Thursday, October 21, 2010

71 Groups: JVC Unjustly Discriminates Against Burmese Migrant Women Workers Who Claim Worker Rights

Media Statement – 21/10/2010

JVC Unjustly Discriminates Against Burmese Migrant
Women Workers Who Claim Worker Rights

We, the undersigned 71 civil society organizations and groups, would like to express our serious concern that JVC has indicated that they will not re-new the employment contracts of Pa Pa Aye and 15 other Burmese women migrant workers, who lodged a claim at the Labour Department claiming worker rights that the JVC company had violated, amongst them the wrongful deduction of their wages to recover levy that employers have to pay when they employ foreign workers. The other 7 workers, who complained, whose contract was renewed in August, will also be terminated and repatriated. The information contained in this statement has been provided by the affected workers.

JVC has its factory at Lot. No.1, Persiaran Jubli Perak, Jalan 22/1, Section 22, Shah Alam, 40702 Shah Alam, Selangor, Malaysia, and they manufactures cameras, video cameras and audio equipment components, amongst others.

On 21/7/2010, Pa Pa Aye and 22 other women migrant workers lodged a complaint at the Subang Jaya Labour Office in Malaysia. Amongst their demands were for the return of monies wrongly deducted from their wages for levy the employer had to pay to the Malaysian government for employing migrant workers, other unlawful deductions like transfer fees, saving funds, etc amounting to about RM3,500-00, and for the return of the Passports which are still wrongly being held by  the employer . They were also claiming for the balance of the wages that they were entitled. According to the workers, the employer was to pay them much more about RM50 per day but they were only paid the sum of RM23.

On 6/8/2010, after night shift when the women workers were being transported back to their homes, their bus took a different route, and suddenly stopped where the agent was waiting. The agent then called one of the Burmese women migrant workers who had complaint to the Labour Department and asked her to leave the bus and follow him. The workers suspected that the agent was trying to get the worker sent back to Burma, and they stood together and prevented the agent from taking the worker. The workers then lodged a police report about this incident. There have also been other cases of harassment, whereby in one incident 3 men entered the women’s hostel and threatened them.

The workers, through their representatives, which included an officer from the Malaysian Trade Union Congress (MTUC) also complained about this incident to JVC, and JVC gave the assurance that this will not happen again and they guaranteed that all workers could continue to work in JVC.

On 12/8/2010, the agent tried to force the workers to sign a new contract, but all workers refused to sign it. The pressure on the workers to sign the new contract took place at the factory compound. Later on the same day the JVC’s Human Resource Manager, one Mr. Mazlan, and the HR Assistant Manager, one Ms. Ida, also tried to pressure the workers to sign the new contracts. The new contract was written in English only (just like their old contract). The workers to date do not have a copy of their old contract, as they were never given a copy. The new contract allegedly stated that their daily salary will be reduced to RM21, which is RM2 less than what the workers have been getting until now.

On 25/8/2010, the Burmese workers informed us that JVC had summarily dismissed 30 Sri Lanka women migrant workers in retaliation for their demand that JVC pay them their promised monthly salary of RM750. After the dismissal JVC and the agent, Fast Link Trans, began forceful repatriation of the workers. On 28/8/2010, 8 Sri Lankan workers were allegedly sent home. These workers apparently never received the amount owing them and/or any compensation for premature termination of their contract.

On 8/9/2010, JVC’s Human Resources Officer, in the presence of the Labour Officer and the agent’s representative from a company known as Fast Link Trans, tried to return to the Burmese workers the amount they said was the levy that had been wrongfully deducted from the wages and asked the workers to sign a document which was in English. The workers refused as the amount offered was far less than the sum deducted, and  they did not want to sign any document which was in a language they did not know.
The company also refused to give a copy of the document to enable them to get an independent person who spoke Burmese to translate its contents to them.

On 28/9/2010, the agent informed the workers that when their current annual contract expires, their contracts will not be renewed and they will all be sent back to Burma. The contracts of 15 of these workers’ contract will expire in October, and the rest by the end of the year. Pa Pa Aye’s own contract expires in early November. The contracts of 7 others which expired in August have already been renewed. Later, on about 7/10/2010, the agent informed the workers that all 23 of them will be terminated and sent back to Burma. The process of forced repatriation of the Burmese workers has already begun with one worker being sent back to Burma on 9/10/2010.

