Brands and retailers

The global garment industry relies heavily on the work of migrants, global brands have a responsibility to ensure that migrant workers rights are upheld.

 Adopt a positive approach towards migrant workers and acknowledge that they can and do exist in supply chains.

  • Ensure that migrant workers are explicitly mentioned in codes and implementation policies,

  • Ensure that references to migrant workers are focused on rights and not legal status,

  • Take a positive attitude to migrant work and avoid policies that aim to exclude the use of migrant workers,

  • Ensure standards are based on international conventions and not just on national law, which often offers weaker protection to migrant workers,

  • The gendered aspect of migration and work should be properly taken into account.

  • Compulsory medical testing should be prohibited.

  • Provide pre-departure training for migrant workers.

Auditing and monitoring working conditions should include steps to adequately include the perspective and needs of migrant workers

  • Ensuring an appropriate composition of workers and stakeholders (e.g. migrant groups) are involved,

  • Making sure the right areas are inspected (e.g. kitchens, dormitories, etc.),

  • Ensuring contracts include labour standards that may not be included in local law (e.g. accommodation),

  • Ensuring that the company covers all additional expenses of migrant workers (healthcare, etc.),

  • Providing access to the factory for local migrant groups,

  • Involving unions or migrant worker groups in monitoring of conditions.



The role of governments

There is a need to push for greater recognition of the benefits migration brings to the country of origin and destination, and for a more pro-migrant attitude from governments.

  • Employment law should take priority over immigration policies.

  • Laws should be changed to ensure better protection of migrant workers.

  • Enforcement of existing laws needs to be improved.

  • Foreign worker “first out” policies should be abolished.

  • Visas should not be tied to a particular employer.

  • Application processes for visas and permits should be made simpler and more accessible to workers.

  • When labour complaints are made the government should grant workers involved in legal action against employers the right to stay, work and have their complaint heard.

  • Embassies should take responsibility for protecting the rights of migrant workers from their countries, regardless of legal status or migration process.

  • Take a proactive role in promoting and informing workers about labour rights.

  • Sign bilateral agreements with countries of origin and destination.

  • Sign and ratify the ILO and UN conventions on migrant workers and their families and ensure they are properly implemented.

Labour movement & civil society

Civil society and the labour movement can amplify the demands of migrant workers. 

Representing migrant workers:

  • Allow workers to join a trade union and include migrants in elections and negotiations,

  • Ensure that migrant workers are represented in collective bargaining agreements,

  • Civil society/labour organisations should not pursue/support policies that discriminate against migrant workers (e.g. migrant workers “first out” and “British jobs for British workers” were both trade union demands),

  • Ensure that information and research is done for the benefit of workers and is made available to migrant workers’ groups working directly on the issue.


  • Civil society/labour organisations should work with marginalised people who need their support most, regardless of pressure or criticisms that might be made of them.

  • Encourage trade union solidarity action with migrant workers along supply chains (e.g. transport unions could refuse to unload certain articles).

  • NGOs should shift priority to focus on basic rights of migrants rather than welfare.

  • Civil society/labour organisations should pressure governments and companies to respect workers’ rights.

 Information sharing:

  • Unions from sending and receiving countries should develop joint work on organising strategies and share information.

  • Research needs to be done on the whole supply chain: who is involved, the situation of migrant workers and working conditions, the brands being produced.

  • Research groups should work with migrant workers directly to ensure their work feeds into the movement for migrant workers’ rights.

  • Information should be shared with and between migrant worker organisations in different countries.