Justice Delayed is Justice Denied States Must Act Now to Address Wage Theft for Migrant Workers On the 1st of June 2020, a large coalition of civil society organizations and trade unions released an urgent appeal calling for a transitional justice mechanism for migrant workers stranded and repatriated during the COVID-19 pandemic. The appeal highlighted the urgent plight of migrant workers terminated from their jobs, stranded in countries of destination or forced to return home without receiving their wages, dues and benefits. Due to the absence of effective mechanisms to address wage theft even in normal times, during this extraordinary time of crisis more migrant workers have been unable to file complaints and register grievances. By focusing solely on facilitating (or forcing) return and repatriation and failing to address this systematic form of exploitation, countries of destination and origin have become complicit in exacerbating wage theft. The pandemic has taken a bigger toll on migrant workers than what was foreseen. Although hundreds of thousands of migrant workers have already been repatriated, lockdowns and restrictions remain in place; many migrant workers are forced to live without jobs, without their earned wages, and remain stranded in countries of destination, waiting to be repatriated. While the call to justice has resonated with various stakeholders, States have done little to address the issue with the urgency it demands in recognizing this as a major crisis in labour migration governance today. Unprecedented times require extraordinary measures. It is a legal and moral imperative that States act now to fast track the dispensation of justice in cases of wage theft to prevent migrant workers from falling into a vicious cycle of debt, poverty and despair, and work towards long-term solutions to the common practice of wage theft against migrant workers. Objective 6 of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) clearly iterates that States must : “Provide migrant workers engaged in remunerated and contractual labour with the same labour rights and protections extended to all workers in the respective sector, such as the rights to just and favourable conditions of work, to equal pay for work of equal value, to freedom of peaceful assembly and association, and to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, including through wage protection mechanisms, social dialogue and membership in trade unions”.

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