Philippines still among worst countries for workers

Janvic Mateo - The Philippine Star
Philippines still among worst countries for workers
Workers load plastic bottles at junk shops along Road 10 in Tondo, Manila on June 14, 2024.
Edd Gumban / The Philippine STAR

MANILA, Philippines — For the eighth consecutive year, the Philippines was included among the 10 worst countries for working people, in a list released by the International Trade Union Confederation.

ITUC’s Global Rights Index 2024, released on June 12, is a comprehensive review of workers’ rights in law. It ranked 151 countries based on 97 indicators derived from International Labor Organization conventions and jurisprudence.

Countries receive a score based on a scale from 1 to 5+, with 1 as the highest.

Like in previous years, the Philippines obtained a score of 5, described as having “no guarantee of rights.”

“Countries with the rating of 5 are the worst countries in the world to work in. 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 practices,” the ITUC said.

In the case of the Philippines, the group said that workers and unions “remained at the mercy of red tagging (being blacklisted by the government as a communist subversive and branded an extremist), violence, abductions and arbitrary arrests,” it added.

It cited the killings of two prominent trade unionists last year: labor rights defender Alex Dolorosa, whose body was found in Bacolod City on April 24, 2023, and labor organizer Jude Thaddeus Fernandez, who was shot dead during a police operation on his house in Binangonan, Rizal on Sept. 29, 2023.

The ITUC noted that Fernandez was the 72nd victim of labor-related killings in the Philippines since July 2016.

“The government fostered a climate of fear and persecution, silencing the collective voice of workers. Workers across many sectors still faced significant obstacles when attempting to form trade unions,” it added.

Globally, the ITUC said that the index has tracked a rapid decline in workers’ rights in every region.

“Workers are the beating heart of democracy, and their right to be heard is crucial to the health and sustainability of democratic systems,” ITUC general secretary Luc Triangle said in a statement.

“When their rights are violated, democracy itself is attacked. Democracy, trade unions and workers’ rights go together; you simply cannot have one without the other,” he added.

Aside from the Philippines, nine other countries were identified as the worst countries for workers. These were Bangladesh, Belarus, Ecuador, Egypt, Eswatini, Guatemala, Myanmar, Tunisia and Turkiye.

The organization also reported deaths of trade unionists and workers in five other countries: Bangladesh, Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras and South Korea.

“Almost nine out of 10 countries worldwide violated the right to strike, while about eight in 10 countries denied workers the right to bargain collectively for better terms and conditions,” read the report.

“In a deeply worrying development this year, 49 percent of countries arbitrarily arrested or detained trade union members, up from 46 percent in 2023, while more than four in 10 countries denied or constrained freedom of speech or assembly,” it added.

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