“A just transition for workers:” Kathmandu conference sets union agenda for powerhouse Asian Pacific region
The UNI Asia Pacific Regional Organisation’s (Apro) fifth regional conference opened in Kathmandu, Nepal, with an appearance by the country’s Prime Minister and a mission to ensure a just transition for workers in a digitalised economy.
At the meeting, which sets the agenda for the union federation’s next four years, more than 600 labour leaders from 20 countries will debate and adopt strategies to grow unions’ power in the new world of work. UNI Apro is the union federation in the Asia Pacific region of UNI Global Union. Worldwide, UNI represents 20 million workers in over 150 different countries in the service industries.
In his remarks to open the conference, Prime Minister of Nepal KP Sharma Oli said: “We measure development and success not by just the GDP but by the progress of the people—particularly the working people. No one should be left behind.
“We recognise the power of strong unions to organise and mobilise for higher wages, a better world, and a just transition. Congratulations to UNI Apro for constantly championing these things.”
Apro Regional Secretary Christopher Ng commented: “We are happy to be in a country as hospitable and resilient as Nepal, and I thank the Prime Minister for his inspiring words as well as for the news of the advances in workers’ rights and conditions here.”
Ng continued: “Like Prime Minister Oli said, we must put people at the centre of development. Too often, we’ve seen inequality grow as GDP goes up, and strong unions are the best way to reduce the wealth gap while advancing workers’ rights in an ever-changing economy.”
During the conference, UNI Apro is celebrating victories in the region, such as big wins by Nepalese private hospital workers. In Bangladesh, Grameen Phone employees gained union recognition after a seven-year struggle. Indonesian union ASPEK mobilized massive numbers to push through a minimum wage increase. In Korea, Oracle workers won their union after a 500-day strike. In Japan and India, printing and graphical unions have formed alliances to grow their organisations by thousands. Care workers in New Zealand have secured pay equity.
But there is still work to be done, and the conference seeks to energize and mobilize the region’s unions to build on their successes through solidarity and cooperation.
Christy Hoffman, UNI Global Union General Secretary, added: “A just transition is within our reach, but it requires us to act now and to act in bigger and bolder ways than ever before. It requires organising and holding corporations and governments accountable. Together, we will make our economies work for the benefit of everyone—not just the few—and that is the goal of this conference and this region.”
On Friday, 22 November, Christopher Ng will stand down after 36 years of tireless service as the Regional Secretary of UNI Apro and its predecessor organisation. His deputy, Rajendra Kumar Acharya, will stand for office.