It must be stated that according to the workers, when they came to Malaysia to work with JVC the agreement was that they will be employed for a period of at least 3 years, but when they arrived and started working, they were made to sign 1-year contracts with the verbal assurance that it will be renewed every year for at least a total of 3 years. The threat of early termination and deportation is also wrong and discriminatory as JVC has continued to renew contracts of others who had started work around the same time as these Burmese migrant workers.

Any early termination, and/or non renewal of the 1-year employment contracts by JVC can reasonably be seen as a retaliation of the company against workers who have elected to claim their rights as workers. Their case at the Labour Department is pending, and a termination and repatriation back to Burma will mean that the workers will not be able to continue to pursue their claim in the Labour Department/Court as the presence of the worker in the hearing of their claims against the employer is compulsory, and their absence will mean that their case will just be struck off,

We, the undersigned groups, call upon JVC to respect worker rights and their right to access to justice and not cause these 23 Burmese workers to be terminated and deported.

We  urge that JVC to respect the law and the legal process initiated by the lodging of the complaint by the workers at the Labour Department, and to respect and abide with the outcome of the hearing at the Labour Court. Workers should not be terminated and/or discriminated against by reason of the fact that they choose to demand for their rights or better rights as workers. For those who have already been repatriated back to their country of origin, including those workers from Sri Lanka, JVC must compensate them for their expenses in coming to Malaysia to work, and for the early termination of their employment.

We call on JVC to act justly and not to terminate these workers, and to renew their contract so that they can pursue their claims until completion. JVC should also adhere to their earlier promise that these workers will be employed for a period of at least 3 years, for migrant workers do expend a lot of money (850-1,000 USD) when they do come to Malaysia to work and any early termination and breach of rights will only leave these workers in a worse situation as they may not be even to settle the debts they incurred in coming here to Malaysia to work.

We call on Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM) to inquire into this complaint concerning the violation of worker rights by JVC.

We also call on the Malaysian government and the Human Resource Minister to ensure that no workers are terminated and/or discriminated against by reason of the fact that they have stood up to claim their rights as workers.

The Malaysian government should also ensure that no migrant worker is terminated and/or repatriated back to their country of origins until the employer has fully settled all outstanding worker claims and/or payments. If migrant workers are terminated, the Malaysian government must ensure that these workers are allowed to stay and work legally in Malaysia until all outstanding claims and legal processes are settled. If special passes and visas are required to ensure workers ability to stay and work legally, it must be given gratis without requiring the workers to pay anything. Worker cases must be expedited, and independent translators should be available at all Labour Departments and courts.

Labour rights must take precedent over immigration law. Do not deport until worker claims are determined and settled by Labour Department and/or courts.

