Indian Ocean union conference
By Stephen Robson
PERTH — The third Indian Ocean Region Trade Union conference concluded here on November 25. Represented at the six-day conference were 60 overseas trade unionists from South Africa, India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Nepal, Zimbabwe, Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines, Vietnam and South Korea. A further 60 unionists represented unions throughout Australia.
Dr Rob Lambert, senior lecturer in the University of Western Australia's Organisation and Labor Studies Department and an organiser of the conference, told Green Left Weekly that the aims were to "strengthen and accelerate the growth of independent unions in Asia through bringing together fairly mature labour movements in the sense of their size and their experience with labour movements that are fairly embryonic".
The theme of this year's conference was "trade union rights and labour standards in the new global economy".
Far-reaching world trade developments are taking place. Several "free-trade regimes" are being established, including the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC). The World Trade Organisation will be formed on January 1 following the signing of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT).
"All of this institutional consolidation of free trade also means the increasing capacity of capital to move ever more freely between countries. It's surprising that the labour movement has been so slow to articulate criticisms of the present free-trade regimes", Lambert noted.