CHR urges action as Philippines among 'worst countries for workers' anew

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CHR urges action as Philippines among 'worst countries for workers' anew
Demonstrators stage the Labor Day protest last May 1, 2019.
Philstar.com / Efigenio Toledo IV

MANILA, Philippines — Being listed as one of the worst countries for workers for the third year in a row should prod the Philippines to take urgent action to protect laborers' rights and to address workers' grievances, the Commission on Human Rights said.

CHR spokesperson Jacqueline De Guia made the statement after the Philippines was included in the worst countries to work in, according to the 2019 Global Rights Index of the International Trade Union Confederation.

ITUC did not rank the countries included in its list of 10 worst countries. Aside from the Philippines, Algeria, Bangladesh, Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Zimbabwe made the list in the 2019 Global Rights Index.

The world’s largest trade union stressed that workers in the Philippines face violent attacks and intimidation and that protests in the country are “brutally repressed” by police in an alleged attempt by the government to suppress dissent.

"With martial law in Mindanao extended for the third time until the end of 2019, the threat of an escalation of violence and abuses grows," ITUC said.

ITUC also gave the Philippines a rating of five, which means that “while the legislation may spell out certain rights, workers have effectively no access to these rights and are therefore exposed to autocratic regimes and unfair labor practice.”

It noted that 10 trade unionists were killed in the Philippines in 2018.

CHR: Report should push gov’t to act

CHR’s De Guia said the ITUC report should “jolt” the Philippine government into action.

“It is grievous that our country has drastically regressed in protecting the rights of workers. Considering that this has been the case for two years in a row, the government is expected to have taken urgent actions on this aspect,” De Guia said.

She added: “Freedom of association and freedom of peaceful assembly, including the right to form and join trade unions are guaranteed rights. However, the reprehensible escalation of violence, attacks and intimidation against workers especially those who are members of union groups did not seemingly wane.”

De Guia also said the shrinking democratic space in the country aggravates the cause of workers.

In October last year, nine sugarcane workers—including three women and two minors—in Sagay City, Negros Occidental while protesting delays in land reform and calling for improvements to their living and working conditions.

Last March, 14 people—mostly farmers—were killed by police and military forces in Canlaon City and towns of Manjuyod and Sta. Catalina in Negros Oriental. The authorities said those who were killed “fought back” and forced law enforcement to kill them, while families of the slain said they were elderly and could not afford to buy weapons.

“Primarily, the injustices committed towards workers in the past years need to expediently resolved. Proactive efforts must also be done to address the grievances of workers instead of repressing them,” the CHR spokesperson said.

She added: “There is always a peaceful and democratic way to resolve workers issues both on the part of the government, business, as well as workers, which is why it is essential to always create a safe and enabling space for dialogue.”

‘Health and safety of workers should be prioritized’

In a separate statement, De Guia stressed that the government and employers should ensure that workers are given just treatment and humane working conditions.

De Guia made the statement after the Department of Labor and Employment fined companies that failed to comply with work safety and health standards.

“Regardless of work sector and industry, health and safety should be the utmost priority in every workplace. Safe working conditions, especially to hazardous jobs, should always be the standard. It is a safeguard to lessen risks to injuries or possible lives lost,” De Guia said.

She said: “Compliance to the law doesn’t only provide a protected work atmosphere but an assurance to both employees and their families.”

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