The Way Forward: Workers Need the Rule of Law

Published by reposted only Date posted on October 17, 2017

The Way Forward:
Workers Need the Rule of Law
By
RIBEN D. TORRES
President
TRADE UNION CONGRESS OF THE PHILIPPINES-ITUC
Delivered during the
National Tripartite Conference on Trade and Labor Standards
Makati Diamond Residences, 11-12 October 2017

ILO Deputy Director for Standards, Karen Curtis,
ILO Manila Reps. Hideke Kagohashi and Diane Respall
DOLE Asst. Secretary Alex Avila,
ILS-DOLE Director Cha Satumba,
Reps from other government agencies, DTI, NEDA, etc.
Dean Rene Ofreneo,
ECOP Rep. Roland Moya,
Colleagues from the trade unions present
Isang mapagpalang hapon po sa ating lahat!

WORKERS NEED THE RULE OF LAW – This is the TUCP-ITUC statement on the way forward.

The rule of law, whether national or international, requires legislation which is implemented based on its original intent and purpose. Issues arising from its implementation could be clarified, interpreted and remedied thus the rule of law requires a judicial system that is based on rights and transparency – a judicial system that promotes responsibility and ensures remedy.

TUCP identified the needs of workers discussed during this two-day conference as the basis for our concluding statement.

First, we would like to address the following needs to the government.

We NEED a government that would prioritize the dignity of social protection floor for their people – the basic income and services. We need DOLE and the other appropriate government agencies, to fully implement and secure that workers are not deprived of their rights under the law by providing a positive environment where workers fully exercise their rights especially the right to self-organization and collective bargaining. We NEED labor inspections to monitor the situation of workers at the workplace. We NEED government workers who decide on workers’ issues and legal cases based on what is provided for and intent of the law. We NEED a strong administrative control mechanism that would monitor decisions and actions made by these government workers who make decisions that do not harm nor curtail workers from enjoying their rights. And in all these implementation processes, there should be transparency.

We NEED government workers who decide on workers’ issues and legal cases based on what is provided for and intent of the law. We NEED a strong administrative control mechanism that would monitor decisions and actions made by these government workers who make decisions that do not harm nor curtail workers from enjoying their rights. And in all these implementation processes, there should be transparency.

We NEED a government that will take responsibility for workers in precarious work both in the formal and informal economy, in supply chains …. majority of whom are women and young workers, with no minimum wage, no social protection, subjected to harassment and discrimination and no laws that extend them fundamental rights. We NEED to expand social protection coverage not only to domestic workers but to all informal economy workers – farmers, fishers, sari-sari stall owners, market vendors, taxi, tricycle and jeepney drivers, etc.

We NEED a government that will NOT dilute workers’ rights in trade and bilateral agreements because they sent people in the negotiation who do not appreciate the fundamental rights of workers. Labor is not a commodity…. labor is entitled to have decent work and earning a living wage wherever they are. This is a basic human right and respecting human rights should be non-negotiable. Workers rights and protection should be incorporated in all trade agreements.

We NEED a government that consults or involves workers and trade unions in trade and bilateral agreements based on the principle of tripartism which the Philippines has ratified. We would like to emphasize that trade unions have international connections where information are shared. This information could be used in trade negotiations including their experiences and knowledge in labor relations.

For employers and companies…

We NEED employers and companies, both public and private, to ensure formal, secure work whether they are directly employed or hidden by labor agencies or contractors. We NEED them to look at workers and trade unions as partners in promoting and supporting their continued existence and well being since these would also assure continuous benefits for the workers. As partners, workers and trade unions could participate meaningfully when they are consulted on matters affecting them, their work and workplace. Social dialogue is an effective tool to enhance labor-management relations not only at the plant level but also in regional and national level.

We NEED employers and companies who, knowingly or unknowingly force workers to work in unsafe workplaces, use dangerous machinery or expose them to hazardous substances or chemicals, should be declared guilty and take responsibility for their actions and decisions.

We NEED employers and companies who do not pollute and render the environment and our natural resources uninhabitable. TUCP fully supports the global ITUC campaign that says “There is no job on a dead planet.”

The UN guiding principles state that the responsibility of the employers and companies to protect human rights is independent of the government’s ability and willingness to fulfill their obligations. Government NEEDS to protect human rights; employers and companies NEED to respect and follow human rights. This is the framework to clarify the relationship between the government and companies or employers. Thus, employers and companies who used short-term contracts to undermine the right to FOA and CB and does not recognize the NEED OF WORKERS FOR DECENT WORK are actually violating this UN guiding principle.

Let us not also forget the importance and NEED of workers for swift justice, Workers are actually the losers in the long process of law …. they usually succumb to the pressures of amicable settlement because they cannot afford to wait for the final decision of the case as it flows from one phase to the next which may take years of their life. They do not have the luxury of economic backup companies and employers have. Trade unions and workers would not want redemption done when the workers and trade unions can no longer appreciate the effect of redemption. The rule of law should already cover a mechanism where swift justice is fully appreciated by the offended party. This applies to both national and international process.

Lastly, we need to look closely at the future of work and the effect of technology on our major sunrise industry – the BPO or business process outsourcing – where most of our young workers and women are employed. We hope that before this impact or hit us, we have already something to guide us in the transition process including how technology expands the concept of the work environment.

The 16th ILO APRM held in Bali last year came up with a Declaration summarizing all the concerns of the tripartite sectors. The Declaration also requested ILO to provide a report on the 17th ILO APRM on the actions taken and support provided on the concerns reflected in the Declaration. TUCP and the workers in the Philippines would look forward to that report.

All of those TUCP summarized are identified WORKERS’ NEEDS …. some are already covered by existing international and national laws. The ILO FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS are clear. The PHILIPPINE LABOR CODE is clear. And yet, Philippine unions still faced problems in organizing and servicing workers. The necessary foundations for the rule of law are there. It just needs to be harmonized, amended, correctly and diligently implemented to suit the present reality.

The challenge is there. All we need is to take action, NOT AS INDIVIDUAL SECTORS BUT AS ONE … FOR THE GOOD OF ALL.

Maraming salamat po at mabuhay tayong lahat!

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