Global Unions

Global unions give ADB ‘thumbs down’ for its labor record

Global unions give ADB ‘thumbs down' for its labor record
8 May 2012:

“Much is left to be desired”, ADB told

MANILA - Members of the Global Union Federations (GUFs) gave the Asian Development Bank (ADB) a failing mark because it reportedly fell short in promoting and protecting the rights and welfare of workers in its projects worldwide.

“The ADB’s performance on issues directly affecting workers is much left to be desired,” said Apolinar Tolentino, Regional Representative of the Building and Wood Workers’ International (BWI) in a press conference at the Heritage Hotel in Pasay City Saturday.

The GUFs, representing about 70 million workers from transport, building and forestry, service and public sectors worldwide, have been engaging ADB since 2005 to put workers’ interests at the core of its projects but the financial institution has not given any concrete action, Tolentino added.

The GUFs based its thumbs down ranking on four concerns:

  • (1) promotion of the Core Labour Standards of the International Labour Organisation (ILO);
  • (2) partnerships with trade unions;
  • (3) privatization of basic utilities; and
  • (4) the ADB’s role in the current power crisis in the Philippines.

The ADB is yet to include the ILO Core Labour Standards, an internationally accepted series of rules and principles on minimum standards for treating workers humanely, as part of its official operational policy in all its projects, said Tolentino.

“Without the ILO Core Labour Standards, thousands of workers in ADB sites worldwide would remain vulnerable to work place abuse and exploitation,” he said, adding that cases of violations of workers’ rights in ADB project sites in India, Cambodia and Tonga have been documented.

The GUFs have also been demanding the ADB to enter into formal partnerships with trade unions as part of to ensure ADB’s accountability in all its actions, Tolentino said. This is drawn from the bank’s own experience in forging partnerships with groups like the World Wildlife Fund and constructors’ federation. Partnerships with trade unions could be through research and building workers’ capacities, he said.

The GUFs also scored the ADB for its continued provision of loans and grants to member developing countries including the Philippines to privatize basic utilities such as power and water.

“Privatization undermines the security of tenure of public servants and their unions, and deteriorates the quality of basic services to the people,” Tolentino said.

The GUFs’ press conference coincided with the closing of the 45th ADB Annual Meeting of the Board of Governors, where about 70 GUF delegates from India, Cambodia, Indonesia, Singapore, Mongolia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Tonga, Nepal, Japan, and Philippines participated May 2 to 5.

On May 4, the GUF delegates were barred from taking part in the official opening session of the Governors’ Annual Meeting at the Philippine International Convention Centre (PICC) following their silent protest against ADB’s inaction their pro-worker demands. The delegates arrived at the PICC grounds shortly before the session began wearing headbands and shirts with messages “ADB: Respect workers’ rights”, “ADB, promote pro-poor, pro-worker growth” and “Fight poverty, protect our dignity”.

The GUFs vowed to continue lobbying ADB to adopt pro-worker policies in its projects.

(Photo : Reuters / Erik De Castro )