1 Business1 1 AUTHOR: Amish Karki BACKGROUND Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of migrant workers have been repatriated back to their home countries with months of unpaid wages and benefits due. The issue of wage theft is endemic for migrant workers which has been further exacerbated by the current crisis. To aggravate the situation, migrant workers being repatriated have not been given any opportunity to lodge claims against the abuse, decimating their right to access justice. Wage theft is a violation of labour rights. Each year millions of dollars are lost in potential remittances due to wage theft but in times of this pandemic, wage theft is projected to lead to situations of debt bondage – as migrant workers will be forced to pay off the debt incurred to cover recruitment fees and costs, despite returning empty handed. In response to this injustice, civil society organisations and trade unions have launched an appeal to governments and businesses to take immediate action to establish a transitional justice mechanism to address wage-related grievances of migrant workers impacted by this pandemic. The appeal seeks businesses to fulfill their obligations under the UN Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) – to respect fundamental labour and human rights of migrant workers, including paying their entitlements. Businesses are called upon to support the appeal to establish a robust mechanism for migrant workers with claims to provide access to remedy, and to voluntarily mobilize resources towards a compensation fund2. This policy brief will look at the issue of wage theft, what businesses can do to ensure migrant workers’ rights are respected and how businesses can become a catalyst for change in shaping a just world post pandemic. 1 This document is developed as an outcome of discussions between civil society members, UN agencies, business and human rights experts, and business representatives in August 2020. In a webinar hosted by Migrant Forum in Asia, Cross Regional Center for Refugees and Migrants and GRFDT – the speakers provided advice and recommendation on the role of business in preventing human rights abuses and providing effective remedies. The information and opinions contained herein is a guidance to businesses for ensuring justice for migrant workers particularly on the issue of wage theft. 2 https://mfasia.org/covid-19-a-time-for-businesses-to-act-responsibly-in-ensuring-justice-for-migrant-workers/

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