The Fourth ASEAN Labour Ministers’ Meeting was held in Singapore on 6 and 7 September 1982 to coordinate ASEAN approaches and cooperation in the fields of industrial relations, labour, manpower and related matters.
The Meeting was attended by H.E. Mr. Harun A. Zain, Minister of Manpower and Transmigration of Indonesia; H.E. Dato’ Mak Hon Kam, Minister of Labour and Manpower of Malaysia; H.E. Mr. Blas F. Ople, Minister of Labour and Employment of the Philippines; H.E. Mr. Ong Teng Cheong, Minister for Labour of Singapore; H.E. Mr. Wichien Vejsawan, Deputy Minister of interior of Thailand and their respective delegations. H.E. Mr. Chan Kai Yau, Secretary-General of the ASEAN Secretariat and his staff also attended the Meeting.
H.E. Mr. Ong Teng Cheong, Minister for Labour of Singapore welcomed the Honourable Ministers and their delegations. In his address, Mr. Ong Teng Cheong stated that the favourable political climate in ASEAN had contributed to its economic growth and development. However the world recession and protectionism had adversely affected the economies of ASEAN. He called on ASEAN countries to diversify their economies and to seek new markets for their products. Industrial relations policies should be reviewed periodically and employers, trade unions and governments need to work closely together to achieve industrial peace and economic progress.
The Meeting was officially opened by H.E. Mr. C.V. Devan Nair, President of the Republic of Singapore. In his opening address, the President of Singapore remarked that the recession in the advanced industrialised countries of the West would compound ASEAN’s own problems of economic development. He stressed that protectionism protects no one and this was borne by studies carried out by eminent scholars and the ILO. In his view, it was wrong to denounce all western governments and all international trade Secretariat as not all are led by irrational men. However, for those trade secretariats which engage in arm-twisting tactics, ASEAN countries should collectively make know to them that such activities would not be tolerated.
The Meeting noted the satisfactory progress in the implementation of the Resolutions adopted at the Third ASEAN Labour Ministers’ Meeting. it also agreed to intensify communication between focal points to promote exchange of information and experiences on labour law and practices, particularly on trade union activities, labour welfare, labour productivity and employment policies.
In view of the usefulness of the training programmes in the various fields of technical cooperation by member countries, the Meeting agreed to step up the training activities. The Meeting also agreed to establish a Technical Working Group to oversee its programme. The Group will also consider ILO matters and formulate ASEAN stand on ILO issues. It will meet regularly and submit its reports to the ASEAN Labour Ministers.
The Meeting agreed to continue the dialogue between the Asian and Pacific Labour Ministers and the officials of the international Trade Secretariats. The Meeting also reiterated the request by the Conference of Asia and Pacific Labour Ministers to the ILO to undertake the study of the possible means to avoid conflicts in the relationship between the activities of certain international trade secretariat and the sovereignty of member states.
The Meeting agreed in principle to set up an ASEAN Centre for Industrial Relations to facilitate exchange of information and expertise to help member countries strengthen their industrial relations system and practices. The ultimate objective of this project is to promote social and economic development through industrial peace, higher productivity and social development.
To enable ASEAN countries to realise and expedite its development projects, the Meeting agreed to urge the ILO to further decentralise authorities to Area Offices in the ASEAN region and to increase funding and other resources for programmes in the ASEAN countries.
The Meeting reiterated the need for ASEAN to request the ILO Committee of Experts to adopt a more understanding position in supervising the application of ratified Conventions. This could be achieved through missions by ILO officials as it would enable them to observe the economic and social progress in the member countries.
The Meeting supported the Draft Protocol of the Asian Region Government Slate for the restructured Governing Body of the ILO.
The Meeting agreed that the Fifth ASEAN Labour Ministers’ Meeting will be held in the Philippines in 1984. The exact dates will be decided later.
The Delegations of Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand expressed their sincere appreciation to the President of Singapore for opening the Meeting and to the Government and people of Singapore for the warm and generous hospitality accorded them and the excellent facilities provided and the efficient arrangements made for the Meeting.
The Meeting was held in the traditional spirit of ASEAN friendship and solidarity.
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