Police plan to prevent unions from organizing hit

Ian Nicolas Cigaral - Philstar.com
In this file photo, groups troop to Liwasang Bonifacio in Manila for their Labor Day commemoration.
Philstar.com / Efigenio Toledo IV

MANILA, Philippines — Labor groups on Friday slammed the Philippine National Police for deploying cops in economic zones as a supposed deterrent against “radical labor infiltration,” saying the move aims to "red tag" legitimate workers' unions.

In a statement, Defend Job Philippines said the implementation of the Joint Industrial Peace and Concern Office (JIPCO) “will mean nothing but a tool of repression against the Filipino working class, especially on industrial zones across Central Luzon.”

The group also called on Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III to “do something to end the PNP’s recent attack against labor unions in the country.”

The Bill of Rights in the 1987 Constitution recognizes and guaranteed the right "to form unions, associations, or societies for purposes not contrary to law."

The Labor Code, meanwhile, holds that it is state policy "to promote free trade unionism as an instrument for the enhancement of democracy and the promotion of social justice and development."

JIPCO 'to prevent militant labor groups from 'organizing'

JIPCO is a “community relations program” of the PNP in partnership with the Philippine Economic Zone Authority. It is being implemented in different special economic zones and freeport zones in Central Luzon to act as “the first-line of defense from radical labor infiltration of the labor force and the industrial zones.”

Authorities also said JIPCO aims to “prevent militant labor groups from organizing workers' union in factories and other business establishments.”

“Instead of promoting and protecting the basic labor rights of every Filipino worker to join and form unions inside their workplaces, the PNP is clearly violating these rights and is blatantly exposing its institution as anti-labor,” Defend Job Philippines spokesperson Christian Lloyd Magsoy said.

“Labor and trade unions are beneficial for workers to achieve common goals such as protecting the integrity of its trade, improving safety standards, and attaining better wages, benefits and working conditions through increased bargaining power,” Magsoy added.

Citing Labor Department data, Defend Job Philippines said that out of the 41,000,000 Philippine labor force in 2019, only 4,689,058 workers are unionized.

Economic zones are selected areas that are either highly developed or have the potential to be developed into business centers. To attract investors, the government grants incentives to businesses operating in these areas.

'De facto martial law'

Separately, Kilusang Mayo Uno said increasing police presence in economic zones “is in fact a de facto martial law.”

“The so-called industrial peace uttered by the PNP and other government agencies is just an enhancement of stepping up attack on the worker's rights for job security; a just and living wage; right to organize union. These are basic rights of every worker and all these are indicated in the Philippine Constitution and the Labor Code,” they said.

“This further proved that the Duterte regime is not for the Filipino workers and no plans of easing the lives of the workers and the people, the regime aims to aggravate the miserable plight of the workers by making sure to follow neoliberal policies of its imperialist masters such as legitimizing labor-only-contracting, and maintaining cheap and docile labor,” they added.

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