BWI to ILO: Stop treating thugs and outlaws as legitimate

*Speech of BWI General Secretary Ambet Yuson before the International Labour Conference, 9 June 2021


It is my great honor to address the 109th International Labor Conference.  

For over a century, the ILO has pursued its mission of social justice and the protection of worker rights. Its values, standards and supervisory machinery have made it / the moral compass of our global community. 

Myanmar, the Philippines, and Belarus have lost their bearings. Workers are fighting for universal rights / against great odds. They need and merit our solidarity. 

The social progress made in Myanmar was wiped-out overnight / when the despotic military regime stole the country / from its people. Trade unionists continue to be terrorized and brutalized, but they valiantly resist. 

Myanmar’s despots / seek to rob workers of their human dignity / and transform them into powerless victims. 

Myanmar’s military junta fosters fear / and attacks and intimidates its citizens. It uses the same bullying tactics abroad. 

The time has come to stop treating thugs and outlaws / as if they were legitimate. They should never be given recognition at this Conference or at any other international meeting / where they dare to show their faces.  

At the 2019 ILC, we mourned trade union organizer Dennis Sequena in the Philippines. At least six trade union leaders have been slaughtered recently. Red-tagging has exploded. Violations of fundamental worker rights are routine. 

The Filipino government plays the leading role in violence, threats, and the spread of hatred and division. 

Shocking and outrageous conduct / has become standard operating procedure.

The government of Belarus has ignored the recommendations of the ILO Commission of Inquiry for many years. ILO and other human rights standards have been treated with contempt. 

What is worse / is the refusal to accept the will of the people. Rather than being able to engage in dialogue, protesters leave the streets for prison or exile. It has left nothing for the lonely ruler of Belarus / but holding onto power – at any price.

Do we still wish to enable workers / and all people to live their lives in freedom and dignity? 

Will rouge governments / continue to hijack their people / and the standards of the global community with few or no consequences? 

The answer to that question will help to predict our collective future.  

Watch Ambet's speech here.  You can also listen to it here.