International Training Workshop for Campaigners

The network organised ‘training for campaigners’ in Bangkok, 16-17 January 2004. Participants and resource persons were invited from Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Thailand, Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong. The training was designed first of all to offer practical information regarding the different aspects and issues of organising campaign as an integral part of monitoring process. To do so, a number of presentations have been made around the different dimensions of organising campaign, such as workers education (WAC), critical action research (AMRC), occupational health and safety (AMRC), corporate code of conduct (AMRC), web-campaign (AMRC), networking and fundraising (AMRC). The second aim of this training was to provide young campaigners with an opportunity to share their experiences in organising campaign. Thai Labour Campaign shared their experience in organising campaign and workers’ confidence-building throughout Bed & Bath campaign, the result of which appeared in the establishment of solidarity factory where workers enjoy more control over their labour. Korean House for International Solidarity presented the results of field research in Indonesia and their attempts to publicise in Korea the labour abuse cases by Korean capital abroad and moreover build up long-term solidarity with Indonesian workers struggling against Korean employers. Ching-jen Labour Health and Safety Service Centre also shared with other participants their campaigning strategy, drawing on its involvement in three labour disputes in Taiwanese-invested firms. The last session was allocated in putting all the strategies and ideas from participants into a group work designing a campaign plan in given hypothetical situations. Divided into three small groups, all participants had an opportunity to take part in the making of model campaign strategies and, by doing so, learn from different experiences.

Invitation

Happy new year!

It is great pleasure to invite you to our international training workshop for campaigners. This workshop aims first of all to offer practical methods and skills to enhance our TNC monitoring. This training programme will give an opportunity to learn from different experiences of field research, education, organising and campaigning. It is a part of AMRC’s attempts to make experiences in handling ATNCs in practice more available to unions, workers and monitoring groups. This time, we have been cooperating with Thai Labour Campaign to make it such an event that covers various dimensions of monitoring such as, research, education & training, campaign & action, publication, networking and others. Each session will reflect different elements of the monitoring process. Each session will include sharing experiences, group discussions, audio-visual presentation, groups work and learning by doing. We invited experienced campaigners and resource persons as well as young campaigners to this workshop. There will be no such a distinction between trainee and trainers so that they are all together engaging with each other. Participants are from Xiao Chen Workers Hotline in China (2), Thai Labour Campaign (6), Homenet Thailand (3), Wyman’s Agenda for Change in Cambodia(3), Korean House for International Solidarity (4) and Ching-jen Labor Health and Safety Centre (1), LIPS in Indonesia (2), Migrant workers group in Thailand (3) and AMRC (4).

Venue

Bangkok, 13-14 January 2003
Baan Siri Rama Place 
1546 Pattankarn Road, Suan-Luang, Bangkok, Thailand

After arriving at the Bangkok airport, take a meter taxi (just outside of the airport, do not take any deal offered by taxi companies in the airport) to Baan Siri Rama Place (show the address to the person in the taxi booth). Please confirm your participation by 7th January by emailingchang@amrc.org.hk

I’m looking forward to meeting you all in Bangkok.

In solidarity

5 January 2004
Dae-oup Chang
Research Coordinator
Asia Monitor Resource Centre

Morning Session: campaign and monitoring ATNCs

08:30 – 09:00     Registration
09:00 – 10:15    Opening & Introduction
Introduction to ATNC Network – Dae-oup Chang, AMRC
Issues in organising campaign in practice – Lek, Thai Labour Campaign
10:30 – 12:15    Monitoring TNCs in practice
Taiwanese TNC Monitoring, Tsai Chih-Chieh, Ching-jen Labour H&S Centre
Korean TNC Monitoring, Serapina Cha, Korean House for International Solidairity

12:15 – 12:30     Video Session – Wyman Agenda for Change

12:15 – 14:00     Lunch and Reimbursement

Afternoon session: Empowering Workers through Education

14:00-15:00    Empowering garment workers in Cambodia – Rosanna (WAC, Cambodia)
15:00 – 15:30     Group Discussion
15:30 – 16:00    Break
16:00 – 17:00     Occupational Safety and Health Education and Training for Workers – Sanjiv Pandita (AMRC)
17:00 – 17:30    Group Discussion

End of the First Day 

Day 2, 14th January

Morning Session: Research, Networking and Publication in Monitoring 

09:00 – 10:15    Action research & Research Methods (Interviews, Web-research, Document-based research) – May Wong and Dae-oup Chang
10:15 – 10:30    Break
10:30 – 11:30    Networking, Lobbying and Resource Generating: Apo Leong, AMRC
11:30 – 12:30      Developing campaign on the Web: Omana George, AMRC

12:30 – 14:00    Lunch and Reimbursement

Afternoon Session: Group work –How can we do campaign in practice?

