Labor talks

COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva - The Philippine Star

In a bid to build up the Filipino work force by providing more quality, remunerative and permanent jobs, including creation of the so-called “green jobs,” President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. (PBBM) is convening a National Employment Summit next week. Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Secretary Bienvenido Laguesma announced in our Kapihan sa Manila Bay news forum last Wednesday. The Summit that will be held on June 26 to 27 at the Manila Hotel will bring together not just the leaders of various organized labor groups and top executives from private business organizations but also representatives from the micro-small and medium-enterprises (MSMEs) and the rest of stakeholders running the Philippine economy, Laguesma disclosed.

Chiefly organized by the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA), Laguesma pointed out that the Summit is implementing the Trabaho Para sa Bayan Act under Republic Act (RA) No.11962. PBBM signed this into law on Sept. 27, 2023 which, among other things, mandated a focus on improving the employability and competitiveness of Filipino workers through upskilling and reskilling initiatives, and to support the MSMEs all over the country.

Under this law, the Trabaho Para sa Bayan Inter-Agency Council (TPB-IAC) is chaired by NEDA Secretary Arsenio Balisacan and co-chaired by the respective Secretaries of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the DOLE, with representatives from other agencies and various sectors.

Laguesma credited this inter-agency as being able to complete the needed implementing rules and regulations of RA 11962 ahead of schedule. So the “rollout” of the regional consultations started in January this year, he pointed out. He described the National Employment Summit as the culmination of all these discussions from the various regions as inputs on how to create new jobs and to generate more employment opportunities out of the so-called “green jobs.”

“Green jobs” are defined as decent jobs that contribute to preserve or restore the environment, be they in traditional sectors, such as manufacturing and construction, or in new emerging green sectors, such as renewable energy and energy efficiency.

At the same news forum, Laguesma sought to dispel the International Trade Unions Confederation (ITUC) 2024 Report that classified anew the Philippines among the “ten worst countries” for workers. In its report, ITUC cited the slay of two labor leaders Alex Dolorosa in April 2023 and Jude Thaddeus Fernandez of KMU in September last year.

In the same ITUC Report, it declared: “Workers and unions in the Philippines 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. In 2023, two prominent trade unionists were murdered. 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.”

The ITUC based its findings on the annual survey-questionnaires on its 340 national unions in 169 countries to report violations of workers’ rights. They document reported violations of “internationally recognized collective labor rights by governments and employers. In particular, the ITUC gets in touch with unions on reported violations, in particular the rights to collective bargaining to freedom of association and the right to strike.

Four labor groups from the Philippines are among the member unions of the Brussels-based ITUC. These are, namely, the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP); Federation of Free Workers (FFW); Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU); and, Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO).

No wonder the Philippines got the bad picture of our workers’ condition here.

The ITUC classified countries with the rating of “5” as the worst in the world to work when there is no guarantee of rights of workers “due to the breakdown of the rule of law.” Since the workers have no access to these rights, the ITUC cited the workers in these countries are “exposed to autocratic regimes and unfair labor practices.”

Aside from the Philippines, the ITUC gave the same rating of “5” to workers in Bangladesh, Belarus, Ecuador, Egypt, Eswatini, Guatemala, Myanmar, Tunisia and Turkiye.

Thus, the DOLE chief deplored the ITUC 2024 Report as “very unfair for us.” In fact, Laguesma noted, the ITUC has been giving the Philippines a rating of “5” for the past eight years now and continues to ignore the Filipino workers enjoy the basic rights and freedoms enshrined in our country’s Constitution.

Ironically, from the just concluded 112th International Labor Organization (ILO) conference held in Geneva, the Philippines was elected last June 14 as deputy titular government members to the ILO’s Governing Board. Surely, the Philippines would not have been voted to this highest policymaking body of the ILO if our labor situation has such bad reputation. The Philippine government will serve four three-year terms or until 2036. According to Laguesma, the last time the Philippines served was in 2008.

At the same time, Laguesma added, the Philippines was for the first time elected for a three-year term as member of the ILO’s Committee on Freedom of Association and at the Board of the ILO’s International Training Center in Turin, Italy.

In the 2024 Global Gender Gap Report of the World Economic Forum, Laguesma noted with pride the Philippines is No. 1 over-all in the ASEAN region and No. 3 overall on the Asia-Pacific in terms of gender parity. This means, Laguesma stressed, there is no discrimination or bias at the work places but all workers enjoy equal rights for both men, women and LGBTQIA+ (lesbians, gays, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and asexual).

Meanwhile, the DOLE chief believes on the certainty that minimum wage earners in Metro Manila will likely get an increase in their daily take home by mid-July. Laguesma cited the Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board (RTWPB) in Metro Manila started the public hearings yesterday on various amounts of proposed wage increase.

Actually, Laguesma stressed, the RTWPB in NCR initiated the motu proprio review, or even without a pending petition for a wage hike in compliance with PBBM’s directive during his Labor Day address last May 1. So all these labor talks are bearing fruits soon.

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