By ROY RAMOS
At least 200 participants from the ten member-states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are attending the two-day 8th ASEAN Regional Tripartite Social Dialogue Conference that commenced Wednesday at Century Park Hotel in Philippine capital Manila.
The dialogue is part of the series of activities of the regional bloc which marked its 50th anniversary, with the Philippines as its chair this year.
Participants at the conference are expected to tackle labor and employment issues which include good practices in industrial relations, migrant workers, issues that confront workers with respect to technological advancements as well as the public sector, said Bureau of Labor Relations (BLR) Director Benjo Benavidez as quoted by state-run Philippine News Agency.
“At the end of the conference, the participants are expected to come up with a declaration how we will go forward in respect to these issues and concerns in industrial labor relations which consists of unionism, collective bargaining agreement, inspection,” he said though he emphasized that the declaration was not binding.
Labor Undersecretary Joel Maglungsod has pushed for the declaration as ASEAN nations’ unified stance, a standard way of dealing with labor issues.
Representatives from labor groups, Associated Labor Unions-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (ALU-TUCP) and Building and Woodworkers International (BWI) who attended the conference, called for improved labor standards and safer workplace in the light of the mobility of the estimated nine million workers of ASEAN’s developing economic integration.
“We aspire for the inclusion of trade unions in the policy formulation, enforcement and monitoring of general labor standards and occupational safety and health standards among ASEAN countries so that economic growth brought by the integration is inclusive,” said ALU-TUCP National Executive Vice President Gerard Seno. BWI General Secretary Ambet Yuson noted the need to raise the level of workers participation in the regional bloc, both national and local level to avoid a race to the bottom among workers in the ASEAN.
“We have achieved minimum social dialogue in the region but it is not sufficient to gain social and economic justice for ASEAN workers. Social and economic justice should be ASEAN’s goal alongside economic growth through integration,” he added.
ASEAN is a cooperation of ten countries including Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam, that aims to promote peace and security in Southeast Asia as well as foster economic development and cooperation among member nations.