Charles Hector
Pranom Somwong

For and on behalf of the following 71 organizations

Asia  Pacific Forum on Women ,Law and Development ( APWLD)
Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants (APMM)
Asian Migrants Center (AMC)
Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma)
Building and Wood Workers International Asia Pacific Regional Office
Burma Campaign, Malaysia
Burmese Women's Union (BWU)
Coalition To Abolish Modern-Day Slavery In Asia
Committee for Asian Women (CAW)
Community Development Services (CDS), Sri Lanka
Coordination of Action Research on AIDS & Mobility (CARAM-ASIA)
Democratic Party for a New Society (DPNS), Burma
FICAP – Aichi
Filipino Migrants Center – FMC
Forum for Democracy in Burma
Grassroots Human Rights Education & Development (GHRE-FED), Thailand
Human Rights Education Institute of Burma
IHI Action Group (Iwi Have Influence), New Zealand
IMA Research Foundation, Bangladesh
Kachin Women's Association, Thailand
KAFIN – Nagoya
KL & Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall Youth Section
League of Filipino Seniors (LFS)
Legal Support for Children and Women (LSCW), Cambodia
MADPET - Malaysians against Death Penalty and Torture
Malaysia Youth and Students Democratic Movement (DEMA)
MAP Foundation, Thailand
May 1st Coalition, Co-Coordinator, USA
Mekong Migration Network ( MMN)
Migrante Aotearoa New Zealand
Migrant Forum in Asia (MFA) 
Migrante-Denmark chapter
Migranteng Ilonggo sa Taiwan
Migrante International
Migrante international - Hsinchuang chapter
Migrante International - Taiwan chapter
Migrante-Middle East and Migrante-Saudi Arabia chapter
Migrants  Trade Union (MTU), Korea
Migrant Workers Network – New Zealand
National League for Democracy [NLD (LA)], Malaysia
Nepal Institute of Development Studies( NIDS) ,NEPAL
Network for Empowerment of Women in Vietnam
Network of Action for Migrants in Malaysia (NAMM)
Parti Rakyat Malaysia (PRM)
Penggerak Belia Zon 23 MPSJ, Malaysia
Persatuan Masyarakat Selangor & Wilayah Persekutuan, Malaysia
Persatuan Penduduk Taman Muhibbah, Malaysia
Persatuan Prihatin Komuniti KL & Selangor
Philippine Society in Japan – Nagoya
PINAY (Montreal)
Pusat Komas, Malaysia
Persatuan Sahabat Wanita Selangor, Malaysia
Shan Refugee Organization (Malaysia)
Shan Women Action Network (SWAN), Thailand
Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM)
Tenaganita, Malaysia
The Federation of Trade Unions Burma (FTUB)
The Filipino Women's Organization in Quebec
The National Human Rights Society (Persatuan Kebangsaan Hak Asasi  Manusia, HAKAM), Malaysia
The Shwe Gas Movement
Unite Union New Zealand
Women Empowerment Association
Workers Hub for Change (WH4C)
Yaung  Chi Oo Workers Association  ( YCOWA)
Yayasan Annisa Swasti (YASANTI), Indonesia

Sunday, October 17, 2010

MTUC Memorandum on Decent Work - 7/10/2010


Memorandum to the YB Minister of Human Resources on the need to develop strategies to prevent exploitation and poverty


Leaders and members from 240 unions affiliated with the Malaysian Trades Union Congress joined millions of workers worldwide on October 7, 2010 to highlight the impact of globalization on jobs and labour standards, its devastating effects on wages and living conditions.

Government’s stand on Decent Work

The Human Resources Ministry has endorsed and committed to promote the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) Decent Work Campaign.


Decent work was defined by the ILO as “work that is productive and delivers a fair income, security in the workplace and social protection for families, better prospects for personal development and social integration, freedom for people to express their concerns, organize and participate in the decisions that affect their lives and equality of opportunity and treatment for all women and men”

  • In 2001, the concept was further developed.  Embraced by a vast majority of the members, the 2001 Conference emphasized the need to apply a broader and more comprehensive approach to the fostering of decent work and social security in the emerging global labour markets.  This shift of approach was enshrined in the four equally important and interrelated objectives of the Decent Work

Agenda, even further developed in the 2008 ILO Declaration on Social Justice for a Fair Globalisation, summarizing them as follows:

o       Promoting employment by creating a sustainable institutional and economic environment
o       Developing and enhancing measures of social protection – social security and labour protection – which are sustainable and adapted to national circumstances
o       Promoting social dialogue and tripartism
o       Respecting, promoting and realizing the fundamental principles and rights at work.

As indicated in the introduction, the four pillars pinpointed that the various aspects of human living conditions in different parts of the world – as well as the conditions for national and global governance – have become ever more interconnected as a result of globalization.  Establishing the Decent Work Agenda as a method of organizing its programmes and activities, the ILO made it a platform for external dialogue and partnership and the Agenda soon became a center-piece in the international discussion about how to promote the social dimension of globalization.

It is clear that the ILO in particular saw a closer relationship with the other UN bodies as a precondition for the organization to succeed in its work.  Recognition that the social aspects of the globalization has been overshadowed by the economic and financial advantages, lead to the formation of a World Commission on the Social Dimension of Globalization.  The World Commission released its report in 2004, stating that the global imbalances, generated by the globalization, were “morally unacceptable and politically unsustainable”.  The commission suggested a number of measures intended to provide developing countries greater influence and control over their own participation in the globalization process.

