Migrant construction workers and global union federations: the Malaysian context




Lopez, Elena

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As increased mobility of workers challenges the ability of the traditional labour movement to protect workers’ rights, global union federations such as Building and Wood Workers’ International (BWI) attempt to organize migrant workers across borders. The construction sector in Malaysia is one example of a domestic industry reliant upon the labour of migrant workers. Through surveys with migrant construction workers and interviews conducted at BWI’s Asia-Pacific office, the exploitation of migrant construction workers and the effectiveness of BWI’s advocacy work are examined. Factors identified as facilitating the exploitation of migrant workers include the historic legacy of colonialism and post-colonial transformation, and the obstructive impact of Malaysia’s contemporary laws and policies. As a global actor, BWI’s strategies for incorporating migrant workers within transnational advocacy initiatives include the development of migrant support groups, SMS helplines, and local capacity building for migrant workers.



Migrant workers, Global union federations, Malaysia, Labour migration