14:00 – 15:30    Planning a campaign in practice
15:30 – 15:45    Break
15:45 – 17:00     Group Presentation and Sharing
17:00 – 17:30     Evaluation and Closing

Solidarity dinner and cultural night

End of the training

Host: Asia Monitor Resource Centre and Thai Labour Campaign

AMRC is an independent NGO, which focuses on Asian and Pacific labour concerns. The Centre provides information, research, publishing, training, labour networking and related services to trade unions, pro-labour groups, and other development NGOs in the region. AMRC’s main goal is to support democratic and independent labour movements in Asia and the Pacific. In order to achieve this goal, AMRC upholds the principles of workers’ empowerment and gender consciousness, and follows a participatory framework.

Thai Labour Campaign is a non-profit, non-governmental organization committed to promoting workers’ rights in Thailand and increasing awareness of labour issues globally. TLC was started in February of 2000 and is headquartered in Bangkok, Thailand. TLC takes up campaigns to support specific worker struggles for workplace rights. These campaigns include soliciting support for workers on a local level and helping to pressure company management and government and labour officials. This is often accomplished by soliciting international support and linking workers to international trade union, student and consumer movements.

Context

For the last two decades, foreign direct investment has been regarded as one of the primary tools both for national economic development and for more profitable business of TNC. In particular, Asian developing countries have received a large part of foreign direct investment (FDI) as many Asian late developing countries, such as the Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and subsequently China and other least developed countries like Cambodia and Sri Lanka, have been relying on FDI as a main financial resource for development. Consequently, FDI in Asian developing countries increased from $396 million in 1980 to $102,066 million in 2001.  The investment flow into these nations accounted for a mere 0.7% of the global FDI in the year of 1980. In 2001, FDI inflow to Asia’s growing economies accounts for 13.9% of whole FDI inflow , indicating Asia as a main destination of TNCs seeking for better investment opportunity. According to UNCTAD, approximately 460,000 foreign affiliates are in operation in Asia in 2001.

Growth of FDI flow changed the way in which developing countries organise their economic development. Developed countries increasingly pressured on the developing nations to liberalise foreign investment while the lack of financial resources in the developing nations and their desire to pursue fast capitalist development left no option for the nations other liberalising its regulation of direct investment. Development plans on the basis of official loans and government guaranteed bank loan became increasingly irrelevant and unrealisable. Finally sheer competitions between nations to attract more FDI are now shaping social structures in those developing countries, overshadowing other forms of national development plan. Accordingly, ‘most new measures by developing and transition economies reduced sectoral restrictions to foreign entry, or liberalised operations in industries earlier closed or restricted to FDI’ .

On top of this, the host countries of international investment introduce more and more deregulation of the labour market, relaxation of labour standard laws and creation of exemptions from labour law implementation, in response to investors’ call for more profitable environment. The most important logic supporting the actions for tighter labour control and/or more flexible and removable workforce has been made around ‘investors’ confidence’: firms and national economies will be getting into deep trouble if they undermine investors’ confidence. Indeed, it is the low social cost of exploitation that boosts the confidence in the profitability of investment. While foreign direct investment increased faster than ever before, a large number of the working population in developing countries from the 80s left with no legal and union protection. The consequence was a growth of global commodity or value chain , on the basis of the unity between liberalised capital from the West and deregulated labour practice in the South.

Asian transnational corporations play a particular role in this new global production chain. Foreign investment from Asian countries, not to mention that from Japan as a traditional main exporter of capital in Asia, significantly grew from $11.4 billion in 1990 to $49.4 billion in 1997. Even if the Asian economic crisis dramatically slowed down the outflow of capital from Asian developing countries, FDI flow from Asia has been recovering soon after the crisis and reached record-breaking $81 billion in 2000.  A significant part of Asian direct capital investment goes into Asia itself.  In other words, cross-boarder investment within Asian countries already became one of the major financial resources for business in Asia. Japan is the biggest investor in this intra-Asia direct investment, allocating 21 % of their $38 billion investment abroad to Asia-Pacific region in 2001.  While other Asian Newly Industrialising Economies (NIEs), such as Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan and Korea are following Japan by moving manufacturing sectors into developing countries in Asia, particularly in South East Asia and China, Asia’s developing countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, and even China, which is the biggest FDI receiving county by itself, also attempt to move particularly its labour intensive industries into other countries where social and institutional settings allow them to take advantage of favourable investment conditions. Another target of the Asian TNCs is Central America, where Asian TNCs can avoid trade barrier to the US market and at the same time enjoy cheap labour forces. As far as Asia and Central America function as a major source of ready-to-go labour force in the world, this trend seems to last for a while so that a proper protection for the workers employed by Asian TNCs is gaining importance more than ever before.

