ILO Asia and Pacific Seminar on Wages and Productivity: Union Strategies for Wage Rise and Improved Living Standards, Phnom Penh, Cambodia, 27-29 April 2015
The seminar was organised by the ILO ACTRAV in Phnom Penh, Cambodia from 27 to 29 April 2015 with 40 participants from 15 Asian and Pacific countries (26 from 31 union representatives are from ITUC-AP and its affiliates). Noriyuki Suzuki, AP General Secretary, highlighted in his opening remarks key issues on wages and productivities, especially focusing on declining labour income share and rising inequality due to direct/indirect distributional failures.
The seminar identified weaker labour market institutions, having resulted in more atypical employment, labour market segmentation, lower union density and collective bargaining coverage, as a main cause to raise inequality. It has been looked into that higher productivity could create an opportunity for sustainable wage growth. However, the seminar emphasised that just transfer of such productivity gains into higher wages is only realised if sound labour market institutions based on observation of fundamental workers’ rights, social security, adequate minimum wages, fair and just taxation are ensured. Organizing across national boundaries and more coordinated global solidarity actions were also highlighted to tackle problems caused by global supply chains undermining trade union rights.
It is found that most countries has no binding, universal and adequate minimum wage; labour rights, especially public sector workers’, are severely restricted; the union movement is fragmented as the labour market is; and the labour income share is falling. The seminar, given such regional and country challenges, built up union strategies for wage rises and improved living standards in the field of wage setting principles, minimum wages and ratification of ILO Convention No. 131 (Minimum Wage Fixing Convention), and global value chains, including;
Based on equal remuneration for work of equal value, real wages should increase reflecting labour productivity growth and other factors such as CPI and economic growth;
Trade union should play a role in promoting other important policies affecting workers’ livelihood such as taxation, health, housing and childcare;
Trade unions should build capacity to conduct a living wage survey, in order to legitimate demands and analyse the financial statement of corporations;
Minimum wage should universally apply to all workers without exception and its setting mechanism should be tripartite with certain decision-making authority; and
Unions should coordinate globally with one another with global union federations to influence global brands more and link with other groups sharing common goals.
The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) is the main international trade union organisation, representing the interests of working people worldwide.