Rising Together for Justice: Essential Rights for Essential Workers


Rising Together for Justice: Essential Rights for Essential Workers

UNI Global Asia & Pacific Commerce Sector Committee Member’s Meeting was held in Sydney, Australia in October 2022. The meeting saw participation from 12 affiliates in Asia/Pacific region and was centered around the unions in Commerce Sector.

The commerce sector workers are grappling with massive scale of vulnerability, with lack of access to social protection and affordable healthcare, climate induced natural disasters, introduction of artificial intelligence leading to loss of people centric workforce, weakening multilateralism, rising inflation and economic hardships and shrinking space for dialogues between employers and unions.

UNI Asia & Pacific Commerce focused on the growth of the sector and union in relation to the changes brought in by the pandemic, how work had evolved using IT, the issue of violence and set the direction of the commerce affiliates, response and participation in setting the direction for decent working conditions for workers in this sector. Most important outcome was the synergy to organize new forms of work including those working in E-Commerce industry.

Gerard Dwyer, President Commerce, UNI Asia/Pacific opened the meeting and Welcomed all the delegates to this meeting and expressed his concern about the present Covid-19 situation effecting workers’ safety worldwide. Highlighting the acceleration of E-commerce and our need to represent these workers, the agenda for organizing workers into trade unions and bringing up issues of concern continues to be a priority. He further stated  “UNI Global Union is one key level that workers have… to hold global companies to account”

“UNI Global Union Asia/Pacific stands firmly with all people who pursue justice and democracy both in the workplace and in society” Rajendra Acharya, Regional Secretary UNI Asia/Pacific.

“We cannot speak about democracy without speaking about economic democracy. The social contract and the accumulation of obscene wealth by few individuals. Working people continue to service but there is a breakdown of social contract. Union can make a difference – acknowledgement of workers as essential is a start.  It’s democracy through their unions!” Stuart Appelbaum, President UNI Global Commerce.

Mathias Bolton, Head of Department, UNI Global Commerce elaborated on the importance of UNI Commerce affiliates and their unprecedented effort to protect their members during the coronavirus global health crisis, showing unions are more important than ever to guarantee workers’ protection and health. He acknowledged the outstanding work of supermarket employees from unions coining the phase “Essential Workers” and the renewed fight to put workers interest first in the revival of the economy. He further pointed “ESG is important: Tick the box but not at the expense of labour rights”

During the meeting the participants discussed and presented challenges and union actions on (1) issues of workplace violence (2) organizing commerce sector workers: a challenge (3) post covid landscape of commerce sector workers and building a collective voice (4) digital organising challenges within the sector (5) introduction of artificial intelligence and automation and its impact on workers. UNI Asia/Pacific presented the Commerce Sector action plan and the need for building back unions stronger in the region. As previously highlighted by Shoichi Hachino, immediate past Vice President UNI Apro Commerce, “UNI Apro Commerce is Creating the Future with Innovation Based on Increasing the Value of People, the Quality of Work, and the Capabilities of Human Capital”

The theme of the UNI Asia & Pacific’s Commerce Conference in 2021, “Rising Together for Justice: Essential Rights for Essential Workers” rang true in this meeting as the affiliates worked together in solidarity to reflect the commerce sector worker needs should be prioritised through creation of decent jobs, digitalisation for the job creation; focussing on justice for workers and a safe environment for dialogue to strengthen partnership – and build power for the workers!

The meeting was hosted by SDA Australia. Special thanks to Bernie Smith, Branch Secretary-Treasurer NSW and Gerard Dwyer, President UNI Asia & Pacific Commerce.

UNI Asia & Pacific Executive Committee Statement on Myanmar: LINK

Read the full report: LINK


UNI Asia & Pacific