IRIS milestone alert – IRIS Capacity-Building Programme, Mexico
In March, the IRIS team accompanied a labour recruiter participating in the IRIS Capacity-Building Programme, to observe the recruitment process and provide migrant training activities. These activities were carried out in rural communities that serve as the point of origin for agricultural workers destined to take up employment in the United States of America.
The following blog is written by Mattias Carlson, the Project Officer on site. "During the course of the site visit, the team engaged with the company’s recruitment partners and key community leaders, gaining a better understanding of the end-to-end recruitment system. Further, IRIS team members directly engaged with workers and their families, learning about the impact of ethical recruitment on their livelihoods.
The company’s distinctive approach to recruitment closely cooperates with local community leaders, to generate trust in the hiring process. As such, upon selection of a suitable region or area for recruitment (typically based on crops grown), the company visits the local parish to begin building a relationship. In addition, the company identifies trusted civil society organizations dedicated to the protection of workers. The goal is to engage the CSO's as external monitoring partners.
Local partnerships allow for information about upcoming recruitment opportunities to spread organically through networks of migrant communities. They utilize key messages, specifically that recruitment is free for workers (an essential ethical recruitment principle). Prospective workers can submit applications for pre-screening and when completed, the recruiter travels directly to communities in order to conduct interviews and provide further information about the employment opportunities available. Often times, recruiters utilize their local partners’ facilities for the interviews and training.
When partners are present to oversee the recruitment process, it not only builds further trust and confidence in the validity of the jobs and secure recruitment, but provides a way to ensure applicants do not have to pay transportation or other related costs to attend interviews. This would otherwise be a common practice in Mexico, with some prospective workers traveling up to several days to attend interviews or recruitment-related appointments.
Once candidates have been interviewed and selected, they participate in pre-departure orientation and training, to ensure they are well prepared for their job abroad. They are provided comprehensive information about the visa application process, their employment contract (including all the applicable terms and conditions), rules of the workplace, as well as rights and responsibilities. The recruiter also provides translators. The training is purposefully designed to use practical exercises, in order to build a strong group dynamic amongst the workers. This then functions as an informal support system once the cohort is deployed to the destination country.
As workers become ready for deployment, the recruiter organizes and covers the costs of travel for migrant workers from their home communities to the workplaces, ensuring that migrants do not bear any of the costs. At the workplace, the recruiter works with their external monitoring partners as an independent verification channel-through which workers can lodge grievances and complaints.
Additionally, the recruiter has also developed an app through which workers may fill out a survey before, during, and after employment. This allows the company to track worker satisfaction with the process. The survey has several "red flag" questions in place, meaning if the worker answers "yes," it automatically triggers immediate attention and follow-up. After workers have filled out the final report upon their return home, the external monitoring partners compile a report with results from all surveys. These are then submitted and discussed with the employer, to ensure continuous improvement.
In discussions with workers and their families, it was expressed that the migrants saw a real return on investment by going through this particular recruiter. Thus, if they were not selected one year, they would rather wait than take the risk of going with another recruiter. They also expressed how important it was to go as a team and described how the close connection between the recruiter and the community was helpful in planning how to use the money they earn productively. Most importantly, they mentioned that because there were no recruitment fees or related costs, they could save more money and invest in their homes, buy a piece of land to grow coffee or other crops, or even set up their own small grocery store. In this way, the process developed and implemented by the recruiter is holistic in nature."