National trade union conference calls for employment security and constructive industrial relations

Published by anna Date posted on July 1, 2015

29 June 2015, Manila –Some 100 union leaders (40% women), representing 18 national labor federations and 30 enterprise-based unions participated in the two-day national conference on employment security and constructive industrial relations.

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Supported by the Japan International Labor Foundation (JILAF), the two-day program aimed to contribute to the promotion of equitable growth and decent work for all. It provided locus for unions to better appreciate prevailing Philippine labor market challenges, with input from unions and external experts; understand the impact of globalization on employment and trade unionism; learn insights from the experiences of Japanese trade unions, particularly on the issue of national wage increases and constructive industrial relations; and adopt a set of national policy and program recommendations to address lingering issues on employment security and workers’ rights.

The conference discussed current socio-economic realities, employment, and challenges to trade unionism in the country, including actions for sustainable development, green jobs and climate change, with input from the Bureau of Labor Relations and Bureau of Working Conditions of the Department of Labor and Employment and Commission on Climate Change.

Selected union representatives from manufacturing, services, private and public education institutions, and the informal sector presented and discussed good practices and lingering problems on employment and industrial relations, particularly on the continuing assault on workers freedom to organize and bargain collectively, the pervasive practice of precarious (contractual) employment that is affecting a huge number of young and women workers, and increasing inequality amidst robust economic growth in recent years.

JILAF Deputy GS RYO SAITO shared good practices on industrial relations in Japan and stressed essential trade union actions for sustainable economic and social development, e.g. , (a) development of the labor movement toward the establishment of constructive industrial relations or mutual trustworthy relations between labor and management, (b) cooperation in company business performance and distribution of results [balanced and utilization of collective bargaining and labor-management consultations], (c) cooperation for investments in response to social development stage and gradual establishment and improvement of employment and working conditions, and (d) labor movement supporting social development. He emphasized the importance of “a broader perspective and unremitting effort” of labor leaders.

Socio-Economic and Trade Union Situation in the Philippines

Bureau of Labor Relations – Department of Labor and Employment (BLR-DOLE) Director BENJO BENAVIDEZ described the rosy economic performance of the country, noting a 6.1% GDP growth in 2014. He explained some improvements in employment (93.2%), unemployment (6.8%), and underemployment (18.4%) rates. Mostly, young people suffer from unemployment. He explained that more efforts must be done to promote workers’ rights to organize and bargain collectively. Based on 2014 BLR-DOLE records, there are some 16,880 registered unions covering 1.4 million workers; 135 labor federations; and 1,227 CBAs covering 207,507 workers only. On dispute settlement, 101,103 cases had been filed from 2010 to 2014, seventy-seven percent (77%) of which had been settled. Some cases involved monetary awards which reached a total of Php 3.4356 billion. He also shared about the robust tripartism in the country, with some 129 and 272 functional tripartite industrial peace councils (TIPC) and industrial tripartite councils (ITC), respectively.

Labor Inspection and Labor Law Compliance System

Bureau of Working Conditions – Department of Labor and Employment (BWC-DOLE) officers Engr. CHRISTINE DE GUZMAN and DR. MARCO ANTONIO VALEROS discussed Department Order 131-13 Labor Law Compliance System. They explained that the Department Order aims to “operationalize the constitutional mandate to protect the interests and welfare of the employees towards the promotion of social justice and maintenance of industrial peace through the encouragement of voluntary compliance and enforcement of labor laws. It covers General Labor Standards (GLS), Occupational Safety and Health Standards (OSHS), and other related labor laws and issuances. They said DO 131-13 is a combination of developmental approach and regulatory approach. It puts emphasis on compliance with occupational safety and health standards. It is a DOLE Toolbox of Programs and Services. Labor Law Compliance System (LLCO) is a labor inspection mechanism implemented in three approaches: (a) Joint Inspection/Assessment, (b) Compliance Visits, and (c) OSH Standards Investigation –particularly where there is imminent danger, events of accidents and/or injury, and OSH violations committed in plain view. They also talked about the recent fire tragedy in Kentex sandals-manufacturing company that claimed 72 lives. They added that an official inquiry is underway. The results will be made public in due time.

Unions Perspectives

TUCP Director for Women FLORENCIA CABATINGAN described the unbridled changing world of work in the country, resulting in decrease of members in unions due to outsourcing and contractualization; increasing number of company unions, migrant workers, and informal workers; and different types of work arrangements. She explained PRECARIOUS WORK as invisible, unmonitored, low pay, poor working conditions, long work hours and low productivity, where women are mostly employed.

