People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 46

November 17, 2013


WFTU Holds Asia Pacific Regional Meet


Swadesh Dev Roye


THE World Federation of Trade Union (WFTU) held its Asia Pacific Regional (APR) meeting in Port Dickson, Malaysia on October 25-26, 2013. The National Union of Banking Unions (NUBE) hosted the meeting. Around 140 delegates represented some 15 countries and several trade unions internationals (TUIs), the sectoral organisations of WFTU. The countries represented were India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Nepal, Philippines, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Cambodia, Malaysia, Iran, People’s Republic of China, Sudan and Argentina, some by observers. The main theme of the meeting was ‘Right to Livelihood’ and George Mavrikos, general secretary, WFTU delivered the inaugural and concluding speeches. 


The Indian delegation comprised representatives from the CITU, AITUC, AICCTU, TUCC and TUIs of Finance, Construction and Energy. CITU and its friendly organisations were represented by Swadesh Dev Roye, Prasanta Nandi Choudhury, Debanjan Chakraborti, Pradip Biswas, Muthusundara and Mahadevayya




The significance of a WFTU meeting in Malaysia is immense: it was the WFTU’s first major organisational step in that country. The NUBE is a very powerful, popular militant trade union centre of the country. Now its affiliation with the WFTU and hosting of the APR meeting will have a deep impact not only in Malaysia but in Asia Pacific region as a whole. The venue of the meeting too was the huge training centre of NUBE with modern facilities and residential arrangement for more than 100 participants --- a huge complex on the shore of Indian Ocean and overlooking the Straits of Malacca.


The inaugural session was addressed by, among others, George Mavrikos and Swadesh Dev Roye, general secretary and deputy general secretary of WFTU respectively, J Solomon (general secretary, NUBE), Ms Yao Li (deputy head of Asia Pacific Division of ACFTU, Beijing) and Debanjan Chakraborti (general secretary, TUI-Energy).


The working sessions commenced with the presentation of a general report by Mahadevan, Asia Pacific region secretary of WFTU. More than 50 delegates participated in the deliberation on this comprehensive and informative report. An important feature of the contributions from the floor was the concurrence on the idea that the working class in capitalist countries is facing by and large similar onslaughts in the current capitalist crisis. Many speakers highlighted the need for strengthening united struggle for people oriented and working class led alternative socio-economic systems. Delegates spoke on the experience of ongoing struggles in their countries, with some presenting videos of workers’ struggles on streets and the murderous attack they faced in different capitalist countries of the region.  


The deliberations continued till lunch break on the second day. At the end of the deliberations, Mavrikos made a brief speech on the contribution of the participants and announced full support of the WFTU headquarters and other regions to the APR in order to strengthen its organisation and intensify struggles here on the issues facing the people and working class.




The draft ‘Malaysia Declaration’ was moved by Mahadevan and was adopted unanimously with some modifications suggested from the floor. It captured the major areas of serious concern for the working class in the current situation, underscored the fundamental flaws of capitalism, and stressed the need for a radical transformation based on the principles of economic justice, equitable development, working people’s participation in shaping their destiny, food and energy sovereignty, and universal access to all essential needs, among other things. It detailed how the current capitalist crisis has clearly demonstrated that capitalism is incapable of meeting the basic needs and aspirations of the people. The meeting also noted that the working class in many countries is striving to rebuff the capitalist-imperialist offensives by organising independent and joint struggles for trade union rights and against joblessness, growing insecurity and lack of social protection, ineffective and indifferent labour administration, and against hazardous working conditions which result in serious loss of lives, limbs and job opportunities, e.g. in the recently Rana Plaza case in Dhaka killing 1500 workers.


The declaration incorporated a 15-point charter of demands and an action programme. It said: “The Malaysia Declaration hereby gives a clarion call to the working men and women of the Asia Pacific Region to campaign, organise and agitate to achieve the demands.”


On this occasion, WFTU deputy general secretary Swadesh Dev Roye too presented a paper delineating the economic and political situation in the Asia Pacific region in particular. Among other things, it pointed out that while almost all the developing countries in Asia-Pacific region had adopted the export-led growth route, the discrediting of the neo-liberal economic doctrine has totally exposed the non-sustainability of this particular growth model that severely neglects the local people and domestic market. Job losses, as a result of the economic crisis, have hit hard the highly export dependent economies of Asia-Pacific region. Further, the region has become one of the world’s biggest sources of migrant labour.


Saying that now it is rather unlikely that the US and EU are able to absorb the products of the developing countries, the paper referred to the observation made by the UNDP Regional Centre for Asia and the Pacific about the US. It said: “The US cannot and will not continue to be the engine of world growth through increasing import demand in the near future. This means that developing countries in general and particularly those in developing Asia that continue to rely on the US and the EU as their primary export markets, must seek to redirect their exports to other countries and most of all to redirect their economies towards more domestic demand.”  




However, with no sign of an early and sustainable recovery in the US and the EU, the Asia-Pacific Region has now become the economic focus of the world. The developing APR countries have different natural advantages and are bound to play an important role in world economy in the days to come. Today the region accounts for 36 per cent of the world economy, though over 65 per cent of its GDP comes from three countries – China, India and Japan.


The paper said in this situation imperialist powers have turned the edge of their hegemonic game towards the Asia-Pacific. While Obama visited India, Indonesia, South Korea and Japan in September 2010, the then US secretary of state Hillary Clinton, secretary of defence Robert Gates and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen paid visits to six other countries of the region --- Cambodia, Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and Tonga.


US imperialists are also taking many steps to achieve a quantum jump in the US’s military presence in the region. Sixty per cent of the US naval power has already been shifted to the Asia-Pacific waters.


In order to create political instability, agents of imperialism have started propaganda to create confusion among the APR people about China, with false and fabricated stories of the latter’s military preparations. This is a new situation full of challenges before the working class movement of the region, while the rulers of capitalist countries of the region are subservient to imperialism. Military threat to North Korea is growing amid a false campaign by both US and South Korea.


The paper also pointed out that many Asian countries have authoritarian regimes which extensively use state violence to repress the trade union movement. In a nutshell, a hostile socio-political climate haunts the trade union movement in the region. The movement here continues to face physical threats, harassment, intimidation, discrimination, imprisonment and murders. The present capitalist crisis is also being used as an excuse to deny trade union and collective bargaining rights to workers in the region. There is an increasing gap between the stated policies and the actual situation on the ground in so far as workers’ rights are concerned. Only 15 countries of the region have ratified the ILO Convention 87 and only 19 countries have ratified ILO Convention 98. Right to collective bargaining is available only to a miniscule three to ten percent of the workers. Such a situation adversely impacts the wage level. Casualisation of employment is further contributing in a big way to this disastrous situation on the wage front.


The paper then concluded by delineating the major challenges before the APR trade unions and talked of the way forward which the WFTU has chalked out.