Thirty four delegates representing fourteen National Groups attended the
3-yearly Council Meeting of the Asia Pacific Workers Solidarity Links
(APWSL) held at Ratmalana, Colombo, Sri Lanka, from 6 November 1998 to 10
Prior to the meeting the delegates participated on an exposure visit to a
tea plantation outside the city of Kandy. On day three of the programme
delegates participated in the workers "commemoration" of the 20 year
anniversary of the first Free Trade Zone in Sri Lanka.
The Council meeting received reports from the Coordinator and each APWSL
national group for the last three years. In addition special reports were
given on the Asian Economic Crisis and Workers in the Free Trade Zones. A
newly released video on women workers in Sri Lanka, Thailand and Korea was
The delegates observed with great concern that in the last few years in the
name of "globalisation" workers and common toiling people have been
subjected to unprecedented assaults.
The ruling class of the Industrially Developed Countries (IDCs) and their
Multinationals (MNCs) are dictating terms to Industrially Less Developed
Countries (IDLCs). This is being done through the World Bank and
International Monitory Fund (IMF) pushing through Structural Adjustment
Programmes (SAPs). These programmes of economic and fiscal policies are
favourable to the global market dominated by the G-8 countries and
antagonistic to the interest of the workers, women and toiling common
Reduction of government spending (being one of the conditions of SAP), the
budgetary allocation on health, education and social security systems are
drastically lowered by the governments. As a result, hospital services and
educational facilities have declined. Medical expenses are escalating
beyond the reach of the workers and toiling people. This has led to more
sickness and ill health. Life expectancy has been reduced. Every three
minutes one child is dying in the world because of these conditions.
The 1998 UNDP reports says, "Well over a billion people are deprived of
basic consumption need ... nearly three fifths of the 4.4 million people of
developing countries have no access to clean water...one fifth of the
children do not attend school to Grade 5."
Even the workers and people of countries such as Australia and Japan are
compelled to march in the streets raising their voice of protest against
the hike in medical expenses and the destruction of other social services.
Another condition of SAP such as privatisation and deregulation hits
workers hard. Regular workers are becoming casuals, formal service
conditions are converted to contractual. Workers are deprived of provident
funds, gratuity, housing, medical and other benefits. Public and
government sector workers are seriously suffering. Trade union rights are
jeopardised. The measures of the governments have affected the jobs of
many thousands of employees and have blocked the possibilities of new
employment in regular positions. The deepening economic crisis due to
hasty steps of the governments for privatisation is also resulting in
banking crashes as is evidenced in Japan.
Women are the most vulnerable group of workers affected by globalisation.
Free Trade Zones are established mainly employing women workers. These
workers are denied trade unions rights, basic human rights and often
compelled to do continuous overtime against their will to complete a job
within a time. Their services are often terminated on flimsy, concocted
grounds particularly during pregnancy.
This meeting observed that while implementation of the globalisation
policies has served the narrow profit motive interests of MNC's and the
speculative money investors, it has brought miseries to the life of
workers, women and toiling common people.
This meeting also noted that awareness against the anti-people, anti labour
policies of globalisation is increasing. The resistance programmes against
these inhuman attacks on workers and common people are intensifying. APWSL
is duty bound to play its part in the resistance to globalisation that is
growing in the countries of Asia Pacific region.
The meeting decided that APWSL
should continue to:
* support and co-ordinate the organising of mainly women workers in the Free
Trade Zones and garment factories of the region and assist in their
* build genuine trade unions and centers and link them through the
International Trade Union Network (ITUN)
* encourage the involvement of our unions with the formal international and
regional trade union movement in order to make them more relevant for
* advocate for worker rights in this region especially through our
of APEC Labour Rights Monitor (ALARM)
* work for the full participation of women within APWSL and the broader
trade union movement
* build linkages between workers from different TNC's in this region and
* build linkages and networks of workers beyond the industrial sector, eg
* organise opposition to international and regional bodies and treaties that
are fundamentally anti-worker, eg APEC and the proposed Multilateral
Agreement on Investment (MAI).
* oppose the downgrading of ILO Conventions and the attempts to make the ILO
subservient to the WTO.
Reflecting the major changes of
the last 3 years being
* the growing intensity of globalisation.
* the collapse of East Asia and other economies and the global economic
* the rapid informalisation of labour in all economies of this region and
* the growing rates of industrial accidents and deaths and the lowering of
health and safety standards.
The APWSL Council decided to
implement the following new programs:
* combine with other organisations and sectors to build programmes of
resistance to the globalisation agenda of the world's elite
* concentrate on supporting programmes in all countries to confront the
of informalisation and flexibility of labour, support the organisation of
unorganised working in this sector and to help build an International
Network for Marginalised Labour (INFORMAL)
* develop and implement an Occupational Health and Safety Project as part of
the ongoing work of APWSL and link and support organisations such as the
Asian Network for the Right of OHS Victims.
Ratmalana 10 November 1998
That this APWSL Council in Sri Lanka extend its support to the Mirrar
people in their just struggle to prevent Energy Resources Australia (ERA)
from mining uranium on Mirrar land at Jabiluka in Kakadu National Park. We
recognise the justice of the Mirrar peoples claims to the land and their
right to exercise self determination. We call on the Howard Government of
Australia to restore the basic human rights of the Mirrar with respect to
their land and freedom.
That the APWSL Council in session from 6-10 November 1998 in Colombo, Sri
Lanka and attended by representatives from 14 National Groups in the Asia
Pacific endorses the following resolution put forward by APWSL Philippines,
Malaysia and Thailand.
1) Whereas, the Internal Security Act, more notoriously known as the ISA,
is the mother of all repressive laws and policies in Malaysia, and has been
used by the government in that country for repressing trade union strikes
and other actions of workers and employees and the free expression and
peaceful assembly of the people in the said country;
2) Whereas, recently the Government of prime Minister Mahathir has again
employed the full force of the ISA to crack down on dissent and opposition
to the ISA and other government policies, and, as a consequence, scores of
people have been brutally arrested and thrown into jail;
3) Whereas, in the face of and in reaction to such renewed government
repression, there has been a growing and intensifying struggle of Malaysian
workers and peoples to scrap the ISA and usher in freedom and democracy in
4) Therefore, be it resolved that APWSL condemns the repression going on in
Malaysia, and, accordingly calls the attention of the Malaysian Government
to heed the Malaysian people's clamour to junk the ISA.
5) Further, the APWSL Council expresses its unqualified support and
solidarity to the Malaysian workers and peoples struggle for freedom and
democracy in their country.
"That this meeting of the Joint Association of Workers and Worker Councils
of Free Trade Zones and 32 foreign guests from Asia Pacific Workers
Solidarity links send solidarity greetings to the South Korean workers
movement, especially the KCTU on the occasion of their National Workers
Day, today 8 November. We support the call of the Korean workers for their
10 demands at their rally today. Workers of the World, Unite!"
"That this APWSL council supports the creation of an International Day
Against Free Trade Zones and organises protests throughout the region every
year on that day once it has been set."
"That this APWSL Council endorses the call for an "Open World Conference in
Defence of Trade Union Independence and Democratic Rights" to be held in
the United States
during the year 2000."