Stop Commodification of Labor, Respect Migrant Workers’ Rights Now

The Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL) today assailed government for its severe lack of ability to protect OFWs and reiterated the call of the Philippine Working Group on the GFMD to make the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) a real forum among governments, migrants and people’s movements to discuss migration policies that respects migrants’ human and trade union rights.

In a press forum held in Manila, Daniel L. Edralin, APL Chairperson, lambasted government’s de facto policy of exporting workers abroad. “Labor has become our biggest export commodity, earning more than $1 billion every month in terms of remittances,” he said. “And yet our migrant workers remain vulnerable to all forms of exploitation including intensifying gender, class and systematic abuses,” he lamented.

Migrant workers are the first to be subjected to harsh labor and immigration policies including pay cuts, imposition of taxes, reduction of benefits and the massive arrest and deportation of the undocumented. Most are denied their fundamental trade union right to organize, collectively bargain and to strike. Many suffer from all forms of violence against women.

“Government has got to get its act together and put more resources to beef up its ability to respond to the needs of Filipino migrant workers, especially those who are undocumented and are under dire circumstances,” Edralin added. He said that according to the DFA, of the estimated 7,945,751 overseas Filipinos as of June 2007, some 444,000 were undocumented while 4,770 are languishing in jails.

What is worst is the fact that the soaring remittances of migrant workers have turned government complacent. Rather than address the jobs crisis in the country, migration has become an easy way out to ease the social pressure caused by unemployment.

“Migration can never be a sustainable solution to our jobs crisis. Our government should instead make full employment the primary policy objective,” Edralin said. “But achieving full employment would require a new development paradigm, one that would radically depart from the discredited neoliberal model being used by our policy makers for decades and has led us to this current path of jobless growth,” he added.

Edralin said that these are some of the major issues that the 2nd Global Forum on Migration and Development, which will be held in Manila in October 2008, should address. He challenged government to heed the demands of the Philippine Working Group on the GFMD to “make the GFMD a genuine forum among governments, migrants and people’s movements to discuss models of migration policy that respects migrants’ and all people’s human rights, which will require exploration of the full range of issues involved in migration, including the underlying problems of development, poverty, joblessness, and how we can collectively address these.”

“We reiterate our call to put GFMD under the ambit of the United Nations to ensure that it adheres to, and builds upon, the existing human rights frameworks and obligations,” Edralin said.

The APL is a national labor center with at least 50,000 members from the formal and informal sector nationwide. It is organizing Filipino domestic workers in Hong Kong for the past 2 years.

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