Fight for workers rights!

This article is available in PilipinoBisaya

Workers unions, associations and groups held various activities in line with the International Labour Organization (ILO)’s High Level Tripartite Mission (HLTM) in the Philippines last January 23-26. The said mission aimed to investigate violations of workers’ rights in the country.

The HLTM was held after workers in 2019 called for an investigation of at least 380 case of attacks against unionists and organizers. The activity finally pushed through after more than two years of being blocked by the Duterte regime.

Data from the Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR) show not less than 56 workers were killed under the Duterte regime. This include cases in Davao de Oro, Negros Island, Bicol and Southern Tagalog. Meanwhile, two organizers were abducted by state forces and remain missing to this day. More than 30 unions have been victimized by state forces and the NTF-Elcac in its campaign of red-tagging, intimidation and forced disaffiliation from their labor center.

During Marcos Jr’s more than six months in power, there have been 29 cases of threats and intimidation of workers, four cases of illegal arrests and victims of trumped-up charges. A case of abduction of two organizers of workers in Cebu was also recorded. Presently, 27 unionists and workers rights defenders are imprisoned and are facing trumped-up charges.

Workers’ unity and mobilization

Before the arrival of ILO officials, the Kilusang Mayo Uno (May First Movement or KMU) held a series of workers’ consulations in Visayas (Iloilo, January 5), Mindanao (Davao, January 7) and Luzon (Laguna, January 10). These assemblies expressed support to the ILO’s investigations.

In relation to the mission, the All Philippine Trade Unions was established by members which include the biggest union centers such as the KMU, Federation of Free Workers, PSlink, Trade Union Congress of the Philippines, Partido Manggagawa, Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino, Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa, Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura, and the All Workers Unity.

Government employees unions also came together and established the All Philippine Public Service Unions to demand union rights, benefits and ending of contractualization. At least 12 national public sector unions came together.

Meanwhile, health workers laid down their 10-point recommendation on January 22 demanding recognition and advancements of their rights. Teachers meanwhile demanded recognition of their union rights and granting of additional salary.

Labor groups held consecutive protests at the national offices of the Department of Justice and Department of Labor and Employment in Manila. On January 23, the day the ILO HLTM began, hundreds of workers staged a rally in Makati City to greet its delegation. Workers also protested in Bacolod City, Cebu City and Davao City.

The mission’s recommendations

After the investigation, the ILO pushed the Philippine government to resolve the many cases of extra-judicial killings of workers and abduction of unionists and organizers. The mission said, “it should prioritize the criminal investigation and…holding someone accountable.” It said that this could be led by a commission it recommended the government to establish.

The mission criticized the state’s mindset of linking parts of the trade union movement to the insurgency. According to them this violates the law and outrightly impedes their right to association.

It also encouraged the Philippine government to strengthen mechanisms of its agencies to ensure the welfare of unions and protect union rights. It said that the government must act on it and submit a report this coming June 5.

The All Philippine Trade Unions welcomed the ILO HLTM’s recognition of workers and unions’ situation in the country. The group said it will strenghten the unity of unions and workers to demand the government to recognize their rights, provide jobs and raise wages. They will stand vigilant to the day the ILO asked the government to submit a report.

Fight for workers rights!