Asia and Pacific: Unions call for greater focus on Collective Bargaining

Press release | Beijing, China | 27 September 2012

Beijing, 27 September 2012 (ACTRAV INFO)- Union leaders from the Asia and the Pacific region have called for greater focus on collective bargaining, recognizing that this core function of the unions was coming under increased threats. At a seminar held on Changing Trends in Collective Bargaining in the Asia and Pacific Region, in Beijing from 24 to 26 September 2012, 36 trade union leaders from 20 countries shared their experience and knowledge of emerging trends in collective bargaining practices during times of crisis.

The participants discussed the different scenarios and contexts in their respective countries and across the region and ways of strengthening unions and collective bargaining as a crisis response. They requested that the ILO provide support for capacity building, information collection, and share good practices on the promotion of International Labour Standards and, in particular, Conventions Nos. 87 and 98.

“The ILO needs to build an enabling environment for the tripartite dialogue on labour law reform, which is essential for the realization of these fundamental rights. The ILO needs to provide a more thorough analysis of the labour market and areas where improvements are needed to make better decisions in context of the Decent Work Country Programmes”, stated the conclusions adopted by the participants.

“For the ILO, as a priority, there is a need to strengthen its technical assistance in the region and to respond to particular country requests for improved employment relationship”. The conclusions also noted that “there is also a need to strengthen industrial relations capacity in the region”.

This seminar was a first for south-south cooperation with resource and technical cooperation shared between the ILO and the All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU) to host the event.

Participant’s reactions and views

Jiang Guangping , National Secretary ACFTU China

"During the crisis, the Asia-Pacific region has maintained sound momentum for development, with closer regional economic and trade ties, and a more prominent role in the world. The trade union movement in this region has also displayed new vitality. The successful union experience of Asia-Pacific countries has attracted wide attention, and trade union organizations in the region have been playing an increasingly important role in ILO and Asia-Pacific regional meetings. The seminar provided a good opportunity to share the experiences and also promote south-south cooperation."

Dan Cunniah, Director Bureau for Workers’ Activities (ACTRAV)

“The seminar is about collective bargaining. It is probably the most fundamental concern and the everyday work of any trade union. The reason to select such a topic was that this fundamental work of the unions is facing increasing challenges. It is becoming more and more difficult to engage with employers and governments in collective bargaining. At the same time we see in the region the growth and development of unions. We wanted to get together to share our experiences on the recent trends in collective bargaining and discuss what we could do together to meet some of these challenges”.

Rajeshwar Singh, General Secretary Trade Union Confederation (TUC-Fiji)

"Trade unions exist with a purpose. One of the most fundamental purposes is the right to collective bargaining and this is enshrined in ILO Conventions. Regrettably this right is not automatic and it requires protection at all times by the unions all over the world and the Beijing seminar gave a flavour of this for the Asia Pacific region. Whilst there has been the constant rhetoric of goodwill, give and take, nation building, and sharing of the country’s wealth, the union movement has barely had the opportunity to keep its head above water. It continues to come under constant assault and many of the existing legislations and practices are changed to suit the employers, or have been attempted to change in their favour. The right to organize and collective bargaining is the foundation of industrial relations and the formation and operation of trade unions. The rights, freedoms, and obligations are codified in the international instruments of the UN and ILO."

For more information, please contact:

Mr. Pong-Sul Ahn
Senior Specialist in Workers’ Activities
ILO Decent Work Team, Bangkok
Tel: +662 288 2247
E-mail: ahn[at]