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Asia Pacific executive committee calls for immediate release of jailed unionists in Bangladesh

14 February, 2017The IndustriALL Global Union Asia-Pacific executive committee met in Singapore on 10 February 2017. This was the first meeting of the committee to take place since global congress, and progress was made towards advancing the action plan.

The committee condemned the crackdown in Bangladesh, where a struggle for a higher minimum wage has lead to the arrest of 35 trade unionists and workers.

The committee unanimously passed a resolution calling on the government of Bangladesh to immediately and unconditionally release all jailed trade unionists. It also committed to continue to support brothers and sisters in their struggle, till they win full recognition for trade union rights and a living wage.

Regional co-chairs Michele O’Neil and Aihara Yasunobu chaired the meeting. Cyrille Tan, chair of the Singapore IndustriALL Council, welcomed the participants.

The co-chairs congratulated the newly elected executive committee members. Underlining the challenges confronted by the global trade union movement, Michele O’Neil said:

“Around the world and in the Asia Pacific region, we are witnessing an escalation of racist and xenophobic attacks on people. The rise of right wing governments in the region and the deregulation of labour legislation has unleashed a vicious attack on workers’ rights.

“The executive committee has the great responsibility to defend workers’ rights, unite people and end the onslaught on workers. United workers struggle across the region show that we have great capacity and ability to do this.”

Aihara Yasunobu said:

“IndustriALL affiliates in the region are facing very difficult situations. Our affiliates in Korea are struggling to restore democracy and defend workers rights. In Bangladesh, unionists are being imprisoned for demanding a wage increase. More than thirty shipbreaking workers lost their lives in recent months in Pakistan.

“We need to build international solidarity to support workers’ struggles in these countries.”

Representatives from sub-regions, including Kim Sang Gu of the Korean Metal Workers’ Union (KMWU), G Sanjeeva Reddy of the Indian National Mineworkers’ Federation, Nazma Akter of Sommilito Garments Sramik Federation (SGSF), and Boenadi Prihanani of the Federation of Indonesian Metal Workers' Unions reported on workers struggles, achievements and future challenges in their respective countries.

They thanked IndustriALL affiliates for extending solidarity to workers’ struggles in their countries, and called for continued support. A video featuring IndustriALL’s solidarity with the incredible mobilization of workers and people across South Korea to safeguard democracy and workers’ rights was played on behalf of the KMWU.

Jenny Holdcroft, IndustriALL assistant general secretary, reported on progress in implementing the action plan adopted at the 2016 global congress. She said:

“IndustriALL is strongly influencing international debate on supply chains to ensure that global brands and multinational corporations take greater responsibility for workers’ rights.

“Effective implementation of global framework agreements is one of our key priorities. Union building projects, fighting against precarious work, and women’s participation in union activities are important areas of work.

“Endeavors to establish industry wide collective bargaining towards a living wage in target countries in the region through the ACT initiative will be launched soon.

“IndustriALL is also heavily involved in union rights hotspots in Sri Lanka, Korea and Bangladesh. We are working across many fronts, including the ILO and EU, to push against repression of trade union rights.”

Annie Adviento and Apoorva Kaiwar, IndustriALL regional secretaries of South East Asia and South Asia respectively, reported on activities in the past and future plans.

They said that IndustriALL’s strategic goals form the guiding principle for activities carried out by regional offices. The organizing project has helped affiliates to increase union membership.

Country-specific interventions in the form of campaigns on national issues, the stop precarious work campaign, gender equality and maternity protection campaigns, unity meetings, trade union networks, the implementation of global framework agreements, training workshops, and the publication of resource materials enhanced affiliates’ abiliuty to defend workers rights.

Nazma Akter of SGSF, co-chair of the Asia Pacific Women’s Committee, reported key decisions taken by the committee in its meeting the previous day. She said the women’s committee firmly committed to 40 percent women’s participation in IndustriALL leadership positions and in decision-making bodies across national, regional and global level.

The next Asia Pacific executive committee meeting will be held in early 2018.