As part of the ITUC’s delegation to the 26th ASEAN Labour Ministers Meeting held on 28 October, UNI APRO Regional Secretary Rajendra Acharya made a strong case for strengthened occupational health and safety protections as well as for a just transition in the wake of the pandemic.
“Occupational health and safety, a fundamental human and workers’ right, is enshrined in numerous international instruments and international labour standards,” Rajendra said. “It is a precondition to economic and social development, and the COVID-19 pandemic has shown how important it is to have safe workplaces to protect workers from infections which have a direct implication on keeping the economy open.”
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, is comprised of ten member states in the region, and together, the bloc represents the 5th largest economy in the world. Yet one in seven people in the region is living in the extreme poverty, a large share of whom are in work.
The pandemic has only accelerated the need for a just transition to stimulate the region’s economy and fight poverty through good, green jobs. The uptick in natural disasters caused by the climate crisis shows how urgent the shift to a sustainable economy is.
“A post-COVID era means the need to formulate sustainable economic and environmental policies that enable countries to grow without being subverted by threats of climate change and global value chain reshoring,” said Rajendra. “ASEAN has already recognised the importance of responding to the global and regional environmental impacts through its Declaration on Promoting Green Jobs for Equity and Inclusive Growth of ASEAN Community.”
The ASEAN Labour Ministers Meeting helps establish the bloc’s Work Programme for 2021-2025, and the ITUC delegation was there to make an appeal for a post-Covid recovery through decent work.
Sharan Burrow, the ITUC’s General Secretary, presented a global perspective on living wages and social protection including the ITUC’s ASEAN Fights for +50 campaign. The ITUC Asia-Pacific General Secretary Shoya Yoshida presented on the fundamental principles of rights at work and social dialogue.