Basic questions about Decent work in our country.

1.      Does every woman and man in our country have the opportunity to obtain work that enables them and their families to live a decent life?

The answer is a definite NO.  Government would argue that everyone who wants to work, jobs are available: unfortunately most such jobs cannot be defined as decent work.

Until recently, Government has repeatedly dismissed MTUC’s persistent demand for minimum wage legislation by merely stating that market forces and demand and supply will determine the minimum wage rates and employers who fail to pay a fair wage rate will not be able to attract sufficient workers to meet their requirement.

Unfortunately Government, while rejecting MTUC’s call for a minimum wage legislation has intervened and flooded the country with millions of migrant workers, with low wages and poor working conditions.  MTUC sees government’s action as a deliberate attempt to suppress wages.

  1. Can everyone in our country join a union as they please?

            Again the answer is NO.  Although we have more than 600 registered unions in   the country, hundreds of thousands of workers are not allowed to join an       independent union of their choice. 

  1. Wages, Competitiveness and Decent Work
      Wage is the key element in promoting decent work. Wages to an employee, is a   crucial factor for sustaining quality of life. 

                                                                                                      (MOHR Policy Statement)

  1. Social Dialogue for Industry Harmony
      The main goal of social dialogue is to promote consensus building and      democratic involvement among the government, employers and employees at        the national and enterprises level. Successful social dialogue has the potential to             resolve important issues, enrich good governance, advance social and industrial     peace and stability and increase economic progress. By engaging in dialogues the   social partners are also able to build dynamic and flexible labour market       institutions that can contribute to long-term workplace stability and harmony.

      For social dialogue to succeed the following conditions must be present i.e.:-

-          Respect for the fundamental rights of freedom of association and collective bargaining;

-     Strong, independent workers’ and employers’ organizations with the technical     capacity and knowledge required to participate effectively in the dialogue     process;

-     Political will and commitment to engage in social dialogue on the part of all         parties;

-     Appropriate institutional support.
                                                                                                      (MOHR Policy Statement)

  1. Are trade unions in our country free to perform their work without outside interference and without restrictions on organizing, bargaining and striking?

            The Trade Union Act severely restricts unions organizing activities.            Government’s policies severely restrict collective bargaining and contrary to the    provisions of the Industrial Relations Act it is almost impossible for trade unions to institute strike action in furtherance of unfair dismissals, discriminatory  practices and Collective Bargaining.

            Social protection strategies need to adjust to suit contemporary situations as         many societies have experienced changes in economic growth and in the composition and structure of families. These changes undoubtedly present a strong case for the expansion of the existing social protection system.
                                                                                                            (MOHR Policy Statement)

  1. Do people in our country have protection from the loss or reduction of income due to unemployment, discrimination, or any other kind of financial hardship that may be of concern to society?

            Government has designed the laws in such a way to allow employers to reduce   income by as much as 50% with impunity.  Government has done nothing to  ensure that employers who retrench their workers are paid termination benefits as stipulated under the Termination and Lay Off Regulations.

            Government’s intensive campaign to introduce Productivity Linked Wage            System is aimed to permit employers to legally reduce employees’ income without acceptable reasons.  In recent months Government has given a new meaning to PLWS by changing from Productivity Linked to Performance Linked Wages.  This new meaning allows employers to reduce income based on  company performance even to employees who achieve higher productivity.

  1. Do trade unions and employers’ organizations engage in social dialogue in our country and are they involved in tripartite discussions with the government and other authorities on matters relevant to them?

      Yes, trade unions and employers’ organizations do participate in tripartite            consultation but Government often ignores trade unions’ view point.  In the   name of globalization employers’ demands and views dominate the industrial  relations practices.

      The amendments (February 2008) to the Industrial Relations Act is a clear example of employers’ domination.  MTUC has highlighted the effect of the new    amendments which include:

  • Removal of discretionary powers of the Industrial Courts which, thus far has played a prominent role in settlement of labour disputes and promoting industrial harmony;

  • Union busting made easier;

  • Promote indiscriminate removal of union activists

  • Government has imposed a maximum on the quantum of compensation for workers subjected to unfair and unlawful dismissal: Often delayed as a result of government’s inefficient disputes settlement machinery.

