International ICFTU/ICFTU-APRO/ITS Conference
"Democracy for Burma and the ILO Resolution:
Trade Unions in Support"
28 February-1 March, 2001
The Tokyo Declaration and Plan of Action
Leaders and representatives of the international union movement met in
Tokyo from 28 February to 1st march 2001, in the context of the
Resolution on Burma adopted by the 88th ILO Conference in June
2000. They adopted a global trade union plan of action aimed at the full
implementation of the measures contained in this historic ILO decision,
in line also with the Resolution on Burma adopted in November 2000 by
the ICFTU Executive Board..
The Conference heard reports regarding the continuation of forced
labour since the ILO Governing Body had confirmed the ILO
Resolution in November 2000. Forced labour is continuing on a
widespread scale and is accompanied by massive violations of other
Men and women of all ages are forced to work against
their will, including children and elderly people. Women are particularly
at risk. Incidents of gang rape by soldiers are frequent, and many victims
have been murdered afterwards.
Forced labour is absolutely incompatible with the establishment of
democracy. This fact is also recognized by the ILO Commission of
Inquiry report. The 1990 electoral victory of the NLD has been thwarted
by the junta. NLD leaders, when not in prison, face continuous threat
and harassment. NLD offices throughout the country have been closed.
NLD members who have been detained have suffered torture at the
hands of Military Intelligence (MI).
The Conference condemns the union organizing/education work carried
out by the Federation of Trade Unions-Burma (FTUB), including its
co-operation with unions representing workers belonging to the ethnic
nationalities. The Conference calls on the international trade union
movement to strengthen material support to the FTUB so as to enable it
to increase its capacity in organizing, research and information.
The Conference considers that the ILO Resolution of June 2000 has been
the decisive factor in prompting the junta to enter into discussions with
the NLD leaders, Aung San Suu Kyi. It notes, however, that nothing has
been revealed so far about the content of these negotiations and strongly
feels that they can not yet be accepted as genuine; certainly they cannot
be considered as being negotiations conducted on equal terms. Under
these circumstances, ILO measures should be maintained and their
implementation strengthened, as a key instrument of pressure on the
This means that affiliates must press their respective governments and
employers' organizations to fully implement the various steps foreseen
by the Resolution including, besides a review of bi-lateral relations, the
holding of a special session of the ILC Committee on the Application of
Standards and the inclusion of forced labour in Burma as an agenda
item for the next session of the UN' Economic and Social Council
(ECOSOC), as had been recommended by the ILO resolution. This is all
the more important given by the ECOSOC's particular role in
supervising the UN's human rights' machinery and its capacity to refer
the issue to superior levels of the UN, including its General Assembly
and, eventually, the Security Council.
The role of the United Nations Specialized Agencies' was also stressed in
this context. In particular, the need for coordination between the various
agencies active in Burma was underlined and affiliates need to publicly
lobby their governments to ensure that no UN programs has the effect of
perpetuating forced labour. The Conference insists that no ODA be
provided to the military and other official structures but, rather that it
be used to promote the restoration of democracy..
The international union movement also has a responsibility to increase
pressure on the International Financial Institutions (IFI's) to ensure
funds are not made available to Burma which could be used to
perpetuate the use of forced labour or to support in any way the corrupt
and undemocratic regime existing there.
The Conference recognizes the important role played so far by the
European Union, which has imposed sanctions on the regime, including
a ban on arms sales, on entry visas for senior SPDC officials, and a
freeze of some of their bank accounts. The Conference expresses strong
concern, however, at the EU's perceived reluctance to strengthen these
sanctions. Pressure has to be increased by EU affiliates, with the aim of
imposing an EU ban on investments in and on trade with Burma by
EU-based companies. Continued pressure against, and discussion
regarding Burma is also necessary within the ASEM context. The
co-operation of the ETUC is a vital requirement of these processes. The
current and future EU Presidencies must also be pressured to bring
about these results.
ASEAN also has an essential role to play. ASEAN members having
influence over the junta need to use this in order to bring about an end
to forced labour and the establishment of democracy and not, as many
have done until now, to help the junta escape international criticism.
ICFTU-APRO, affiliates from the region and regional ITS structures
have an important role to play in influencing governments in this regard.
Employers also have an essential responsibility towards the ILO and the
international community at large, including the workers and people of
Burma. It is impossible to maintain business relations with Burma
without directly or indirectly supporting forced labour.
Accordingly, national and multinational companies trading with and/or investing
in Burma should withdraw as an matter of urgency. The union movement
must initiate early discussion with such companies. Failure of companies
to comply will mean public exposure by the international trade union
movement and other action as appropriate, such as consumer pressure
and boycotts. Public targeting of companies implied specific
responsibilities for trade unions.
Workers' shareholder action needs to be expanded and strengthened.
The April 2001 meeting of the ICFTU/ITS/TUAC meeting on Workers'
Capital offers a unique opportunity to coordinate action in that respect.
The OECD Guidelines on multinational companies should be put to use
in order to put pressure on companies investing in or trading with
Burma. The UN Global Compact can also constitute an important forum
in which companies can be pressured to implement the ILO decision.
Unions have a particular responsibility to inform their rank-and-file
membership, as well as the wider community, about the situation in
Burma. Optimal use of union publicity material is an urgent priority for
the trade union movement.
The Conference issued a call for an International Day of Union Action
for Burma, to be held on 1st May 2001, during which affiliates should
lobby governments, pressure companies, create public awareness and, in
particular, target Burmese embassies for protest and other action.
Co-operation for this Day of Action should be sought from other
representative elements of civil society, such as student and religious
groups, consumer organizations and NGO's.
Noting that the 1st May is also the target date set for the world-wide
publication of the international poster on the ILO Declaration of
Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, the Conference urges
unions to link on that occasion the importance of Burmese workers'
right to freely organize with the campaign to end forced labour.
The Conference welcomes the co-operation on Burma existing within the
ICFTU/ICFTU-APRO/ITS structures. Additionally, the Conference urged
them and their affiliates to keep the issue of Burma on the agenda of
their governing bodies and to regularly and comprehensively inform
their membership of progress in implementing the Burma Plan of
Action. Affiliates are also urged to report regularly to their international
structures regarding steps taken to put this plan into effect.
Leaders and representatives from the following trade union
organizations attended the Conference: ACTU Australia, AFL-CIO USA,
CCOO Spain, CGT-FO France, FTUB Burma, HMS and INTUC India,
ICFTU-BC Bangladesh, JTUC Rengo Japan, LCT Thailand,
LO-Denmark, LO-Sweden, MTUC Malaysia, NTUC Nepal, SNTUC
Singapore and TUCP Philippines, as did the following ITS organizations:
EI, ICEM, IFBWW, IMF, ITF, IUF, PSI, TWARO-ITGLWF, UNI, as
well as the ICFTU and its Regional Asia and Pacific Organization,