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Asian paper sector unions unite

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14 August, 2020Full of solidarity and energy, the IndustriALL Global Union South East Asian Pulp and Paper Trade Union met digitally this week.

Focusing on sharing analysis and union action in face of the Covid-19 pandemic, this group identified common challenges throughout the region for paper workers and their communities.

The burning issue of the group is the ongoing struggle for reinstatement of 38 trade union members at the Indonesian pulp maker Tanjungenim Lestari. When the outsourced contract expired for these workers, the employer took the opportunity to bust the union and replace the workers, who are all members of IndustriALL affiliate FSP2KI. This is illegal under Indonesian law and in contradiction to international labour standards.

The network of IndustriALL affiliates conducted a session on the case and agreed on solidarity action to support the campaign for reinstatement.

The network analyzed the trade union situation in the sector in Australia, Japan, Philippines and Thailand, as well as Indonesia.

Throughout these countries working people are suffering from the economic impact of the virus, with many job losses. However, the pulp and paper sector is much less badly affected in this regard than other industries.

The Thai trade union delegates updated the group on their progress in formalizing their national network of paper sector unions. This increased coordination will continue and the group aims to grow.

Throughout the region similar measures are being taken in the pulp and paper workplaces to combat the spread of the virus, with testing, track and tracing, mask wearing, increased hygiene, and social distancing. The unions are demanding strong worker involvement in the management of those safety rules and procedures.

It was noted that several scrupulous employers were attempting to take advantage of the pandemic to cut employment benefits, and the unions discussed how to use national legislation to resist those efforts.

Government aid schemes have mitigated much of the severe impact in the countries, but there is significant concern about economic hardship when those schemes end.


The Chair of the network, Denise Campbell-Burns of the CFMEU Australia said: 

“Again, we see so many of the same issues across the sector. Our responsibility is to hold the employers to account to make sure that our members are safe at work, with the best job security possible in these uncertain times. It is important for us to share information and knowledge, throughout the region, and we will continue to do so.”

IndustriALL Pulp and Paper Sector Director Tom Grinter said:

“Over the last four years, this group has built itself into an affective campaigning group through annual physical meetings, and constant communication. Now the group will take unified action to stand with the 38 FSP2KI members in their fight for their jobs.”