Subject: [asia-apec 871] News & Stories from Asia Pacific Peoples' Assembly (Part 2)
Date: Thu, 12 Nov 1998 16:06:45 +0800
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Fifty-six participants from Malaysia, Korea, the Philippines, Pakistan, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Thailand, Mexico, Hong Kong and Indonesia attended the Labour Forum.
In their presentation
Key Trends of the Workers' Movement in
the Asia-Pacific Region=D3 Bong Angelus and his colleagues
identified an emerging
flexibilisation, informalisation and
intensification of labour. The immediate effects were lay-offs,
adjustment of working hours,
casualisation of labour and
short-term hiring, increased use of on-the-job training, withdrawal of
regular employees' benefits, age discrimination, exposure to
health and safety hazards, and loss of social benefits. The groups
most vulnerable to these were women and migrant workers.
Participants then divided into three discussion groups to produce the following reports on women workers, trade unions and the non-formal/community sector.
The impact of globalisation on women workers (with migrants being the hardest hit) are:
Furthermore, though cases lodged by workers against employers are tolerated by the government, most lose in legal battles. Flexibility leads to decreased space for organising, a fact that is not helped by governments that are rampantly pro-business and anti-labour. Increased domination of economies by TNCs, financial institutions, the IMF and the World Bank leaves governments weak, consequently increasing difficulties for workers and their institutions. The pressure of globalisation leads workers to look for scapegoats, increasing attacks on migrants and women, neglecting families.
Women workers are demanding that the gains made by the working class in the past are defended and reappropriated. They are asking for their right to organise, strike and bargain collectively. They should also have job security (no contract work), just wages, improved working conditions (no night shift and other irregular hours), improved health and safety conditions; the right to affordable and quality child-care, the right to training, affirmative action to promote working women, policies and actions to stop sexual harassment, and the removal of all discriminatory laws and policies against working women (such as income tax, citizenship laws, unemployment support, etc).
To these ends, a signature campaign will be held to raise awareness of the issues of working women. A red ribbon/scarf campaign on March 8, 1999 to protest that appropriation of the gains of working women by the forces of globalisation and a campaign to demand the restoration of the right to organise, to strike and to bargain collectively are also planned.
Globalisation has brought about attacks on trade unions and repressive labour laws have made them less effective. Privatisation destroys trade unions and jobs and creates a lack of accountability. There is a loss of national sovereignty, with the social impact of homelessness and poverty. Moreover, standards in labour and the environment are lowered, industries are closed and the vulnerability of migrant workers exposed.
To assert labour rights, trade unions have to build their strength in local organisations and campaign for the enforcement of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Labour Charter. Other strategies are to organise a consumer boycott of TNC products and promote worker exchange visits. Collaborations with community groups and NGOs on issues like privatisation or student problems will be held; so too negotiate with TNCs to reach labour agreements. Workers' demands will be included in international trade treaties, links between meetings of APPA consolidated, the ILO code of conduct for TNCs and joint country union negotiations held.
The non-formal sector consists of petty traders, self-employed craftspeople and workers who are casual, flexible and unorganised. However, the workshop discussion only focused on the non-formal labour rather than the entire sector. Non-formal labour differs from formal labour only in terms of working conditions and not where each works. The expanding globalisation is increasing the informal sector which then depresses wages in the formal sector.
Thus, it is important that there is a concerted effort to organise non-formal workers on livelihood and community issues, as well as links with the formal union organisations. We also need to revive the collectivist feelings and to defend the present gains of the labour movement by protecting jobs and halting the erosion of social services.
The current recession is an opportunity for the labour movement to question the type of development and the values behind it (such as the equation of economic success with development). There is also a need to assess the impact on the environment, people and workers, as well as a need for an international labour collaboration.