  • Promote so called labour flexibility

  • Allow employers to reduce wages and long established monetary benefits.

  • MOHR’s proposal to make further drastic changes to the Employment Act 1955, Industrial Relations Act 1967 and the Trade Union Act 1959 is seen as the worst in 40 years. The amendments, when passed, would completely remove security of tenure for thousands of workers in the country.

            Effect of the proposed amendment:-

  • Dismissal cannot be challenged

      The amendment drawn up at the behest of Multinational Corporations       and potential investors is deliberately designed to empower employers to       employ workers on fixed term contract for as long as they please. Even       workers who have ten years service on a contract basis will have no right             to seek redress in the event of termination. This is a drastic change from          the current law and practice which accords the right to all workers, irrespective of their salary levels and length of service, including           probationers and those employed on a contract basis to challenge their             dismissals.

      Important precedents set by our courts to safeguard workers rights will no            longer be applicable. Even workers rights guaranteed under the Federal    Constitution are ignored.

  • Removal of safeguards:No more Sunday rest day with your family

      The amendments, when passed, will remove most of the safeguards           existing over 60 years. Employers would be permitted to impose    unreasonable working hours, change weekly rest days as they please.

  • Women can be forced to work at night

      New laws would remove the supervisory role of the Labour Department   to impose conditions on employers who require women workers to work   at night.

  1. Do women have equal opportunities at work or in obtaining a job?  Do they have adequate protection against discrimination in law and in practice?

            To a large extent Government has made effort to eliminate discriminatory             practices against women: But Government has refused to intervene to stop     employers from compelling women workers to retire earlier than male workers.     A glaring example is the practices enforced by the Government linked       corporation the Malaysian Airlines.

  1. Does our country support further promotion of Decent work within the scope of ASEAN?

            Our country has persistently refused to take on board the Decent Work Agenda   within ASEAN.

  1. Does our country prioritize Decent Work in its development cooperation, including when allocating development aid?

            Government has consistently maintained that core Labour Standards have no       place in trade agreements.

  1. Job Security and Income Security

            In recent years, in the name of globalization and as incentive to foreign investors             Government policies has converted regular and secure employment to contract    and irregular work.

  • In June 2007, multi million Ringgit profit making British American Tobacco terminated 16 of their employees from the maintenance department and appointed private contractors to bring in workers on contract to carry out their work.  Although BAT’s action is clearly in violation of the Code of Conduct for Industrial Harmony, the Director General of Labour refused to act on the unions’ complaint of unfair labour practice.

  • US based MNC Goodyear retrenched permanent workers and engaged contract workers to replace them. French MNC Lafarge terminated their permanent workers and replaced them with contract workers. Regretably in all the above cases YB Menteri, rejected the unions’ appeal to refer the unfair and unjust termination to the Industrial Court.

  • In Port Klang, both North Port and West Port employ more than 40% of the workforce through contractors: And private contractors often reject Malaysian applicants in favour of foreign workers.

  • Government Linked Company, Malaysian Airlines has employed a number of private contractors at the expense of hundreds of long serving MAS employees.  The union believes that the contracting out of their core activities cost MAS more than their regular employees.

Promoting and Sustaining Employment

Employment security in the current economic scenario is a matter of concern to many especially the workers. Due to the highly competitive international market, employers sometimes have to implement strategic measures such as downsizing, outsourcing and restructuring of operations in order to remain competitive, and this has often resulted in the displacement of workers. The questions of job security versus employability has become a topic of much debate today.                                              (MOHR Policy Statement)
12.              Foreign Workers

Trade unions in the country have always been suspicious of Government’s motive for flooding the country with millions of foreign workers in the last 15 years.

Although Government says that foreign workers are needed to fulfill labour needs MTUC has repeatedly asserted that Government’s action is deliberately aimed to help major corporations to suppress wages and curb trade unions’ pressure for decent work.

The Immigration Department Enforcement Director, Datuk Ishak revealed that investors will not want unions to be formed in their establishments. Through outsourcing, it would be difficult for unions to be formed.

