Jump to main content
IndustriALL logotype

Forging a robust safety and health movement in South East Asia

Read this article in:

21 June, 2024Developing a strategic and coordinated action plan aimed at leveraging the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) framework to improve health and safety conditions at workplaces and enhance union power in South East Asia was a pivotal item on the agenda at an OSH online workshop held on 19 June with 60 trade union representatives from Cambodia, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Mongolia, Thailand and the Philippines. 

Main features of ILO Convention 155 on Safety and Health, such as workers' right to receive information on OSH, right to receive training and be consulted on OSH, right to report and right to not return to work where there is imminent danger, were shared by ILO senior specialist Tsuyoshi Kawakami. 

IndustriALL Global Union director of mining, Glen Mpufane, also shared the latest development of standard-setting committee on biological hazards, which may create a groundbreaking biological hazards convention and recommendation. He said it is imperative to strive to build a stronger safety and health movement and union power in the region.

The participants raised concerns such as hot temperatures and poor ventilation in factories, back pain, mercury poisoning, and lack of doctors to diagnose OSH-related illness. The resource persons advised trade unionists to take efforts to prove the working conditions could lead to illness and accidents, to report the issues at OSH committee, and lodge complaints with the OSH authority, agencies handling human rights due diligence and ILO.

The action plan includes:

  • Campaigning for ratification of ILO Conventions 155, 187, and 176
  • Identifying and disseminating information on occupational diseases
  • Engaging stakeholders to improve OSH standards and personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • Strengthening national OSH policies and including unions in workplace OSH committees
  • Providing OSH training and fostering a safety culture
  • Conducting OSH research and improving collective bargaining agreements
  • Forming union subcommittees on OSH
  • Ensuring company compliance with OSH laws and establishing gender-sensitive reporting systems

“Nearly 3 million workers died at work-related diseases and accidents every year, 1.2 million of them are in Asia Pacific. Accidents also occurred in fast-growing nickel processing industry such as furnace explosion at Indonesia Morowali Industrial Park. We must organize more workers to gain our voices and create strong collective agreements. Unions can make all workplaces safer for all workers,” 

said IndustriALL assistant general secretary Kan Matsuzaki.

Participating unions reaffirmed and adhered to IndustriALL’s mission to defend, advance and improve workers’ rights everywhere. The stated goal is universal recognition and effective implementation of fundamental workers’ rights including safety and healthy workplaces. 

“We must leverage occupational safety and health as a key organizing tool to empowers workers to unite around their fundamental right to a safe and healthy workplace, strengthen their collective voice and action and to build workers’ power,” 

said Ramon Certeza, IndustriALL South East Asia regional secretary. 

As for the next steps the newly created regional OSH committee has an ad hoc working group and platform for information sharing, coordination and monitoring safety and health concerns will develop a roadmap to navigate a clear direction on the key priorities related to OSH, particularly to campaign for the ratification of ILO C155 and 187, engage with tripartite social dialogue on the development and implementation of national OSH policy and programmes, and leveraging OSH as a tool to exercise right to organize and bargain collectively.