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Trade unions in Asia India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Korea. IndustriALL Consultant Relationship between workplace unions and global unions. Non- Unionised Workplace. workplace. No union. YES union. ITUC. Independent Union (in-house). Global

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trade unions in asia india indonesia malaysia thailand vietnam korea

Trade unions in AsiaIndia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Korea

IndustriALL Consultant

relationship between workplace unions and global unions
Relationship between workplace unions and global unions




No union









  • Workers(2005): 464.3 million
  • Trade unions (2005):
    • 68,544 registered unions (but, only 7,812 union “returned” to government)
    • 24,601,589 registered members (but, only 6.97 million members belonging to “returned” unions to government.
    • On average, 893 members per a union (73.2% male members and 26.8% female members)
national centers
National Centers
  • All India Trade Union Congress (Communist Party of India), established in 1920, 3.36 million members as of 2002.
  • Indian National Trade Union Congress (Indian National Congress), established in 1947, 1.54 million members, as of 2002
  • Hind MazdoorSabha (socialists), established in 1948, 3.33 miollion members, as of 2002
  • BharatiyaMazdoorSangh (RashtriyaSwayamsevakSangh), established in 1955, 6.21 million members, as of 2002
  • Centre of Indian Trade Unions (Communist Party of India (Marxist)), established in 1970, 2.67 million members, self claimed in its website
  • All India Central Council of Trade Unions (Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation)
  • All India United Trade Union Centre (Socialist Unity Centre of India (Communist))
  • New Trade Union Initiative (Independent from political parties, but left)
  • Labour Progressive Federation (DravidaMunnetraKazhagam)
  • SEWA
  • Trade Union Coordination Committee (All India Forward Bloc)
  • United Trade Union Congress (Revolutionary Socialist Party)
  • Pluralism: political division and ideological diversity
  • The existence of militant labor movement
  • Decentralized union structure and bargaining structure: the increase of in-house unions (company unionism) and independent unions
  • Poor manpower and finance of upper-level unions (Industrial federations), poor function in supporting workplace-level unions activity such as collective bargaining
  • Excessive politicization of union leaders: poor capacity and corruption of some leaders
  • The deepening and spread of company unionism and only company-level bargaining
  • Language barriers: English, Hindi, Tamil
  • Workers: 114.5 million
  • Worker in formal economy: 30 million
  • Unionized workers: 3,414,455members
  • Main national centers (confederations)
    • KSPSI (1.5 million with 17 industrial federations– Confederation of ALL Indonesian Workers’ Unions)
    • KSPI (600,000 members with 9 industrial federations – Confederation of Indonesian Trade Unions, established in 2003)
    • KSBSI (380,000 members with 13 industrial federations– Confederation of Indonesia Prosperity Trade Unions, established in 1992)
  • Only 39 out of 90 industrial federations belong to the main three confederations
  • The number of trade unions: 11,766 unions, including 170 state company unions
  • There are 10,659collective agreements.
  • Indonesia ratifies all the 8 ILO fundamental conventions.
  • The split of the trade union movement (3 confederations and + @@@)
  • Union structure and collective bargaining based on company unionism
  • The prevalence of wage confidentiality among unions
  • Poor quality of collective agreements: mainly focusing on economy interests rather than workers’ collective rights, even including company policy against workers and union members
  • Poor manpower and finance of upper-level unions (industrial federations), but comparatively active and powerful activity and function by upper-level unions in ASEAN countries
  • Active and strong workers struggle since the collapse of military dictatorship in the late 1990s: for example, 1-day general strike with 2 million workers to demand the increase of minimum wage, the protection of precarious workers (CAL workers), and better social insurances.
  • Workers: 12 million
  • Unionized workers: 803,405
  • Single national center: Malaysian Trade Union Congress (MTUC)
    • 500,000 members
    • 244 affiliates
      • 20 national unions
      • 224 regional or company unions
foreign migrant workers
Foreign (migrant) workers
  • Importing foreign started in 1992 only in plantation and construction sectors
  • Expanded to industrial or manufacturing sectors in 2000.
  • Allowed in every industry and sector in 2002.
  • There were over 2 million of foreign workers registered to government in 2007. it was estimated that there were more than 1 million of foreign workers, not registered.
