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Unions in South East Asia call on government to comply with ILO standards

29 October, 2020Unions in South East Asia are calling on governments to ratify ILO Conventions 87 and 98 to protect freedom of association and ban anti-union discrimination when organizing.

In the second webinar on labour law reforms in Cambodia, Myanmar and Thailand on 27 October, trade union leaders could not hide their frustration over weak labour laws failing to protect workers’ right to organize and form unions.

Employers often dismiss trade union leaders when discovering workers attempting to form a local branch of an industrial union. Enormous pressure will be imposed on trade union leaders; management always find fault and terminate union leaders over the slightest offence.

Prasit Prasopsuk, president of the Confederation of Industrial Labour of Thailand (CILT), says:

“The Thai government must protect workers from dismissals when forming a union. ILO convention 87 on freedom of association and 98 on collective bargaining should be ratified immediately.

“The restrictive labour laws must be reformed to allow for peaceful strikes and demonstrations, strike breakers must be banned, and the segregation between public and private unions must be lifted.”

Troubled by similar anti-union discrimination, the assistant general secretary of Confederation of Trade Unions of Myanmar (CTUM), Daw Phyo Sandar Soe says:

“Myanmar’s government refuses to ratify Convention 98. Many companies illegally dismiss union leaders because there is no enforcement and the labour law is weak.

“The government intentionally delay registering unions and handling trade disputes. Many disputes are closed after long delays, putting unions are under pressure from employers and the government.”

Cambodian labour law is less problematic as the government has ratified all ILO fundamental conventions. Yet the law amendments in 2016 and 2020 has led to a deterioration of workers’ rights. President of Collective Union of Movement of Workers (CUMW) Pav Sina says:

“Under the new law, federations can no longer represent workers in trade disputes. unions are required to engage independent auditors to monitor our financial statement, the provision of night shift workers’ 130 per cent pay has been removed.”

Kemal Ozkan, IndustriALL Global Union assistant general secretary, says :

“Many governments have veered towards authoritarianism during the pandemic; democratic institutions are under attack and labour legislation is the next target. We must remain united, defend workers’ rights and a human-centric economy.”

Photo caption: TGSL meeting in July 2019 with Cambodian, Myanmar and Thai unionists.