- Secretary Baldoz and officials of the Department of Labor and Employment,
- State Prosecutor Ong, Assistant State Prosecutor Santiago, Chief Prosecutor Ibuyan,
- Members of the Administrative Order 35 Technical Working Group,
- Members of the Special Investigation Teams and Special Tracker Teams,
- Partners from workers and employers’ representatives in the National and Regional Tripartite Monitoring Boards,
- Ladies and gentlemen, magandang umaga sa inyong lahat! [Good morning to all of you]
The Philippines was among the countries in 1953 to ratify the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention, 1948 (No. 87) and the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949 (No. 98). Having ratified these Conventions, the Philippines is bound to implement these both in law and in practice.
ILO Convention 87 guarantees the right of workers and employers to join and act together to defend and promote not only their economic interests, but also the interests of the society where they live.
To safeguard these rights, ILO Convention 98 upholds workers’ rights against acts of anti-union discrimination and interference, and to promote voluntary negotiations or collective bargaining.
Both these Conventions are not just labour rights, but also human rights under Article 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which include the rights to free choice of employment, pay equity, just remuneration and, the right to form and join trade unions to protect their interests.
Workers’ and employers’ rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining are also important elements of democracy.
However, the rights of workers and employers to organize and collectively bargain can only be exercised in a climate that is free from violence, pressure or threats of any kind against their leaders and members.
Towards the mid to late 2000, the ILO received various complaints from trade unions involving killings, disappearances, torture and intimidation of workers’ in the exercise of their legitimate trade union activities.
Cases like these create a culture of fear among workers, which discourage them from establishing or joining unions and participating in social dialogue.
According to the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), overall union membership has declined sharply from the early to late 2000 from 3.8 million to 1.9 million workers. This is less than 10 per cent of the country’s 36 million workers. Unionized workers covered by collective bargaining agreements also decreased from 19.7 per cent in 2003 to 10.3 in 2012.
In response to these complaints, the Philippine government accepted the ILO High Level Mission in 2009.
Some of the stakeholders which the ILO met during the Mission included not just affected workers’ organizations, but also representatives from government agencies such as the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), the Department of Justice (DoJ), the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), the Philippine National Police (PNP), the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Supreme Court.
Since the ILO High Level Mission, concrete efforts have been taken up collectively by the government, workers and employers organizations toraise awareness and strengthen collaboration in promoting freedom of association and collective bargaining.
The ILO has supported some of these initiatives through:
- Training of focal persons on freedom of association and collective bargaining for DOLE, CHR and the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA); Region-wide Trainings on International Labour Standards, Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining for police and military officials, using a training guide, developed by the ILO; and
- Support for dialogue on the development of operational guidelines for the tripartite monitoring boards on alleged labour related human rights abuses.
Only when these rights are respected and when workers and employers can freely participate and contribute to the development process, can inclusive growth and sustainable peace and development follow.
In closing, let me acknowledge DOLE for organizing this activity. We are also grateful to the DOJ, as head of the AO 35 IAC, for assisting us in the technical aspects of today’s programme. We would also like to thank and congratulate the other AO 35 member agencies for mobilizing their representatives to this event as well as workers and employers organizations for their continued support.
Let me assure you that the ILO is committed to partner with you to guarantee respect for fundamental rights at work.
Thank you and Mabuhay!