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13 Feb 2023
5 mins
ITF Asia Pacific Regional Conference 2022

The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) welcomed more than 300 unionists from the region to Manila for the Asia Pacific Regional Conference 2022 (APRC). The conference allowed participants from the region to reflect on the region’s progress since the last ITF Congress held in Singapore in 2018, and also to strengthen commitment to better the lives of transport workers. At the conference were representatives from SMOU, General Secretary (GS) Mary Liew, Emeritus GS Thomas Tay, Assistant GS Gwee Guo Duan and Young SMOU Chairman Dominic Yong.

The 2-day conference from 17-18 October brought unionists to reconnect in person, and more importantly work on the four global, cross-sector themes identified by the ITF Executive Board as priorities. These focuses include the Future of Work, the focus of Occupational Safety and Health, having a Sustainable Transport Work Programme, and a Supply Chain Accountability.

Opening the conference for the first time as chairman was ITF Vice President (Asia/Pacific) Brother who welcomed delegates from the Asia Pacific region at the conference, and reminded delegates about the importance of the conference, and how the decisions will have a global ITF impact.

Update on Transport Industry

Joining at the Top Table was also ITF Vice President (Women) Sister Mary Liew, along with ITF and regional union leaders, where ITF General Secretary Stephen Cotton provided an update on the state of the Transport industry, highlighting the importance of the Asia Pacific region’s role in the global transport industry. He emphasised on the importance of workers in the Asia Pacific region, reiterating the region being designated as one of ITF’s growth areas.

Brother Sumino concurred with Brother Stephen, and identified a few key challenges that were affecting ITF members. Setting the stage for some discussion later in the day, he outlined three key challenges – Acceleration of Automation and the Gig Economy; Having A Just Transition; and Transition in Regional Economic Blocs.

The conference paid a solemn tribute to the late former Asia Pacific Regional Secretariat, Brother Jose Raul Lamug “Butch”, who passed on earlier that year. Sister Mary, on behalf of the ITF and Singapore ITF affiliates, delivered a heartfelt eulogy of Brother Butch, who through his warm heart and meaningful career touched many lives. With Brother Butch’s passing, the ITF Secretariat will begin its search for the next Asia Pacific Regional Secretariat to carry on the good work in the region.

Global Cross-Sector themes and the 2018 - 2024 Work Programme

In the afternoon, delegates engaged in sessions on four global cross-sector themes and learned about what ITF has been doing for the different implementations of the 2018 – 2024 Work Programme.

Firstly, on the Future of Work (FOW), Professor Randolph from the Ong Teng Cheong Labour Leadership Institute (OTCi), and Dr Alex from the Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS) reported on the FOW fieldwork research done across 13 countries in the Asia Pacific region. This fieldwork report supplements the ITF FOW programme that delivers support towards organising workers around technology issues, campaigning and policy priorities, and to prepare for future evolution of work while protecting jobs and strengthening working conditions.

The second session was focused on Occupational Safety and Health (OSH). ITF aims to ensure all transport workers have the right and access to a healthy and safe working environment. This includes sanitation and hygiene standards for transport workers at workplaces such as airports and train stations.

Sustainable Transport, the topic of the third session, was also one of ITF’s focuses, advocating for smarter cities and transport systems connected by publicly-owned urban transport. The long-term goal is to build a just transition to a sustainable transport industry that improves conditions for transport workers and communities. This includes decarbonising transport by engaging governments and other muliti-stakeholder initiatives. 

Finally, the supply chain accountability. Looking at the entire network of supply chain from warehousing, trucking, shipping, cargo handling and more, the ITF wants stakeholders and businesses to adopt responsible and sustainable business models, improving labour and human right standards in transportation supply chains.

Conference Motions

Bringing the conference to the close were two formal and two emergency motions tabled for conference delegates to adopt. One of the motions was on the role of the National Coordinating Committees (NCCs) in Asia Pacific tabled by the All India Railwaymen’s Federation (AIRF), Associated Marine Officers’ & Seamen’s Union of the Philippines (AMOSUP), Maritime Union of India (MUI), National Federation of Indian Railwayme (NFIR) and SMOU. The motion reaffirmed the importance of NCCs of ITF affiliates, and to increase the involvement of their NCCs in the different sub-regional groups to build knowledge and ownership of the 4 ITF Global themes.

The motion was carried by the delegates, along with a motion to support cooperation with global unions across the Asian Pacific supply chain, an emergency motion to drop trumped-up charges against trade union leaders in the Philippines, and an emergency motion on safety and gender-equality in the transport sector workplace.

Election and Nominations

To round off the APRC 2022, an election and nomination for the upcoming 45th ITF Congress was conducted with delegates. The session saw Sister Mary Liew nominated as the regional women’s representative, Brother Thomas Tay as the seafarer’s section representative, and Brother Dominic Yong as part of the young transport workers’ committee for the upcoming ITF Congress.

Exciting times are ahead for SMOU and the ITF, even as members and affiliates plan for the future of the transport industry to tackle ongoing and future challenges, to create better work environments and welfare for our transport workers.