Year in Reflection by Daisy Arago

Editor’s Note:

As 2022 draws to a close, we invited our friends to reflect on the past year by answering a few questions. We have collected them and will be publishing these reflections throughout December. We hope these pieces can grow our understanding and help us forge stronger unity and solidarity.

We begin this series with the reflection by Daisy Arago at the Centre for Trade Union and Human Rights, Philippines.

In 2022, what workers’ struggle in Asia impressed you?

I am particularly impressed by the struggle of platform workers wherever they are. 

There was an impression that while the pandemic closed the door to many workers, particularly women workers, it opened a new window of opportunity for special groups of workers such as platform workers. At least, they have motorbikes, smart phones, and can control their working time. 

As the pandemic dragged on, the impression was proven wrong.  They are not special after all. They are workers, even if they are classified as independent contractors. 

Dismayed, platform workers are banding together to improve their income and benefits and demand recognition as workers entitled to labour protection. This is exemplified by workers at Grab, Foodpanda, and Lazada.

Platform employees are workers and should enjoy their labour rights.  This presents a new challenge for organising.

What is one thing that deserves more of our attention?

State authoritarianism is rising in Asia, yet unions are declining.

Unions continue to face intimidation, threats or harassment of members and their families to discourage union organising. 

This concretises the argument that corporations and the states that host them share the same interests. Companies need not lift a finger to dissuade workers from union organising. The state will do the job for them under the guise of counter-terrorism, employment creation and national economic development.

The challenge to workers’ struggle is not confined to their employers’ anti-worker actions, but also those of the state.

With rising fuel and food prices, coupled with environmental disasters, workers are bound to demand wage increases, and we should be prepared for state repression in response.

Is there any new insight you gained this year? 

What is interesting is the role of labour in addressing the climate crisis.

The world is in crisis and we all need to respond. This raises the need for workers to have that capacity to cope, to be resilient.

What should we be looking to in 2023? 

The rise of workers and people against attacks on democracy and against corruption amidst poverty always brings hope to the movement.