She discussed that the increasing “feminization of work” requires trade unions to make adjustments to protect the growing number of women in the workforce, particularly those in precarious work. To address precarious work and promote gender equality, she proposed the following trade union actions: (a) Strengthen MONITORING and INSPECTION as there are problems with enforcement; (b) Maximize the use of collective bargaining to convert precarious jobs to permanent and to guarantee equal pay for similar work; (c) Organizing precarious workers into unions to fight for their rights; (d) Campaign for legislative and political change to ensure social security protection and protection against dismissal, and (e) Support national and local campaigns to stop the massive expansion of precarious work; making wages and conditions of precarious workers equal to those of regular workers; getting workers hired directly by their employers, and restricting non-permanent employment to cases of legitimate need – defining core and non-core jobs.

SMP-NATOW GS MILAGROS OGALINDA and ELMER NORIEGA discussed the challenges faced by teaching and non-teaching workers in private schools, with the implementation of K-12. K-12 requires two additional years in basic education that will result in zero college entrants in the next two years. Thousands of college teachers are under threat because of these adjustments. SMP-NATOW said they are actively engaged in dialogue with government and other stakeholders to address the issue, including implementation of immediate remedies like loans for livelihood program, priority hiring of affected teachers to teach in grades 11 and 12, training and alternative skills for employment for teaching and non-teaching workers, and scholarship assistance for teachers who would want to take leave and pursue post-graduate studies.

Teachers of the Philippines-Public Sector (TOPPS) SHEILA GONZALES and PRESLEY DEVERA explained that contractualization in public education institutions persists. It is a lingering and a pervasive practice in public schools. TOPPS is coordinating with some legislators and like-minded organizations to push for creations of permanent positions for qualified teachers who are on contractual employment. Aside from low wages and unsecured employment, teachers on contractual employment are unable to exercise their rights and fear joining unions.

ALLWIES President SUSANITA TESIORNA shared recent and current discussions on transitioning informal sector workers to formal employment. Informal Economy (EI) refers to all economic activities by workers and economic units that are –in law or in practice –not covered or insufficiently covered by formal arrangements. She explained the following decent work strategies to move informal workers out of informality: (a) growth strategies and quality employment creation, (b) regulatory environment, including enforcement of ILS and core rights, (c) organization, representation and dialogue, (d) equality: gender, ethnicity, race, caste, disability, age, (e) entrepreneurship, skills, finance, management, access to markets, (f) extension of social protection, social security, social transfers, and (g) local (rural and urban) development strategies.

NLU President DAVE DIWA reiterated salient points by TUCP President Herrera and JILAF DGS Saito. Constructive industrial relations must: (a) Create jobs and induce employment; (b) Ensure and promote employment security; job security [Herrera]; (d) improvement of working conditions, and (e) strengthen trade unions [Saito]. He explained Dunlop’s Industrial Relations Model. He pointed out salient issues for the participants’ consideration in TUCP’s policy directions and thrusts on industrial relations. These include: DO 40-03 On Labor Relations; DO 18-A On Sub-Contracting and Labor-Only Contracting; DO 131-13 On Labor Law Compliance Systems (LLCS); Living Wage, two-tiered (productivity-based wage increases), including those for Domestic Workers; Promotion of Decent Work for Domestic Workers and workers in the informal economy; Workers’ Cooperatives; Reproductive health, HIV and AIDS, maternity protections, lactations Stations and promotion of exclusive breastfeeding at the workplace; Expansion of tax exemptions; Bureau of Labor Relations’ ruling and decisions on certification elections (CE), petitions for CE, and collective bargaining negotiations; Jurisprudence security of tenure (SOT); Labor Service Contractors and Labor Service Cooperatives; ASEAN Integration and free-flow of labor; Industry Bargaining; EPZs Plus guidelines; WTO Commitments; Bilateral & Regional free trade agreements.

TUCP Vice President and BPO Workers Association of the Philippines (BWAP) President RUBEN TORRES shared some reflections and insights on labor relations and the role of unions inside and outside special economic zones. He focused on three important concerns: (1) the role of unions in pursuit of equity and development for all, (2) labor unity and workers’ empowerment, and (3) trade union political influence or engagement.