Government’s actions are clearly in breach of article 10 of the Malaysian Constitution and makes a mockery of the provisions of the Industrial Relations Act 1967.

In 1998, Government ratified the ILO Declarations on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work: But their action seems to be in direct contradiction.

The new labour law amendments which came into force since February 2008 compels unions to organize foreign workers in order to secure union recognition but the Immigration Department continue to curb their right to join a union.

This again is seen as a conspiracy between Government and employers to deny union recognition and collective bargaining rights.

Q: Should foreign labour outsourcing be banned?

A: Outsourcing is the best solution for the government to manage foreign workers.

Q: Why?
A: There are two scenarios

One is that as companies get bigger, they will need more manpower and with outsourcing they can get workers in a more organized way.

Two, outsourcing is good as it will attract foreign direct investment. Investors will not want unions to be formed in their establishments.

Through outsourcing, it would be difficult for unions to be formed as the outsourcing company, and not the factory, would be the employer.

Datuk Ishak Mohamed, Enforcement Director Immigration Department

NST July 20, 2008

Strategies to Prevent Exploitation

We urge the Government to amend the Employment Act 1955 to:

  • Provide for a minimum monthly salary of RM 900.00
  • Require employers to obtain prior permission of the Director General of Labour before terminating employees on grounds of redundancy and or restructuring;
  • Empower the director General of Labour to inquire into complaints of abuse of contract system and outsourcing to convert regular and permanent jobs to irregular and precarious work thus denying decent work; and

  • Widen the scope to cover all employees including domestic workers;

Ministry of Human Resources (MOHR) should have a more prominent role:

Ø      maintain a register of all employers who employ foreign workers and carry out statutory inspection on a regular basis in determining requirements and needs;
Ø      in determining minimum wages
Ø      and working conditions for all foreign workers including domestic helpers;
Ø      to regulate and monitor all recruitments on government to government basis
Ø      to ensure that the UN declaration on labour rights and workers rights under Article 8 of Malaysian Constitution are guaranteed.

Right to organize and Collective Bargaining

Ø      and licenses of all recruiting agents should be abolished;
Ø      until such time recruitment on a government to government basis is implemented all licenses for recruitment should not exceed one year and should be subject to renewal based on reports and recommendation of MOHR.

Right to organize and Collective Bargaining
The Trade Union Act 1959 should be amended to remove all legal restrictions and obstacles so that millions of workers in the country will be able to freely join a trade union and collectively bargain for better wages and working conditions.

It is now three years since the controversial amendments to the Industrial Relations Act 1967 came into effect.  Contrary to our expectations, we have not witnessed any significant improvement in the time taken to resolve union recognition claims which is a pre-requisite for the right to collective bargaining.

Government should remove the ban on picketing during the pendency of recognition claim.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Recommendations to ASEM8 from the Asia Europe People’s Forum

Recommendations to ASEM8 from the Asia Europe People’s Forum 

Poverty is created by unequal economic systems - it can be eradicated. Governments need to reassert their control over corporations and be accountable to their citizens. Ultimately it is a question of political choice and priorities.        Charles Santiago, MP Malaysia
ASEM8 is an historic opportunity for governments to take the timely and decisive actions needed to address the social, economic and environmental crises that have deepened the poverty, injustice, loss of employment, and exclusion faced by millions of women and men across Asia and Europe. The gap between the rich and the poor is widening, and access to resources, livelihood opportunities and basic services remain grossly unequal.
Despite the policy failures of trade liberalisation, market deregulation and privatisation, governments continue to ignore the growing tangible consensus for fundamental policy change. Instead of fulfilling the needs of people and reinvigorating local economies, hundreds of billions of dollars have been mobilised to save the banks and financial system, while essential social services remain under-funded and threatened.
Despite existing laws, regulations, standards and mechanisms, governments have failed to prioritise human rights, environmental security and labour rights, over the profits of companies. There has been a lack of political will in implementing regulation and establishing redress mechanisms for companies operating in, and beyond their territories.
Companies and businesses have used their expanded legal rights and exceptional access to decision-makers to aggressively push for policies that open up new markets and allow access to raw materials regardless of the social or environmental costs. We see this repeated in Brussels with the Asia Europe Business Forum, which brings together EC, government officials and corporate lobbyists.
Governments must live up to their human rights obligations, including the duty to protect against abuses involving corporations.     Mary Robinson
The consequences of this corporate domination are experienced in the lives of millions of women, men and children across Asia and Europe. This has led to a hollowing out of democratic accountability as elites make decisions and implement policies with little or no scrutiny from citizens, creating the conditions for poverty, inequality, environmental devastation and growing social unrest.