  • Over 30% of Malaysia workforce is foreigners
  • Main sending countries: Indonesia, Nepal, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and the Philippines
  • The distortion of labor markets and the spread of low-wage structure
  • No union member
  • Strong intervention and interference by government (against the freedom of association)
  • National unions are based on “intentionally fragmented or divided” industries or sectors (by government)
  • The spread of company unionism, pushed by government and employers since the early 1990
  • Only company or factory-wide collective bargaining. There is no sector or industry-wide collective bargaining. but, collective agreements are signed by national unions, excluding ordinary members (union bureaucracy or corruption)
  • Too many foreign workers, resulting in the challenges to the trade union movement in organizing and bargaining
  • The issue of union democracy and transparency
  • Lost militant or struggling spirit of trade unions
  • Language problems: English (only 4 million can speak English, shockingly only 80,000 use perfect English)
  • Working population: 37 million
    • state/public sector: 3.23 million
    • private sector:8.89 million
    • information economy: 23 million
    • foreign workers: 470,000
    • Thai workers working overseas: 2million
  • Unionized workers: 516,000(Thai government 2007)
    • State-owned companies: 180,500
    • Private sector: 335,600 (in 1,258 trade unions)
  • 18 industrial federations, 1 federation of state-owned companies, 12 labour Congresses, 8 regional union councils
  • There is no systematic connection between workplace-level unions and upper-level unions
  • Poor coordination and poor cooperation among upper-level unions
  • Poor manpower and resources of upper-level unions (no office, no full-time union officers)
  • Poor role and function of upper-level unions in supporting union activities at workplace level
  • Company unionism and company-limited bargaining
  • the historical legacy of feudalism in Thai politics, society and culture
    • Split between Yellow Shirts and Red Shirts
    • Language problem: “dialogue”, “collective agreement”, “employers”, “employees”
  • Excessively confrontational labor relations and mistrust between employers and employees, very common union busting
  • Workers: 13.5 million (2011)
    • state/public sector: 4.2 million
    • Private sector: 9.3 million(including 1.9 million working in foreign companies)
  • Vietnam General Confederation of Labor (VGCL)
    • 20 industrial unions
    • 63 provincial-level federations of labor
    • 7,727,178 members (as of June 2012)
    • 113,402unions at workplace level
  • Trade union activity under the guidance of communist party
  • Rich and plentiful manpower and resources of upper-level unions (full-time officers, building, facilities, vehicles): the historical legacy of socialism
  • Poor experience and knowledge on labor relations and union activity of capitalist economy
  • Lack of understanding on union role: playing the role of “mediator” between workers and employers, rather than defending workers rights and interests(trade union officer or public servant?)
  • Lack of independence and democracy from party, government and employers
  • The problem of dual positions of union leaders (union officers, at the same time high-ranking managers)
  • Company-level labor relations and bargaining are dominant
  • Abnormal union structure: provincial federations are more powerful than industrial unions; the legacy of socialism
  • the existence of trade union “organizations”, but the non-existence of labor “movement”
  • Low union density
  • Company unionism and company-based bargaining are dominant.
  • Non-existence of industry-wide labor relations
  • Poor quality of collective agreements: little articles for the freedom of union activity, some articles against workers (sanction, discipline)
  • Political split of trade union movement in India, Indonesia and Thailand
  • The deepening and spread of precarious work
  • Poor quality of information disclosure and consultation: wage confidentiality
  • Poor conditions for union activity: paid union leaders, union office inside factory, paid time for union activity
  • Poor manpower and resources of upper-level unions
  • Poor coordination and advocacy among upper-level unions, and by upper-level unions for workplace-level unions
  • Anti-union government, also daily union busting by employers
  • Organizing and unionization
  • Expanding of bargaining agenda and improvement of collective agreement
  • Overcoming company unionism (in-house unions)
  • Strong manpower and resources of upper-level unions
  • Active role and function of upper-level unions (organizing, collective bargaining, engagement in policy making of government)
  • Protecting and organizing contract and agency workers (precarious workers)
  • Solidarity and unity of labor movement