World Day for Decent Work

Statement by Pong-Sul Ahn, Senior Specialist on Workers’ Activities; ILO DWT, Bangkok

Statement | Bangkok, Thailand | 08 October 2014
Respectable Brother Sawit Keawan, Bro Yongyut, Bro Charlie, Bro Somsak, and Sister Wilawiwan
Brothers and sisters,
Good morning

I am very happy to be with you at this auspicious event which celebrates the World Day for Decent Work. From the onset, I would like to convey warm greetings to all of you from Ms Maria Helena Andre, Director of ILO Bureau for Workers Activities in Geneva who is now in Bangkok leading an ACTRAV staff meeting, but unfortunately, due to her prior commitment, she couldn’t join you today.

Since 2008 trade unions have organised the World Day for Decent Work on 7 October for mobilising workers globally to demand the dignity of decent work.

It is pity to not cheerfully celebrate the world day with human dignity and equality. But we rather gloomily address workplace challenges like growing inequality and insecurity in jobs. Many workers in the region are fighting for higher minimum wages, better protection of labour and trade union rights and even greater democracy.

In Hong Kong, workers, students and the public have joined hands and together organized street demonstrations, calling for a higher level of autonomy and democracy, which will pave a road for the brighter future of their life.

In Cambodia, a coalition of union federations has campaigned for an increase in the monthly minimum wage from US$100 to US$177 for garment and shoe-making workers and called for global solidarity to support their demands. The garment workers are deserved to get a fair minimum wage according to the country’s socio-economic performance indicators and simultaneously improve their living standards.

In Bangladesh, Rana Plaza building, an eight storey factory complex, collapsed last year (on April 24, 2013), killing more than 1,100 garment workers and injuring approximately 2,500 workers. Thanks to global pressure and concerted tripartite efforts, the Rana Plaza Donors Trust Fund was established to provide long-term compensation for lost income and ongoing medical costs to those injured and the bereaved families. However, the funds are not sufficiently raised to compensate the injured workers and the victims’ families.

In Myanmar, the Labour Organization Law was passed in 2012, allowing workers to form their unions at enterprise, district, industry and national levels. However, until now, no industrial and national federations are registered because the thread hold for forming upper-level unions is too high.

Among other ailing issues, we are sympathetic to those cases and hoping to get the voice of their demands heard and resolved by the concerned governments.
It is sad that we have had numerous cases of violating labour and trade union rights in workplaces. During the 14th ILO regional conference held in Busan in September 2006, an Asian Decent Work Decade was launched, with a commitment that all ILO member states shall universally ratify eight ILO core conventions, including C.87 and C.98, by the end of 2015. This commitment was reiterated by the 15th ILO Regional meeting held in Kyoto in 2011. We expect all ILO member states revisit their commitment and take proper measurements to abide by it.

Over the years, trade unions in Thailand have launched nationwide campaigns for ratification of ILO C.87 (concerning freedom of association) and C.98 (concerning the right to collective bargaining). They formed a “Union Working Group for Ratification of ILO Conventions 87 and 98”, and have carried out their noble actions to advocate workers and the public on the need for ratification. They made greater achievements on their actions, as the Abishit administration and Cabinet approved their ratification and submitted it to Parliament for approval. But the Parliament was dissolved prior to a national election in July 2011. Then, at the “world day for decent work” last year, representatives of the national trade unions and then deputy prime minister signed a MOU to process the ratification of the two conventions before 1 May 2014. Unfortunately, the government is not anymore in power and it cannot step forward the ratification process.

To achieve “a decent work goal” and improve labour standards in workplaces, the ratification of the conventions by the Government of Thailand is significant. We wish Thai trade unions will carry on their campaign without regard to the given situation. I am touched to observe your world day for decent work today because trade union activities are, to large extent, restricted by the political situation guided by the martial law in Thailand.

Apart from the ratification, promotion and implementation of C.87 and C.98, trade unions need to not only work on the reform of labour law to better safeguard labour and trade union rights but also invest more resource to reach out and organise the unorganised workers to make decent work a reality.
Let us join hands and build national and global solidarity to achieve decent work for all working men and women.
In solidarity,

Thank you