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Global Unions take lead in targeting Burmese junta

ICFTU Online..., 2 March 2001

We want to ensure that forced labour in Burma be brought to a halt, now and forever!

Brussels / Tokyo March 1st 2001 (ICFTU OnLine): Over 50 leaders and representatives of the international trade union movement, gathered in Tokyo at the invitation of the Japanese Trade Union Confederation (RENGO) adopted an 18-point Declaration focused on maintaining the international pressure on Rangoon aimed at stopping forced labour and swiftly restoring democracy in the country.

The Conference on "Democracy for Burma and the ILO Resolution: Trade Unions in support" adopted a series of resolutions among which are the setting up of a campaign to target multinationals which are still trading or/and investing in Burma and a call for an International Day of Union Action for Burma to be held on May 1 2001.

Trade unionists from over 15 countries insisted that employers and governments had an essential responsibility towards the ILO, the UN's labour agency, and the international community, including the workers and the people of Burma. It was stressed that it is impossible to maintain business relations with Burma without directly or indirectly supporting forced labour.

+There can be no doubt whatsoever that anyone doing business today in or with Burma, whether in export, import or investment, in practice offers support to an illegal, undemocratic and corrupt regime," said the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions' General Secretary, Bill Jordan.

Considering that the ILO resolution of June 2000 was the decisive factor in prompting the junta to enter into discussions with the NLD leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, trade union leaders declared that such minimum efforts by Rangoon must not weaken the resolve of the international community. Measures called for by the ILO Resolution must not only be maintained but strengthened as a key instrument of pressure on the regime. The ILO resolution calls upon the other UN bodies, Member states and private companies to re-examine their relations with Burma to ensure that they are not unwittingly encouraging the use of forced labour.

Another decision taken at the Conference, was a call for an International Day of Union Action for Burma to be held on May 1 2001. In promoting this Day of Action, affiliates of the ICFTU worldwide will actively lobby their governments, inform the wider public and target Burma's interests in their countries, such as Burmese embassies, companies trading with Rangoon, etc. Co-operation for this Day of Action will be sought from other representative elements of civil society, such as student and religious groups, consumer organisations and NGOs.

"The international community can be assured that, we, the international trade union movement will take the lead in putting the Resolution into practice and maintaining it until such time as diplomacy has yielded the required result: and end of forced labour, and a return of democracy in Burma," concluded Bill Jordan.

For more information, please contact Louis Bélanger at the ICFTU Press Department on +32 2 224 0232 or on GSM 32 4 76 621 018.