A South Asia labour movement interaction workshop was organised on as part of broader People’s SAARC summit held in New Delhi from the 21-23 April 2010. Posted below is the full text of the statement adopted at the meeting of trade unions on the 21st April 2010

Constitution Club, New Delhi

21 April 2010

Since the formation of the SAARC in 1985, there has been very little progress in promoting regional cooperation among nations and peoples in South Asia. There exists legal and illegal trade of goods and mobility of labour between the South Asian countries. With the negotiations on South Asian Preferential Trade Agreement (SAPTA) and of South Asian Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) along with the other bilateral and multilateral trade agreements including FTAs between the nations in the region, the legal capital mobility within South Asia has not only magnified manifold but the scope for it is ever-widening with investments from large Multi National Corporations. This has further intensified the attack on labour in these nations. In this context, there is a felt need among the working people in the region for a collective response to this attack from imperialist globalisation.

We recall that many varied attempts that have been initiated in the region to build an alliance among trade unions in the region. Affiliates of both the WFTU and the ICFTU in the region have on several occasions in the past have attempted to broaden the alliance in the region. There have been other attempts initiated by a large number of trade unions in the region since 1996.

We draw upon the South Asian Consultation on Labour Rights, in the context of Multilateral Trade Agreements was held in Kathmandu in May 1996 that affirmed the need for a South Asia Labour Rights Charter. It also affirmed the principle of Universal Labour Rights as an expression of human rights of labour in the work place, and resolved to work towards the promulgation of a UN Labour Rights Convention. The meeting of the trade unions of South Asia took place in Karachi in September 2003 at the South Asia Labour Conference for Peace and Regional Co-operation. It drew up the Karachi Declaration that called for a strengthening of the people’s urge for peace and solidarity in the region in general and the working classes of the region in particular. With the worsening of the border disputes and the growing spectre of terror in the region, this effort has also been effectively thwarted. However, there have been efforts, albeit small, to take this process forward. The Kathmandu meeting in March 2007 and the meeting in Colombo in July 2008 were small but significant steps towards this. These attempts reflect a progress towards broad-based coalitions, reducing previous national and regional divisions in the labour movement. It is now time for a convergence of these diverse efforts.

Regional efforts at cooperation and building solidarity across borders can only be sustained through a cohesive pressure from the labour movement in the region. This requires coordination within the labour movement to promote fraternity and peace based on a systematic coordination of ideas, people and of institutional exchanges in order to build a process for dialogue and consultation of all South Asian trade unions within an agreed democratic framework. This effort should specifically promote consultation, cooperation and solidarity of sectoral unions and in the multinational corporations and their supply chains.

This coordination and consolidation can concretely begin with the framework for:

  • Standardisation and Promotion of labour rights and regional institution for protection
  • Promotion of peace and development of a People’s foreign policy
  • Promotion of free movement of people in the region within a legal framework
  • Expansion of the scope of SAARC by inclusion of labour in its areas of cooperation
  • To widen this process we propose an expanding preparatory committee (through a list serve) of all unions who join this process. Specific Thematic, sectoral and multinational working groups can be developed to actualise the coordination on a regional basis.

To deepen the engagement we call for a wider consultative meeting of all unions of South Asia in 2010 to evolve the future of this process and beyond it for an alliance with peoples’ movement in South Asia.

Signed by

India 

  • Rajiv Dhimri, AICCTU 
  • Satya Narayan Thakur, AITUC 
  • Ashim Roy, NTUI
  •  

Nepal

  • Binda Pandey GEFONT

Pakistan 

  • Dr. Malik Baloch, National Party 
  • Adam Malik Pakistan Peace Coalition 
  • Chaudhary Mansoor Ahmed, PLB 
  • Bushra Khaliq, Women Workers Helpline – Pakistan 
  • Yusuf Baloch, National Trade Union Federation, Pakistan 
  • Karamat Ali, PILER

Sri Lanka 

  • S Murugaiaya, All Ceylon United Workers Congress (PSSF) 
  • M Vijandran, Trade Union Confederation/ All Ceylon United Fisherpeople Trade Union 
  • Priyadarshini Aryaratna, Janavakesha 
  • S R Edwards, Janavakesha