IOM and the Fair Labor Association Sign Memorandum of Understanding to Promote Ethical Recruitment, Protect Migrant Workers

IOM Deputy Director General Laura Thompson (r) and the Fair Labor Association President and CEO Sharon Waxman. Photo: IOM

Geneva — The International Organization for Migration and the Fair Labor Association yesterday (26/03) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to promote cooperation and mutual assistance in relation to ethical recruitment and protection of migrant workers in global supply chains. 

The MOU was signed by IOM Deputy Director General Laura Thompson and the Fair Labor Association (FLA) President and CEO Sharon Waxman. IOM combats all forms of exploitation and abuse of migrant workers, including human trafficking, while the FLA is a non-profit multi-stakeholder organization that combines the efforts of industry, non-governmental organizations, colleges and universities to promote adherence to international standards and improve working conditions worldwide. 

There has never been a more urgent time to act on instances of recruitment malpractice; too many migrant workers around the world continue to face abuse at the hands of unscrupulous recruitment agencies, and to face significant risks of debt bondage related to the fees and costs they are charged for accessing employment. This MOU will foster an exchange of knowledge and expertise between IOM, the FLA and their partners to better protect migrant workers in supply chains.  

IOM Deputy Director Laura Thompson said: “The FLA has played a vital role in advancing ethical recruitment in recent years. These steps led to the adoption in October 2018 of a global industry commitment signed by more than 120 companies in the apparel and footwear sector. IOM welcomes these efforts and looks forward to continuing our strong collaboration with the FLA. Our organizations have a responsibility to work together to address the risks that migrants face every day in their search for employment and livelihoods.” 

FLA President and CEO Sharon Waxman said: “The IOM has been a valued partner in our effort to trace rubber supply chains in Vietnam, and we were delighted that IOM staff observed the pilot of our recently developed supplier training in Malaysia. Responsible recruitment and mitigating forced labour are integral to the FLA’s work. The FLA and our affiliates believe no worker should be unable to leave a job at will because of the burden of a heavy recruitment debt to an employer. No migrant worker should have to worry about being able to return home freely because an employer is withholding a passport, other important legal documents, or workers’ wages. And no worker should have to risk termination because they are unable to work involuntary overtime or choose not to.” 

IOM’s Labour Mobility and Human Development Division focuses on the protection of migrant workers and seeks to enhance the benefits of labour migration for all parties involved. The division operates the International Recruitment Integrity System (IRIS) — a global initiative designed to promote ethical recruitment with the support of governments, civil society, the labour movement, private sector and ethical recruiters. 

The FLA’s mission is to protect workers’ rights and improve working conditions worldwide for the more than five million workers in the factories and farms of its affiliates. The FLA has three overarching objectives: to strengthen the voice of workers; to improve working conditions through transparency and effective remediation; and to demonstrate a positive impact on workers’ lives. 

For more information please contact Philip Hunter, Tel: +41 22 717 92 15, Email: