Opening address at the conference on the ratification of ILO Convention 151: Key to empowering and harnessing public sector unions towards achieving sustainable quality public services and good governance

By Mr Lawrence Jeff Johnson, Director of the ILO Country Office for the Philippines at the conference on the ratification of ILO Convention 151: Key to empowering and harnessing public sector unions towards achieving sustainable quality public services and good governance, Manila, Philippines, 21 July 2015

Statement | Manila, Philippines | 20 July 2015
Welcome to this conference on the Labour Relations in Public Service Convention!

Let me thank Ms Annie Geron and the PSLINK for organizing this conference, as well as the public and private sector unions, DOLE and the Civil Service Commission for supporting the campaign to ratify the Labour Relations (Public Service) Convention, 1978 (No. 151).

A strong public sector is vital to democracy and a critical element to achieve the Philippines goal of inclusive and sustainable growth.

Good governance in public sector includes effective social dialogue where there is space for civil servants to participate in addressing and resolving workplace issues.

Here in the Philippines, several consultations were done to identify and address challenges affecting 1.5 million public sector workers.

These challenges include:
  • limited capacity of some sub-sectors to meet basic requirements for union registration;
  • existence of precarious contracts in the public sector, posing challenges in organizing and collective bargaining;
  • need for common understanding among workers and management on distinctions between management prerogative and what workers consider as unfair labour practice;
  • limited areas for bargaining and non-implementation of signed collective agreements;
  • weaknesses in dispute resolution mechanisms; and 
  • limited role of workers’ representatives in the Public Sector Labor Management Council (PSLMC), often remaining as observers.
ILO Convention 151 was adopted in 1978 to address the application of 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) in the public sector.

As I’m sure we are all aware of, the Philippines has already ratified ILO Conventions 87 and 98.

The Labour Relations (Public Service) Convention:
  • Promotes right to freedom of association, for all civil servants, regardless of the nature of employment.
  • Protects civil servants against anti-union discrimination and any interference.
  • Promotes measures undertaken by management to grant facilities or any kind of support that enables public sector workers’ organizations to implement union activities, while recognizing that these measures should not limit the efficient operation of the office.
  • Promotes negotiation or other forms of dialogue that gives voice public on issues that affect their terms and conditions of employment.
  • Promotes independent, accessible and effective dispute resolution mechanisms so that workplace conflicts are resolved at the earliest possible time.
ILO Convention 151 complements Executive Order 180 issued by President Corazon Aquino. It also serves as reference for ongoing review, aimed at modernizing labour relations in the public services.

If the Philippines ratifies Convention 151, it will be the 54th ILO member State, and the first country in Asia.

It resonates the aspiration of the Philippines to uphold public service ethics as well as decent work for civil servants.

Convention 151 is not only about providing decent and productive work in the public sector, but also improving governance and delivery of services.

To end, the ILO will continue to support the government, workers and employers organizations, and the public sector towards the ratification of Convention 151.

The ILO is ready to assist the country in aligning national law and practice in the public sector with international standards.

Thank you and Mabuhay!