1. The 11th ASEAN Labour Ministers’ Meeting (ALMM) was held in Bangkok, Thailand from 25 to 26 April 1996, It was preceded by a Senior Labour Officials’ Meeting from 23 to 24 April 1996.
2. The 11th ALMM was officially declared open by His Excellency General Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, Deputy Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Thailand. In his keynote address, the Deputy Prime Minister noted that the current trend of global trade liberalisation has brought with it greater opportunities for trade as well as increased competition. Accordingly, he urged ASEAN Member Countries to increase their competitiveness by developing their human resources through regional cooperation. He added that the development of skills, improved working conditions and information sharing on labour matters would enhance the quality of the workforce in ASEAN.
3. The 11th ALMM was attended by HE Pehin Dato Haji Isa bin Pehin Dato Haji Ibrahim, Minister of Home Affairs of Brunei Darussalam; HE Mr. Abdul Latief, Minister of Manpower of the Republic of Indonesia; HE Dato’ Lim Ah Lek, Minister of Human Resources of Malaysia; HE Mr. Leonardo A. Quisumbing, Secretary, Department of Labour and Employment of the Republic of the Philippines; HE Dr Lee Boon Yang, Minister for Labour of the Republic of Singapore; HE Dr Prasong Boonpong, Acting Minister of Labour and Social Welfare of the Kingdom of Thailand’, HE Mr. Tran Dinh Hoan, Minister of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. H.E .Dato’ Ajit Singh, Secretary-General of ASEAN was also present.
4. The Ministers welcomed the delegation from Vietnam who attended the ASEAN Lab-bur Ministers’ Meeting for the first time.
5. Minister Prasong Boonpong of Thailand and Minister Tran Dinh Hoan of Vietnam were unanimously elected as Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the 11th ASEAN Labour Ministers’ Meeting, respectively.
Social Clause and International Labour Standards
6. The Ministers have reached consensus on the following:
(i) to reaffirm their position adopted at the Informal Meeting held from 27 to 28 April 1995 in Chiang Mai, Thailand that there should be no linkage between international labour standards and international trade;
(ii) to reiterate the position adopted at the 5th Conference of Non- Aligned and Other Developing Countries held from 19 to 23 January 1995 in New Delhi, India to continue to oppose any such linkage at all international fora;
(iii) to continue to express concern that any such linkage would seriously undermine the economic growth of developing countries which in turn would affect the economy of the developed nations;
(iv) to reiterate the view that the issue of international labour standards should be discussed in the International Labour Organisation which is the most competent body to deal with the issue, and not in international trade or other non-labour related fora;
(v) to reaffirm their commitment to improving the economic and social well-being of workers;
(vi) to underscore the view that many of the ILO Conventions which were formulated decades ago have become outdated and do not reflect the actual social and economic conditions of Member States;
(vii) to put forth the view that ILO instruments should be used to help Member States to improve their socio-economic conditions and not as a tool to penalise Member States for non-compliance;
(viii) to urge the ILO to review the international labour conventions including the so-called fundamental workers’ Rights Conventions, namely:
a. Convention 29:
Forced Labour Convention, 1930,
b. Convention 87:
Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to organize Convention, 1948,
c. Convention 98:
Right to organize and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949-,
d. Convention 100:
Equal Remuneration Convention, 1957;
e. Convention 105:
Abolition of Forced Labour Convention, 1957;
f. Convention III:
Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention, 1958; and
g. Convention 138:
Minimum Age Convention, 1973
7. Pending the review, the Ministers requested the ILO to adopt a more flexible approach in applying ratified conventions with due consideration given to the stage of development of each Member State,
ILO Policy Priorities
8. In line with the ILO’s fundamental objectives of promoting employment and social development, the Ministers called upon the ILO to consider the following:
(i) to provide additional resources and technical assistance to help member states in the promotion of employment, eradication of poverty, and the elimination of child labour; and
(ii) to review and update ILO Conventions with a view to facilitate ratification of relevant Conventions by Member States.
ASEAN Regional Projects
9. the Ministers noted with satisfaction the progress in the implementation of the following regional projects with funding from the UNDP ASP5 Sub- Programme on Human Development:
(i) the ASEAN Project on the Promotion of Self-Employment and Development in the informal Sector: and
(ii) the ASEAN Project on Training and Information Centre for the improvement of Working Conditions and Environment.
10. They also noted the arrangements being made to implement two pending projects: the ASEAN Programme on Industrial Relations and ASEAN Regional Project on Human Resource Development Planning.
11, The delegations of Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam expressed their sincere appreciation to the Government and people of the Kingdom of Thailand for their warm hospitality and excellent arrangements made for the Meeting.
12. The Ministers welcomed with appreciation Vietnam’s offer to host the Informal Meeting of the ASEAN Labour Ministers in April 1997 as well as the 12th ASEAN Labour Ministers’ Meeting before June 1998.
13 . The Meeting was held in the traditional spirit of ASEAN cordiality and solidarity.