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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

human rights.

 

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

regime.

 

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,

ICFTU-APRO.