Your rights if you work abroad

Lesotho Times - - Business -

SINCE the ad­vent of glob­al­iza­tion, it is a well-ac­cepted re­al­ity that no coun­try, no mat­ter how rich, can ab­sorb all the peo­ple into its own labour mar­ket. Le­sotho is not an ex­cep­tion as we are all fa­mil­iar with the fact that his­tor­i­cally, the Moun­tain King­dom has been ex­port­ing un­skilled labour to the Repub­lic of South African mines. Un­em­ploy­ment chal­lenges present a new op­por­tu­nity to ex­port this time around, more skilled labour to other labour mar­kets beyond South Africa.

The pri­mary role of the Min­istry of Labour and Em­ploy­ment is to safe­guard the labour rights and wel­fare of Ba­sotho mi­grant work­ers in­clu­sive of their de­pen­dants. Ac­tiv­i­ties that are pursued by the Min­istry in try­ing to pro­tect mi­grant work­ers in­clude the fol­low­ing: Set­ting and en­forc­ing stan­dards in­clud­ing labour re­cruit­ment stan­dards; Su­per­vis­ing re­cruit­ment agen­cies; Pro­vid­ing sup­port ser­vices for mi­grants and their fam­i­lies; Fa­cil­i­tat­ing or re­duc­ing the cost of re­mit­tances; En­cour­ag­ing mi­grants’ sav­ings and in­vest­ments. The min­istry fully sup­ports the idea of ex­port­ing hu­man cap­i­tal. Fur­ther­more, it is fully be­hind all en­deav­ours in so long as the right chan­nels are fol­lowed. How­ever, a num­ber of is­sues need to be ad­dressed be­fore is­suance of a li­cense to re­cruit Le­sotho na­tion­als to work abroad. Labour agents are strongly ad­vised to fa­mil­iar­ize them­selves with the con­tents of the Labour Code Act of 1992 in re­la­tion to con­tracts of For­eign Ser­vice. They are also ad­vised to be fa­mil­iar­ized with In­ter­na­tional Con­ven­tions and Rec­om­men­da­tions on the pro­tec­tion of mi­grant work­ers and on re­cruit­ment agen­cies and em­ploy­ment agen­cies. In most cases, labour agents li­censes may only be is­sued with a li­cense to re­cruit Le­sotho na­tion­als on pro­duc­tion of valid job of­fers from em­ploy­ers. Li­censes may still be is­sued to labour agents that show clear job prospects in other coun­tries through re­search par­tic­u­larly on labour is­sues, de­mands and short­ages of labour on cer­tain sec­tors. It is also is­sued to em­ploy­ees (agents) ap­ply­ing on be­half of their em­ploy­ers.

The Min­istry is bound by law to en­sure that all the work­ers have vol­un­tar­ily con­sented to work abroad. Their con­tracts will only be at­tested when it has been as­cer­tained that they fully un­der­stand and have freely agreed to the con­tract with­out be­ing co­erced or un­duly in­flu­enced as a re­sult of mis­rep­re­sen­ta­tion or mis­take. Labour agents/ re­cruit­ment agen­cies are bound by the law to pro­tect the rights of mi­grant work­ers from the day they are promised job of­fers. The obli­ga­tion ex­tends to the pe­riod of ac­tual re­cruit­ment, dur­ing the jour­ney to their place of work, when tak­ing up em­ploy­ment, dur­ing their stay and when they re­turn. It is im­per­a­tive to show how pro­tec­tion will be pro­vided for, bear­ing in mind their work­ing con­di­tions, their work con­tracts and is­sues of hu­man traf­fick­ing. In cases where mi­grants are to pay back the costs in­curred on their be­half, the Min­istry dis­cour­ages high de­duc­tions on salaries over long pe­ri­ods.

In­ter­na­tional Rec­om­men­da­tions state that de­duc­tions should not ex­ceed a pe­riod of 3 months. This is done in or­der that a mi­grant worker is able to main­tain a de­cent stan­dard of liv­ing and also those they do not find them­selves in debt bondage, a sit­u­a­tion which may be in­ter­preted as a case of hu­man traf­fick­ing and or forced labour. There­fore, the Labour Code Act pro­vides that em­ploy­ers shall bear the costs of trans­port­ing mi­grant work­ers to their place of des­ti­na­tion and back to their place of re­cruit­ment, and also to pro­vide them with ac­com­mo­da­tion. The pro­posal to deduct trav­el­ling ex­penses from the em­ploy­ees will there­fore be un­law­ful and will not be sanc­tioned by the Min­istry. This brings about the fact that pay­ment of wages should not only en­able work­ers to main­tain a de­cent stan­dard of liv­ing while work­ing abroad but should also al­low them the ca­pac­ity to save and pro­duc­tively use their earn­ings in an­tic­i­pa­tion of their re­turn and re­set­tle­ment in Le­sotho.

Labour agents are ad­vised to ne­go­ti­ate with their clients (em­ploy­ers) to in­cur this cost. In­di­vid­u­als cases in which em­ploy­ers bear trans­port costs are in­struc­tive in this in­stance. While con­nect­ing the two par­ties (em­ployer and em­ployee) to make them re­late to each other, it is im­por­tant to note that the role of the labour agent with each em­ployee does not end there. Labour agents are en­gaged through­out the whole process, un­til the em­ploy­ees get back home and af­ter they have re­ceived all the ben­e­fits due to them.

Ac­cord­ing to the Labour Code Or­der 1992, a labour agent acts on be­half of the em­ployer. Over and above the ‘Deed of Agree­ment’, Labour agents must en­ter into an em­ploy­ment con­tract with the em­ploy­ees; the con­tract should cover their work­ing con­di­tions. Labour agents are ex­pected to sub­mit a ser­vice level agree­ment with the em­ploy­ers for scru­tiny by the Min­istry of Labour. Whilst the Min­istry con­ducts its own re­search, labour agents are also ad­vised to re­search on the coun­tries they wish to send mi­grants. These are some of the is­sues that should form part of the re­search: Are op­por­tu­ni­ties for de­cent work be­ing of­fered? If yes, are there labour laws that ad­e­quately pro­tect the rights of for­eign work­ers? Are mi­grant work­ers likely to be em­ployed in places where their safety is at risk? If yes, in cases of work re­lated in­juries and diseases, will there be com­pen­sa­tion? Do these coun­tries give due recog­ni­tion to the skills and qual­i­fi­ca­tions of the work­ers? These above ques­tions serve as guid­ance and it is ad­mit­ted the list is not ex-

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