strengthen unions. Strong unions can encourage employers to make working conditions more acceptable, both on the construction site and in the rest of the supply chain. By helping employers with research, they can expose abuses. Where labour unions are not allowed, like in many Gulf States, workers’ committees can be formed. We promote this through our main partner BWI, which operates in 125 countries.
  • Make international agreements. The UN International Labour Organization (ILO) has drawn up rules regarding migrant workers. Agreements on migration and working conditions have also been laid down in the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration. Our partner BWI, among others, helps to implement the Global Compact. With our partners, we inform governments further about compliance with agreements, and insist on active monitoring by the Labour Inspectorate.
  • Influencing companies. Internationally, we help to conclude Global Framework Agreements with multinationals. These agreements include minimum standards and monitoring as well as grievance mechanisms. Nationally, we assist trade unions in concluding collective agreements and in pointing out legislation and international agreements to employers. We also focus on informal work.

In which countries do we operate?

South Asia, East Africa, the MENA-region (the Middle East and North Africa), Ethiopia, and Rwanda.

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