By Daniel L. Edralin
Philippine Workers’ Delegate to the 102nd Session of the ILC, Geneva, Switzerland
Chairperson of the Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL)
Co-Convenor of NAGKAISA!
14 June 2013

Peace and justice to all.

This year’s theme: “Building a Future with Decent Work,” APPROXIMATES our hopes as workers. It is a hope that refuses to die after decades of intense struggles and many lives lost. It is that hope that gave rise in 2012 to NAGKAISA (UNITED) – the labor coalition in the Philippines whose membership now ranges from the APL-Sentro, the KONTRA, to the FFW, the TUCP under Bro. Democrito Mendoza, and 49 other unions and labor organizations.

We in NAGKAISA welcome the report of the Director-General, and agree that the ILO must carry forward its struggle for social justice into the second century of its history.

We recognize the contributions of the ILO to realize a future with decent work. However, the future must be founded not just on hope and efforts to build a better society, but the experience NOW of social justice, equality, inclusive and sustainable development, and vivir bien (living well).

It is in this light that we bring a most urgent appeal to the ILO: that the Philippine government be put under ILO’s short list of countries whose law and practice still do not fully adhere to ILO Conventions 87 & 98 and has failed to bring to justice the perpetrators of numerous cases of extra-judicial killings.

For many years now, we have exposed the rampant violations of workers’ fundamental rights to organize, collectively bargain and to strike. Today trade union killings continue to happen with impunity, even as such cases have drastically declined in the past two years. Of the 59 cases of extra-judicial killings in the last 5 years, 23 have been considered “cold cases” because no one has stepped up to testify, with only 3 having been formally brought to court. Despite repeated commitments of government to give justice to all the victims, not one single case has been resolved.

Another insidious practice increasingly used is the filing of malicious and/or fabricated criminal charges by companies to stop workers from exercising their rights.

Precarious work is rampant and is used as tools to avoid or bust unions in the private and public sectors. These come in many guises: contractualization, “job order” workers, “projects employment“, “contract of service”, “volunteers” in health, education and social services delivery. The government as employer is the biggest culprit.

Meanwhile, the public sector workers’ right to self-organization and collectively bargain continues to be restricted even as they are threatened by privatization, outsourcing and systematic minimization of the public sector. We recognize that governance reforms for transparency, accountability and participation are needed, but such reforms should never be at the expense of the rights of state workers.

As a consequence, trade union density in the country continues to decline from 8.7% in 2010 to 8.6% in 2012.

At the same time, women workers still struggle with economic marginalization, political subordination and violence in the workplace and communities.

We recognize the efforts of the present Aquino administration to ease the economic burdens of the Filipino workers and the initiatives of its Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), working with the National Tripartite Industrial Peace Council (NTIPC), to align the country’s law and practice to the ILO Conventions, including its successful efforts to resolve the conflict in Temic Automotive Philippines, Inc.

However, these efforts are being eclipsed by the inadequate, incoherent, or in some cases, contradictory actions of the Executive Branch including the Department of Justice (DoJ), the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP); as well as the Judicial Branch, especially the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals.

In the report Philippine unions submitted to the ILO High Level Mission to the Philippines in September 2009, and again in a letter submitted by the Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL) to the ILO Director-General last April 2013, we bared the futility of pursuing labor justice because it is simply too expensive and too complicated that a simple legal action takes years to conclude. To make matters worse, the Supreme Court issues “judicial legislations” against workers!

While the Aquino government has yet to implement the recommendations of the ILO’s CFA on such a “judicial legislation” called the Velasco Decision on the Dusit Hotel case, where the Supreme Court decided that actual work stoppage IS NO LONGER an essential element of a strike, the same ruling is being used to declare other forms of workers’ concerted actions as illegal strike!

For some of us, this is nothing short of a war being waged against workers. For others, it is just bad capitalism. We in NAGKAISA may have our nuances, but we all agree that a future founded on decent work can never rest on the exploitation of workers.

We are conscious that this situation exists not only in the Philippines but also, or even more so, in Nepal, Malaysia, Cambodia, Bangladesh and many in the Gulf States. Thus, we call on the ILO to stop all these governments that pay lip service to our conventions, while sowing a culture of fear and impunity among their people – including the government of the Philippines.

Thank you very much.