Workers’ organizations – trade unions - are one of the three pillars of the ILO’s tripartite structure. Workers’ representatives play an equal part in shaping ILO policies and programmes, alongside employers and Government representatives. Social dialogue between these tripartite constituents plays a core role in promoting the ILO’s overarching goal of achieving decent work for all working men and women and, at a practical level, implementing the individual Decent Work Country Programmes that guide the ILO’s work in each country.
Trade unions in the region face some major challenges in protecting the rights and interests of workers. Key issues include promoting the right to organise and to bargain collectively, a lack of protection and rights for migrant workers, forced labour, bonded labour, child labour, gender inequality, increasing labour flexibility, a lack of social security and persistent poverty. Their key role is to promote and protect workers’ rights at national and international level through campaigning for the ratification and promotion of the ILO’s core conventions, while safeguarding the values of free, independent and democratic trade unionism. The protection of migrant workers, organising and empowering workers, and enhancing research and training capacity are other priority areas of work.
At national level the structure of workers’ organisations varies from country to country, reflecting workers’ needs in different sectors and industries. There are two major regional trade union bodies. The International Trade Union Confederation - Asia Pacific (ITUC-AP) was founded in September 2007 in Bengaloru, India, with the participation of 48 national union affiliates from 29 countries. The World Federation of Trade Unions - Asia Pacific Region (WFTU-AP) is an affiliation of national unions from countries throughout the region.