The Asia-Europe People’s Forum, representing citizens, people and social movements from Asia and Europe, is calling on the Heads of State and Government of the ASEM member countries to take forward the following actions:

Promote sustainable solutions to the economic and financial crises

Europe and Asia should pursue a comprehensive recovery plan with people and the environment at its heart, based on principles of redistribution of income and wealth, enabling countries to invest in low-carbon development, sustainable decent jobs, education and to meet basic needs.
  • Introduce a Financial Transactions Tax to generate funds to support poverty alleviation and climate adaptation.
  • Ensure stabilised exchange rates by establishing a new global reserve currency system, as promoted by the recent UN summit on the global crisis.
  • Strictly regulate all financial actors, institutions and products. All financial operators must operate with full transparency and be regulated and supervised. Restore the clear separation between savings banks and investment banks. Prohibit off balance sheet and offshore transactions, over the counter trading and high risk financial operations (i.e. short selling, structured investment vehicles and collateralised debt obligations). Ban all speculation on commodities by non-commercial traders, such as hedge funds and index funds.
  • Reform the governance of International Financial Institutions to ensure representation and voice of developing countries.
  • Implement universal social protection policies, essential in alleviating poverty, using the UN Social Protection Floor Initiative as a starting point. Ensure social protection is part of the EU’s Development Co-operation strategy and develop a Communication on Social Protection in development cooperation, linked to a concrete, time-bound action plan with dedicated resources to support the implementation of long-term and sustainable social protection systems.
  • Fully ratify and integrate into national laws the commitments made in the Convention of the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women.

Support a Just Trade and Investment system

Europe and Asian governments should take forward trade and investment policies that put the interest of farmers, workers, the environment and respect for human rights first by:
  • Agree to a moratorium on the EU’s Global Europe Strategy and all ongoing free trade negotiations between, and within Asia and Europe.
  • Put on hold all European member states Bilateral Investment Treaties negotiations, while the new EU investment policy framework is being defined. Achieve a greater balance between the protection of public and private interests.
  • Support an independent investigation and stakeholder consultation process on the impact of current EU and Asia trade policies on poverty and social, environmental and human rights.
  • Replace the investor-to-state dispute settlement mechanism, embedded in international treaties, with a state-to-state mechanism.
  • Base all future EU-Asia trade relations on an approach that:
    • recognises small producers’ rights to trade protection within their own domestic and regional markets
    • bases its relations on a principle of non-reciprocity and differential treatment
    • recognises and supports food sovereignty of countries
    • respects the right of countries to formulate and pursue their own development strategies and economic models in the public interest
    • promotes and enables universal access to essential public services
    • allows for the regulation of imports, exports and investments to fulfil social, economic, civil and political rights
    • is democratic and inclusive, subjecting any agreement to a public and parliamentarian scrutiny and regular review and accountability mechanisms

Make corporations accountable to governments

Voluntary codes of conduct have not prevented human rights and environmental abuses. Asian and European Governments should:
  • Work, with the full involvement of the ILO towards the development of international legally binding instruments to define and enforce corporations' legal responsibilities and accountability for their activities. Increase transparency of corporate accounts by adopting a country-by-country reporting standard for multinational companies. Ensure that corporations annually disclose their finances, environmental, workers safety, human and labour rights, lobbying and tax records.
  • Promote the creation of an International Economic Tribunal that can adjudicate on trans-national corporations and impose appropriate sanctions.
  • Introduce a high-quality, mandatory lobbying transparency register, to end the excessive political influence of corporate lobby groups. Assure full transparency, rules and safeguards against corporate capture of policy making and European Commission advisory groups; close the revolving door between the European Commission and industry lobbies; implement effective conflicts of interest rules for Commissioners, Commission officials and Commission Special Advisers and institute enforceable ethics rules for corporate and business lobbyists, among others.
  • Close down tax havens under the jurisdiction of any EU member state and Asian countries.

