02 July 2013, Manila. –Principal officers of the ASEAN Trade Union Council (ATUC) met in Manila to review its five-work programme and explore ways to strengthen collaboration with the International Labor Organization (ILO), the International Trade Union Confederation Asia Pacific (ITUC AP), and other solidarity partners.

Solidarity Messages

Representing the ITUC AP, Divisional Director P Haridasan reiterated ITUC AP’s full support for the ATUC, its activities and advocacies, in cooperation with the LO-FTF Council.

On behalf of ILO-ACTRAV Director Dan Cunniah, Asia and the Pacific ILO-ACTRAV Desk Raghwan noted that the ASEAN is becoming more and more a significant player in the world economy, but essential workers’ concerns like respect of trade union rights, compliance with core labor standards, and wages, among other things, need more attention. Ratification of ILO core conventions remains a challenge in the ASEAN. He says that it is ILO’s view that economic development should take place side by side with greater respect for and compliance with core labor standards. He expressed hope for ATUC to play its essential and indispensable role to promote and protect workers’ rights and welfare in the region. ILO, he says, commits to work with the ATUC.

Briefing on the ILO ASEAN Tripartite Action for the Protection
and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers Project

ILO ASEAN TRIANGLE Project Chief Technical Adviser Manuel Imson shared initial milestones of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA)-funded project. He highlighted what the project aims to accomplish, which includes: (a) A stronger regional legal and policy framework to more effectively govern labour migration and protect the rights of women and men migrant workers, in a gender responsive manner; (b) Enhanced capacity of governments to oversee the enforcement of labour and migration laws and regulations, in a gender responsive manner; and (c) Enhanced capacity of social partners to influence labour migration policy and protect the rights of women and men migrant workers. These he said are in harmony and will advance ASEAN commitments (contained in the Roadmap for an ASEAN Community; the ASEAN Labour Ministers’ Work Plan [2010-2015]; the ASEAN Declaration on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Migrant Workers [Cebu Declaration, 2007], the ASEAN Forum on Migrant Labour; and Initiatives for ASEAN Integration) to enhance labor migration governance and protection of migrant workers, through ILO’s tripartite approach, technical expertise and experience.

ASEAN Integration 2015: The Role of Trade Unions

Professor Rene Ofreneo of the University of the Philippines School of Labor and Industrial Relations (UP-SOLAIR) described the ‘still-unfinished’ 45-years of ASEAN integration efforts beginning in 1967 until the turn of the millennium.

He raised the question(s): “Can ASEAN become one integrated economy by 2015? Can it fulfil its objectives? Will it mean more trade, more exports, and more competitive industries in individual countries, more foreign investments, more jobs, and more wealth for everyone? Should trade unions jump with joy over the AEC future?

He described current realities in ASEAN integration –Open regionalism; Integration happening at the global business levels; Uneven, weak and sometimes contradictory integration outcomes; Limited resources to address development gaps; Social downsides of liberalization and root causes of Asian crisis and the global financial crisis hardly discussed; Real labor downsides

He projects ASEAN integration by 2015 would be unclear, uncertain, and threatening for trade unions. He urges trade union action to (a) push ASEAN towards the realization of its lofty vision: “a community of sharing and caring societies”; and (b) strengthen engagement and dialogue with ASEAN, particularly for the recognition of trade unions as a dialogue partner in the ASEAN.

Dr. Ofreneo concluded his presentation saying: “The ASEAN only putting target economic liberalization measures in place do not automatically lead to economic community-hood for 10 countries at 10 different levels of development, much less to a community of caring and sharing societies. Community-hood requires an architecture of cooperation not only among governments but also between and among peoples.”

“ASEAN should also recognize that the process of community building is still a major work in progress. To complete the process, they need the support and participation of all the peoples, especially of trade unions. Trade unions should continue to demand a voice in the integration process ‘coz it is right and just.”

ATUC and the ASEAN TRIANGLE Project

Plenary discussions resulted in the identification of a number of activities to be proposed to the ILO ASEAN TRIANGLE Project, consistent with ATUC’s priority programmes. These will be presented for the Council’s consideration in its October 2013 meeting.

The ASEAN TRIANGLE ATUC Work Plan 2013-2016 endeavours “Enhanced capacity of social partners to influence labour migration policy and protect the rights of women and men migrant workers.”

The Proposed Activities are set to advance ATUC’s Priority Programs for 2012-2015.

  • Research Papers focused on: (a) Trade Union Cooperation Among Migrant Sending and Receiving Countries; (b) social protection floor; (c) gaps, issues and challenges on ratification of core conventions by certain ASEAN countries; (d) application of ratified conventions; including national laws and regulations passed or under consideration, and cases brought to the ILO on violations of ratified conventions), and (e) reintegration programs
  • Actions for the Ratification, Application, and Advocacy Campaign on ILS (C. 143and 189 as well as C.87and 98), at ASEAN and National Levels
  • Strengthening trade union services for migrant workers through (a) Training of ATUC affiliates’ focal persons/migrant workers desks; (b) Complaint mechanisms and complaint forms; (c) Inter-union agreements on servicing migrant workers; (d) Strengthening and/or establishment of trade union-managed Migrant Resource Centres and maintenance of an ASEAN Migration Data Base
  • ATUC – ACE Interface on Labor Migration
  • ATUC engagement with the ASEAN Secretariat

The following ATUC affiliates and partners were represented in the meetings:

  • Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC),
  • Confederation of Indonesian Trade Union/Konfederasi Serikat Pekerja Indonesia (CITU/KSPI),
  • Cambodia Confederation of Trade Unions (CCTU),
  • Lao Federation of Trade Unions (LFTU),
  • Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP),
  • International Trade Union Confederation Asia Pacific (ITUC AP),
  • International Labor Organization (ILO-ACTRAV),
  • The ILO TRIANGLE Project, and the ATUC/TUCP Secretariat.