Multilateralism in Crisis, APEC Leaders' Meeting 2018 – A good opportunity to rebuild multilateralism

Nov 2018
United Nations
APEC, ITUC, Asia Pacific, Labour Rights, Workers Rights, Labour Forum, Labour Network

The ITUC-AP General Secretary, Shoya Yoshida, met with the Executive Director of the APEC Secretariat, Dr Alan Bollard, on 30 October 2018 in Singapore and presented the Statement of the International Trade Union Confederation / Asia Pacific Labour Network (ITUC/APLN) to the 2018 APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting.

“Multilateralism is in crisis with growing concerns against globalisation,” says the ITUC-AP General Secretary, “And perhaps the APEC Leaders’ Meeting 2018 is a good opportunity to rebuild this.”

In view of the upcoming APEC Leaders’ Meeting in November 2018, Shoya Yoshida, on behalf of the ITUC/APLN, highlighted the following demands listed in the Statement:

  • To ensure minimum living wages;
  • To promote collective bargaining for fair wages and working conditions and increasing its coverage;
  • To invest in adequate comprehensive social protection systems;
  • To employ formalisation strategies for the informal economy;
  • To purge global supply chains of precariousness, informality, slavery and child labour and ensure corporate human rights due diligence;
  • To invest public funds in infrastructure, the green economy and the care economy; and
  • To address gender equalities at the workplace and eliminate the gender pay gap.

The ITUC-AP General Secretary also reiterated the ITUC/APLN’s demand for the establishment of an APEC Labour Forum, a new body with consultative responsibilities in parity with the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) that would also participate in and contribute to the Human Resources Development Ministers’ Meeting and other APEC meetings.

On inclusive trade agenda, Shoya Yoshida stresses that the APEC should include the respect of Core Labour Standards of the ILO, particularly on the freedom of association (C.87), right to collective bargaining (C.98), no forced labour (C.105), no discrimination (C.111) and no child labour (C.182), in to all regional and bilateral trade agreements, including the RCEP.

On the recommendations to transform APEC, he added that the APEC should commit on the following:

  • To achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the UN’s 2030 Agenda;
  • To promote due diligence in compliance with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights of 2011;
  • To engage in promoting environmentally sustainable economy model;
  • To ensure minimum living wage (C.131);
  • To promote healthy and safe workplaces (C.155);
  • To strengthen labour market institutions;
  • To formalise the informal economy;
  • To promote gender equality – C.189  on Domestic Workers, C.183 on Maternity Protection, C.156 on Workers with Family Responsibilities, C.111 on Discrimination, C.100 on Equal Remuneration and C.175 on Part-Time Work;
  • To adopt APEC Guidelines to ensure effective implementation of non-discriminatory policies;
  • To address discrimination against and exploitation of migrant labour;
  • To make commitments to ratify the Protocol to the ILO Forced Labour Convention; and
  • To create and adopt APEC standards for tax justice and to address tax avoidance and evasion.

Dr Alan Bollard, Executive Director of the APEC Secretariat, assured that he will send the copy of the ITUC/APLN Statement to the Senior Officials of the 21 APEC Economies for their attention.

Dr Bollard also shared the work and initiatives by the various technical working groups in the APEC process:

  • APEC Vision Group: This working group will provide directions about where APEC should go beyond 2020.
  • Heath Working Group: Health in the workplace
  • Finance Ministers’ Process: Tax erosion, fair tax issues, inclusive economy issues – access to banking system
  • Trade and Investment: Components of free trade areas, monitor negotiations, capacity building for officials in developing economies

Specifically on the Human Resource Development Working Group (HRDWG), APEC Program Director, Anais Kedgley Laidlaw, spoke about 3 networks in the HRDWG, namely, Education, Labour and Capacity Building. She mentioned that the APEC economies are increasingly interested in ensuring that education policy is aligned with labour market demands; anticipating future market demands, especially in the rapidly changing economy; and the main focus is on responding to the digital economy.

According to the APEC Program Director, this year, the HRDWG has been looking at what competencies are needed to ensure that APEC youth are able to be employable in the future and the other is on digital workforce development to see how APEC economies can harness digital career and technological education, distance learning, to expand workforce development. On digital workforce development, the Philippines is very interested in distance learning to reach out to workers in the remote areas. There is also increasing focus on inclusive trade and Japan recently initiated a project on “Trade and Human Resource Development, Capacity Building for Inclusive Trade”. The Taiwanese government is also very focused on this issue and they have a current project on “Promotion of Sustainable and Inclusive Growth by Enhancing Social Protection in the Digital Age”.

It was shared that the ILO was a guest and had presented at a meeting of the HRDWG this year on “Women in Economy” and Chile has announced that this will be a priority area next year. In addition, the APEC Dashboard on “Women in Economy”, which gives a snapshot of where all the different APEC economies are on specific “Women in Economy” issues, it has just been agreed to add some new indicators on wage equality to give APEC economies a better idea on how APEC is doing in that area and it will be available on the APEC website in 2019.

The APEC Executive Director added that there are ongoing projects and workshops on climate change and green economy, however, as far as labour migration is concerned, especially on unskilled labour migration, he shared that it is a difficult issue and could be a sensitive topic for some APEC economies to pick up.

The ITUC/APLN – formerly known as the ICFTU/APLN – was established in 1995 in order to support and promote the work of trade unions of the APEC region in their dialogue with governments, business and other groups involved in the APEC process. Since its creation, the ITUC/APLN has held meetings with the heads of state or government hosting the APEC Leaders’ Meeting in virtually every year since its establishment.

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