Protect rights to food and water

EU and Asian Governments should promote agriculture, food, energy and trade policies to meet the need for healthy, adequate and affordable food, and water and sanitation. Asian and European Governments should:
  • Building on the July 2010 UN Resolution on the Fundamental Right to Water and Sanitation increase the funding for publicly managed water and sanitation infrastructure. Increase political and financial support for public-public partnerships in the water and sanitation sector.
  • Take immediate action to curb financial speculation on food stocks and prices by implementing a global registry of all commodity-related spot and derivatives transactions (including both exchange and OTC futures); restrict or prohibit investment funds’ (including ETFs’) access to commodity markets; introduce effective position limits and introduce comprehensive regulation of OTC trade, including the clearing of transactions.
  • Reform the EU Common Agricultural Policy and export-led agricultural models to end dumping of agricultural goods and support small scale sustainable food production and food sovereignty.
  • Stop promoting the use and the production of industrial agrofuels, the EU should revoke its mandatory target on agrofuels by 2020.
  • Stop land grabbing and forced land acquisitions that are taking millions of hectares out of essential food production. Guarantee security of access to land for women and men involved in small scale agricultural production.

Promote Climate Justice

Addressing climate change requires a shift towards a low carbon economy. To achieve this Asian and European Governments should:
  • Ensure global temperatures do not rise more than 1.5ºC to avoid catastrophic climate change. European countries should reduce their emissions by 40% of their 1990 level by 2020 without offset - enabling greenhouse gas concentrations to stabilise at 300ppm.
  • European countries should meet the costs of adaptation and mitigation based on differentiated responsibilities.
  • Invest in the just transition of the economy comprising green decent jobs, skills development, vocational training, social dialogue and protection, and co-ordinated industrial policies. Invest public funds generated by new taxes in the rebuilding and expansion of public infrastructure (public transport, sustainable local energy systems etc). Subsidies and aid packages for any industry sector should be used to help the sector and its employees to transition to a low carbon economy.
  • Introduce an international tax on shipping and aviation emissions to reduce emissions.
  • Support the creation of a Climate and Environmental Justice Tribunal.

Promote Decent Work

The decent work agenda requires Asian and European governments to commit to Core Labour Standards, the creation of decent jobs, social dialogue and social protection. To achieve this Asian and European governments should:
  • Ratify and implement ILO Conventions and Core Labour Standards revising labour laws where they are not in compliance with Conventions. In particular:
    • ILO Convention 87 and 98 on Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining.
    • Support the finalisation of an ILO Convention on Domestic Work at the International Labour Conference in July 2011.
    • ILO Convention 132 on Protection of all Migrant Workers and Members of their Families - still unratified and implemented by the majority of ASEM countries.
  • Adopt national economic policies that guarantee decent wages.
  • Create and protect decent jobs for all, particularly for young people, women, disabled people and workers within the informal sector, by prioritising investment of resources in local economic development and tackling the persistence of precarious working conditions through the development and enforcement of labour laws. Temporary contracts should be limited to work that is temporary in nature only, and direct employment of workers should be ensured through strong regulation and restriction of employment through labour agencies. Governments should invest more in labour inspection, (i.e. more resources for the training of inspectors, increase the number of independent inspectors and perform more labour inspections in the field).
  • Initiate a process of “upwards” harmonisation of workers incomes, social and labour rights in Asia and Europe, including equal rights for migrant workers.
  • Guarantee access to social protection, job security, health care, maternity leave and essential services for permanent, contract, disabled and migrant workers by implementing national integrated and participatory policies on social security. Prioritise the enforcement of employment law over the enforcement of immigration policies to address the widespread exploitation of migrant workers and to ensure that migrant workers have full access to legal redress mechanisms when their rights are violated (including the provision of visa/residence permits independent from the employer).
  • End all forms of gender-based violence and discrimination against workers, including migrant workers (e.g. obligatory pregnancy and/or STD tests), through ensuring appropriate legal and policy standards in coordination with women organisations and migrant communities.