ITUC OnLine – July 25, 2007

Brussels, 25 July (ITUC Online): Trade unionists from member countries of the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM)* gathered in Jakarta, Indonesia will call on the ASEM governments to step up their cooperation and joint work on employment and labour issues. The unionists are meeting in order to take stock of the ASEM process and provide input to a future meeting of European and Asian Labour and Employment Ministers, currently under preparation. And their message is clear:

“We believe that there has been much positive progress within ASEM. A social pillar within the cooperation is emerging and continuous dialogue on employment is developing. But ASEM has not yet gone far enough. It still has an unbalanced approach to its work and an unbalanced representation of interests within its structures. Economic interests appear to be the sole priority in most discussions, while business is the only non-government actor with privileged and formal access to the process. If ASEM is to be relevant to the people of Asia and Europe, both content and process must be broadened and balanced”, said Guy Ryder, General Secretary of the ITUC.

The meeting is also being supported and attended by representatives of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), the ASEAN Trade Union Council (ATUC), the ITUC’s regional organisations for Asia and the Pacific and the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES).

On the evening of 26 July, the unionists will meet with the Indonesian Minister for Manpower and Transmigration, Mr. Erman Suparno. Here they will, among other things, propose the establishment of formal channels to consult trade unions, similar to the current ‘Asia Europe Business Forum’. They will also discuss how to promote decent work in the two regions, how to define common strategies on life-long learning, how to improve social security, and how to ensure that expanding interdependence between countries of the regions doesn’t undermine, but indeed improves, labour standards and workers’ rights, including migrant workers’ rights.

“Governments in Asia and Europe have taken an important step,” said Ryder and continued “but it can only be the first among many, if they are serious about pursuing a path of better employment opportunities, less inequality and social justice within their regions. It seems that they have realised that the current form of globalisation brings social havoc with it, that it creates as many challenges as opportunities, and that it may impoverish many more than it enriches. If they are truly committed to changing this, then they must further develop the cooperation of their employment and labour ministers. And they must include those things that most concern workers and properly consult their unions”, Ryder concluded.

*ASEM is made up of the 27 EU Member-States – Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Belgium, France, United Kingdom, Ireland, Austria, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Bulgaria and Romania – and 16 countries in ASIA, that is Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, China, Japan, Korea, Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, Laos and – with full effect from the 2008 ASEM Summit – India, Pakistan and Mongolia.