A JILAF delegation visited Thailand from February 26 to March 2, 2015, for the International Tripartite Meeting for SGRA (Supporting Grass-Roots Activities through the International Employers’ and Workers’ Network) project. The meeting, which was held on February 28, was attended by 50 people, including government, labour, and management representatives from the three countries where the project is being implemented (Thailand, Nepal and Bangladesh) as well as representatives from the Japanese government.
As welcoming speech, Thai Minister of Labour H.E. Gen Surasak Kanchanarat welcomed the delegations on behalf of Thai government and stated, “Improving and shoring up the lives of informal-sector workers are essential for the social and economic development of developing countries.” He also expressed profound gratitude to JILAF and the Japanese government.
Next, speaking on behalf of the host organizations of the meeting, JILAF Executive Director Hisashige Danno explained the achievements and challenges of the SGRA project so far and the significance of the meeting. This was followed by addresses from Minister Mitsugu Saito of the Japanese Embassy in Thailand, Mr. Tawatchai the International Trade Union Confederation’s Thai Council (ITUC-TC), Secretary General Siriwan Romchattong of the Employers’ Confederation of Thailand (ECOT), and Sho Sudo, an expert at the General Bureau of the International Labour Organization’s Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific. In addition, on behalf of the Japanese government’s Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare, Assistant Minister Akira Isawa gave backing to the efforts of all concerned, saying, “The SGRA project, which is entering its fourth year, has achievement astonishing results, and we look forward to further independent development.”
JILAF Assistant General Secretary Ryo Saito then gave an explanation of the SGRA project in the three countries and the purpose of the meeting, after which the delegations from the three project implementing countries on the results and issues of their activities so far. Discussions followed on a range of topics, including repercussions in other countries.
In the session led by the Thai delegation, Vice General Secretary Mr. Manop of the State Enterprise Workers Relations Confederation (SERC), Director General Mr. Peeraphat of the Department of Labour Protection and Welfare in Thailand’s Ministry of Labour, former Acting Director Ukrish Kanchanaketu of the Employers’ Confederation of Thailand (ECOT), and Mr. Noppadol representing the Northern Working Committee reported, from their respective standpoints, on the results and issues of activities in fiscal 2014, which were confirmed at a recent national workshop, and other matters. Delegates from Bangladesh and Nepal asked questions about, among other things, (1) the definition of domestic workers and home workers, and their wages, etc.; (2) trends in the number of informal-sector workers in Thailand and the national uniform minimum wage; (3) an outline of Article 40 of Thailand’s Social Security Act; and (4) protection of the rights of female home workers.
In the session led by the Nepalese delegation, Nepal Trade Union Congress (NTUC) Vice-President Ayodhya Yadav, Under Secretary Mr. Rai of the Nepalese Ministry of Employment and Labour, and Vice-Chairman Kumar Agrawal of the Employers’ Council of the Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry similarly reported on the results and issues of activities in fiscal 2014, which were confirmed at a recent national workshop, and other matters. Delegates from Bangladesh and Thailand asked questions about, among other things, (1) the main problems facing informal-sector workers in Nepal, (2) the present situation of home workers, and (3) collaboration between the SGRA project and the ILO’s project.
In the session led by the Bangladesh delegation, Ms. Promila of the ITUC-BC, PS to the State Minister to the Minister of Labour and Employment Mr. Banik, and Joint Secretary Mr. Santosh of the Bangladesh Employers’ Federation similarly reported on the results and issues of activities in fiscal 2014, which were confirmed at a recent national workshop, and other matters. Delegates from Nepal and Thailand asked questions and made requests concerning a range of topics, including (1) financial sources for long-term vocational training and the realization of work, employment, business startups, etc.; (2) the selection of trainees and the issue of vocational training with gender-mixed accommodation; (3) the need for government-led free vocational training, which is essential for national development, and the importance of support for work, employment, and business startups from employers’ organizations; and (4) the venue of next fiscal year’s SGRA meeting of government, labour, and management representatives.
In the country-specific sessions, as well as the reports and question-and-answer exchanges, the delegations also shared their fiscal 2015 draft activity plans decided at recent national workshops. In addition, they shared a project policy for Laos, which is considering participation in the project.
Finally, JILAF Executive Director Danno ended the meeting with the comment, “The SGRA project is attracting much attention as a successful model in each country and is beginning to function as a social system based on autonomous and independent management. This is the fruit of the enthusiastic efforts being made by government, labour, and management representatives and others to develop the project in each country. I hope that the project will continue to grow in fiscal 2015 and beyond in these three countries and in Laos as well.”
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