The regional social dialogue began with the formal opening sessions by five main speakers. The opening session was chaired by Mr Binod Shrestha, President of ITUC-NAC as well as General Federation of Nepalese Trade Unions (GEFONT). Mr Laxman Basnet, General Secretary, SARTUC welcomed all the participants especially Dr Syed Mahammad Fahimmudin Pasa who has recently joined ITUC-AP. He briefly mentioned about the outline of the workshop and highlighted on the future work plan of SARTUC which was discussed during the workshop. Mr Puskar Acharya, President of Nepal Trade Union Congress (NTUC) as well as JTUCC, on behalf of NTUC and JTUCC welcomed all the delegates from the South Asian Region. Mr P. Haridasan, Senior Director, ITUC-AP gave his welcome remarks thanking everyone including SARTUC giving an opportunity to be a part of the workshop. He briefly talked about the organizational structure and functions of ITUC-AP.
Mr Saurabh Shah, National Project Officer of ILO Nepal presented on ILO Centenary Declaration for the Future of Work: A Roadmap for a Human-centred Future. His presentation was focused on ILO Centenary Declaration on Future of Work that emphasizes the people-centric approach focusing on the rights and protection of workers. Mr Biswa Paudel, an economist, National Project Officer of ILO Nepal presented on Background and Frontier Formalising the Informal Economy in South Asia. His presentation highlighted the future of work transformation and challenges associated with the workers and the trade unions. He suggested that the use of digital platforms to unionize the trade unions can be very effective in the current situation of the world of work.
Mr Haridasan, Senior Director, ITUC-AP shared four years’ action plan for ITUC-AP. The action plan was developed during the 4th regional conference held on 7-9 October 2019 in Tokyo, Japan which has identified 19 areas of action during the next four years under four titles – peace, democracy and rights, regulating economic power, global shift, and equality. Similarly, Mr Laxman Basnet, General Secretary, SARTUC also shared SARTUC’s action plan for 2020. The SARTUC as an organisation identified some areas of working and its cross-cutting issues – Future of Work, Migration, SDGs, Informal Economy, Organise Youths and Women, Violence against Women and Workplace Harassment, and Care Economy. Likewise, all the SARTUC affiliates came together, discussed and prepared country-wise action plan to work on the areas that Mr Laxman Basnet has mentioned earlier while presenting an action plan for SARTUC.
The second day of the workshop began with the presentation of Ms Neha Chaudhary, National Project Officer of ILO on A Global Mandate to End Violence and Harassment in the World of Work: ILO Convention (No.190) and Recommendation (No. 206). Her presentation was primarily focused on the rationale of the ILO Convention 190 and recommendation 206 and its processes towards the adoption of the convention in order to promote and protect the rights of everyone to a world of work free from violence and harassment. Mr Som Niraula, Program Officer, Alliance for Social Dialogue (ASD) presented on Conceptual Issues on Decent of Work and Informal Work/Economy and Priority Targets, Indicators in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) briefly highlighting on the issues on decent work and informal economy and SDGs priority targets and indicators to address these issues. Dr Jeevan Baniya, Assistant Director, Centre for the Study of Labour and Mobility (CESLAM), gave a presentation on World of Work and Workers from SAARC Region: The Roles of Trade Unions. His presentation focused on the comparative analysis on the situation of labour migration in South Asia [the importance of labour migration in South Asian Region –remittance and its GDP contribution and challenges associated – recruitment costs in various corridors, implications of migration costs]. Additionally, he gave very important suggestions and recommendations for trade unions to strategize themselves in order to address the issues of labour migration in South Asia.
The closing session began with a short speech was given by the representative of Afghanistan (Mr Maroof Qadari), Pakistan (Mr Waseem Ahmed), India (Ms Babita Chauhan), Bangladesh (Ms Nargis Jahan), Sri Lanka (Ms Anusha), and Nepal (Ms Asha Singh Rathour). The speakers expressed their gratitude to the organisers especially Mr Laxman Basnet and Mr P. Haridasan. They gave their reaction and feedback on the workshop and their commitment as a trade union affiliates to move ahead with their agendas. For closing remarks, Mr Puskar Acharya from NTUC committed to reflect upon the current situation and improve by working with Nepal’s affiliates through the discussions that were held during this workshop. Mr Bidur Karki from GEFONT expressed his heartfelt gratitude to everyone and agreed on the fact that in the South Asian region there are common problems of migration, women, informal economy etc. Therefore, a joint effort is necessary for addressing these issues. Mr Som Bahadur Thapa from ANTUF reflected upon the activities conducted and committed to discuss with other members and act upon the action plan made during the workshop.
Mr Syed Mahammad Fahimmudin Pasa from ITUC-AP talked about the themes and areas that were discussed during the workshop and put stressed on doing homework by the affiliates after returning from the workshop in order to make such meetings successful. He highlighted on the difficulties that he has to face once Mr Haridasan will retire from the ITUC-AP. In the midst of the closing session, all the participants honoured Mr Haridasan who is going to retire soon through short speech and bestowed him their love and respect for his contributions in the trade union movement. Mr Haridasan thanked everyone and SARTUC affiliates who gave him opportunities to work and whatever progress he made. During his speech, he shared his experiences how he got engaged in trade union movement since his teenage/college days in Kerala, South India and how he grew together with SARTUC as a trade union leader. Additionally, he reiterated that this kind of meetings gives trade union and opportunity to meet each other, discuss, share their problems and try to find the solutions. Mr Laxman Basnet wrapped up the two days’ workshop thanking and briefly highlighting the future plans of SARTUC such as an upcoming election. In the end, he greatly emphasized on the threats posed by the current trade union situation in India that can be replicated by others, therefore, it is vital to come together, act together and grow together in the issues of migration and other labour issues through instruments like SDGs and GCM. Lastly, he again thanked Mr Haridasan for his services to South Asia and the workers at large.