Subcontracted to brand names and retailers in the developed countries, Asian corporations are in many cases direct employers of the workers in the host countries. Asia’s cross-boarder investments impose particular nature of labour control and regulation on workers by implanting their own labour norms and regimes at the workplaces. First of all, with regard to the nature of industry that this foreign investment brings into the host countries, labour intensive and extra-exploitative nature of foreign-invested industries should be pointed out. As many literatures and reports on the labour problems in Asian TNCs-invested garment factories in Asia and elsewhere exposed, these garment producing corporations are mostly small and medium size firms, often located at the bottom of the supply chains.  Given the fact that the competitiveness of labour intensive and low-value added manufacturing relies on cutting labour cost rather than introducing effective means of production and these firms once escaped from their home countries in an attempt to reduce labour cost in their home countries, one would easily expect that these firms are the main players in the race to the bottom in deteriorating working conditions and wage. Because those companies exactly aim to reduce labour cost in the production process, it is almost inevitable for those companies to be reluctant to improve working conditions and wage.

There have been many attempts to enhance working conditions and wage in Asian TNCs particularly by anti-sweatshop movement’s attempt to pressure transnational corporations, big brand names and retailers in the West to enhance working conditions by implementing voluntary labour codes of conduct. However, although consumer-based campaigns brought some positive contributions to the improvement of working conditions in sweatshops in Asia, the sustainability of this improvement is questionable because it does not accompany rank-and-file workers’ participation and interaction between them and monitoring body. This undemocratic nature of monitoring process led us to believe that only the empowerment of workers eventually guarantees sustainability in improving workers’ living conditions. Focus on Asian Transnational Corporations (ATNCs) is important because it is in the ATNCs where workers are employed and attempt to organise themselves.

To develop a more democratic and participatory monitoring, AMRC is coordinating ‘Asian TNCs Monitoring Network’ that consists of 9 experienced labour organisations in 8 different countries in Asia while our 5 sub-regional researchers in East, South, and South East Asia, China and Central America are collecting wide range of information about the activity of ATNCs. ATNC Monitoring Network’s monitoring is designed to complement workers’ self-organisation by working with workers in every dimension of the monitoring process: research, campaign, education/training and publication.

The distinctive feature of our ‘monitoring’ will be firstly the fact that our monitoring develops out of a close relationship with the rank-and-file workers, with whom member organisations and researchers of ATNC Monitoring Network try to develop long-term supportive and interactive relations. Unlike much of the work and monitoring done by outside observers in cooperation with trade union officials and management, our monitoring is based on research materials gathered and written from inside by listening to workers’ voices as much as possible. Again, education and campaign programmes will be designed on the basis of the research resources. These also aim to bring our analysis of the information into the factory again. In doing so, we will seek to engage actively and critically with workers’ perception of what is happening in those firms, by sharing our feedback from outside. It is through this approach that we will achieve our final aim: enhancing workers living conditions by assisting workers to empower themselves. In short, our monitoring programme develops through continual interaction with workers in the process of identifying problems, short/long term action, education and training aiming to resolve the identified problems and publication of the gathered information and experiences of our network as well as workers.

  1. UNCTAD 2002, World Investment Report 2002: Transnational Corporations and Export Competitiveness, New York: United Nations
  2. UNCTAD Ibid.
  3. UNCTAD 2000, World Investment Report 2000: Cross-border Merges and Acquisitions and Development, New York: United Nations, p. 7
  4.  Jenkins, R. 2002, ‘Corporate Codes of Conduct: Self-regulation in a Global Economy’, in the United Nations Non-Governmental Laison Service (ed.) Voluntary Approaches to Corporate Responsibility: Reading and a Resource Guide, Geneva: NGLS, P. 15
  5. UNCTAD Ibid.
  6. ILO 1997, ‘Globalisation and Workers’ Right’,http://www.itcilo.it/english/actrav/telearn/global/ilo/default.htm
  7. ASEAN 2002, Statistics of Foreign Direct Investment in ASEAN: Comprehensive Data Set, Jakarta: ASEAN
  8. ARMC 2002 (ed.), Asian Transnational Corporations Monitoring: Workshop Report 2002, Hong Kong: AMRC

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