He stressed that all rights, privileges, and benefits that workers now enjoy –eight-hour daily work, rest days, holiday, overtime, paternity and maternity leaves, vacation leave, the right to unionize and bargaining collectively, 13th month pay, bonuses, retirement pay, etc. –are results of workers’ years of struggle. Organized labor’s role is to ensure that these rights are protected, respected and promoted. Workers should not allow these hard-earned benefits be undermined by non-progressive sectors of society. Unions must fight the continuing assault against these rights and benefits. These rights and privileges are not given out of employers’ magnanimity, he said. These are results of workers’ sacrifices, sweat and blood.

Bro. Torres insisted that empowerment of workers and harnessing their potential power is essential. Organizing and labor education must be at the center of trade union priorities. Given the vast number of unorganized companies, unions should exponentially double their efforts to organize and educate workers of their rights. There is power in numbers. This campaign must include a fight against the practice of contractual employment and other exploitative employment arrangements.

Harnessing workers’ power makes for success in workers’ engagement in national political processes. In many countries, workers have successfully catapulted dedicated labor leaders to national government positions through the establishment of labor political parties. With labor leaders in government, workers can better influence policy development and ensure protection of workers.

He proposed that TUCP actively participate in political exercises. Internal discussion are taking place in
TUCP.
Good practices, Lessons, and Insights on Labor Relations: a Trade Union Perspective

Four local union presidents (i.e. three from Japanese companies –Koryo Manufacturing Corp, Laguna Auto Parts Manufacturing Corp, and Honda Parts Manufacturing Corp; and Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority), described the current state of trade unionism in their respective companies as ‘difficult’.

SBMA management continues to deny regular employment status to many of their workers, even after years of service, including years as volunteer workers. Some have been with the SBMA for over 15 years. SBMA continues to challenge in court the newly-organized employees association. Koryo management refuses to negotiate with the union even with a DOLE certification of the union as sole and exclusive bargaining agent (SEBA). Honda Parts union is challenged by a minority rival union despite an existing CBA and freedom period (where union interveners can come in) still months away. Similar experiences were shared by the LAMCOR union.

Honda Parts and LAMCOR unions recognize that, among other organized labor organizations in special economic zones, they feel luckier. Their Japanese employers have demonstrated openness with the unions. Regular consultations with the unions are held to resolve workers’ grievances. Complaints are addressed appropriately. Past CBAs were signed within a fairly shorter period and implemented well. The companies are compliant with OSH standards.

They agree that able and dedicated union leaders are indispensable in ensuring unity among officers and members. They also recognize the role of labor education and solidarity activities in improving unions’ capacity to promote and protect workers’ rights and welfare.

Cooperation to address the impact of Climate Change

Climate Change Commissioner HEHERSON ALVAREZ encouraged unions to take actions, at the policy development and enterprise levels, to address the negative impact of climate change. He urged unions to negotiate CBA provisions and secure employer commitment for green and sustainable production practices, which are becoming a global trend under business’ social accountability programs.

Policy and Program Recommendations

In a conference statement, the delegates urged government and stakeholders to:

a) Adopt an Industrial Relations POLICY THAT EQUALLY PROMOTES SECURITY OF EMPLOYMENT, WORKERS’ RIGHTS (strengthening trade unions), and FOREIGN INVESTMENTS.
b) SUPPORT THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE MANUFACTURING SECTOR for generation of regular and decent employment; 80% regular workers, 20% others
c) REGULARIZE WORKERS│ SCRAP CONTRACTUALIZATION (Scrap DO. 18-A ), including in private and public education institutions
d) Implement GENUINE APPRENTICESHIP and OJT programs
e) Undertake a comprehensive policy review and adopt an ENABLING POLICY TO SUPPORT THE TRANSITIONING OF INFORMAL SECTOR WORKERS TO FORMAL SECTOR
f) Engagement of federated unions and informal sector workers as members in regional tripartite industrial peace councils (RTIPCs)
g) Faster and cheaper union organizing and registration procedures
h) Strengthening of Mandatory inspection of hazardous workplaces, and sustained RANDOM INSPECTION
i) For K-12, re-train or transfer teachers and employees to other similar jobs, provide fund assistance for scholarship and re-tooling program; NOT RETRENCHMENT
j) Implementation and support for comprehensive Workers education │ Capacity-building │Training
k) Better implementation and governance of labor law
l) Support establishment of labor solidarity movement in the zones (Bantay Karapatan ng mga Manggagawa –BKM-SBFZ)
m) Review labor law compliance among labor service cooperatives and contractors
n) Organizing women and youth
o) Strengthen national programs on competitiveness and productivity, with the engagement of workers and unions, and
p) Climate Change, Green Jobs & Sustainable Development

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