The right woman for the job: DOLE Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz

Published by rudy Date posted on May 1, 2011

MANILA, Philippines – As of January this year, there are some 2.9 million Filipinos who are unemployed, with 500,000 more fresh graduates seeking jobs this month. With labor issues on the rise, the Department of Labor and Employment definitely has been in need of the right person to lead the institution in implementing reforms. It is Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz who has been appointed to fill this position.

Despite serving the various agencies of DOLE for 36 years, Baldoz still did not expect that she would eventually be named DOLE secretary. “I never imagined occupying this position… I don’t have the political background,” she says, adding that she has had to deal with being in the limelight, among other adjustments as DOLE secretary.

Starting right after college in 1975 as a contractual worker with the Bureau of Labor Relations, Baldoz was on the way to many long years of service of the department and the Filipino people.

In 1982, Baldoz was a labor arbiter at the National Labor Relations Commission. A few years later, in 1987, she became deputy administrator, later deputy executive director and eventually executive director of the National Conciliation and Mediation Board. “Industry dialogue is something I have nurtured since then, until now,” she says. So far, in the first quarter of 2011 under her administration, there has only been one strike incidence, sparing 47,013 workers from work stoppage. “We hope to maintain a one-digit strike incidence record,” the secretary adds.

In 1998, Baldoz was appointed DOLE undersecretary for labor relations and management services. She was again appointed undersecretary in 2008. She has also been one of the longest serving Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) chiefs, holding the position for seven years.

“This long service has been the best reward that I can get,” she says, adding “The situation has changed drastically since I started 36 years ago… Labor realities have really changed.” For example, outsourcing – one of the most important and talked about issues today – was unheard of when Baldoz started. Before, she adds, many of the labor problems were not as complex as they are now.

Outsourcing, says Baldoz, becomes a problem especially since workers are not granted tenure or other benefits. The issue is also high on political sensitivity.

In fact, many issues that Baldoz has had to deal with are politically sensitive. Overseas workers, for example, have long been a concern and have recently been the topic of many issues. “Our main concern is offering adequate protection to overseas workers,” says Baldoz. Under her leadership, there has been a landmark expansion of OFW help desks nationwide.

“We’re helping them be ambassadors of goodwill, not only in their work, but also in their culture, values, and attitude,” she adds.

“I am elated when I hear employers say workers are loyal, hardworking, competent, and that they want them back,” says Baldoz.
Labor secretary Rosalinda Baldoz answers questions on the latest labor issues

The secretary adds that aside from providing overseas workers with protection, the department is working to make overseas jobs “ a genuine choice” for Filipinos as well as address the issue of bureaucracy, red tape, and corruption.

Repatriation of workers displaced from countries like Japan hit by natural calamities and political uprisings like in Libya, is another issue that Baldoz has had to deal with. “We have reintegration services,” the secretary says. The services offered deal with various aspects of the displaced workers’ needs – from personal counseling and family and community reintegration to economic reintegration. It is also the first time for OWWA to provide a P10,000 financial relief assistance plan to 9,224 OFWs repatriated from Libya. Measures have also been done to aid in the workers’ re-deployment.

On the home front, Baldoz strives to create the ideal climate for investors and offer guidance to jobseekers.

Through Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), Baldoz aims to prepare college students with adequate skills and knowledge that will prepare them to join the workforce.

For the first time, TESDA is offering free national skills assessment and certification programs, as well as conducting a major audit of technical and vocational schools, in the effort to eliminate mediocre training centers.

Baldoz advises new graduates, “Grab the first job available. Experience will be your best investment.”

With a career guide and online job and skills matching facility readily available on the DOLE website, Baldoz hopes to provide the fresh graduates and jobseekers with the best options available.

The facility currently offers some 60,000 vacancies (with 70,000 jobseekers registered online) and the facility continues to expand its reach with more employers and companies using the service.

To further ensure transparency and accountability, Baldoz has pioneered the posting of annual COA audit reports and DOLE funding utilization on the department’s website.

“There are many problems and challenges, but the administration is determined and with the trust of the citizenry, we hope to address these,” says Baldoz. It helps, she adds, that employers have so much trust in the leadership of President Aquino. “There is so much synergy in the Cabinet and we will be able to address the right priorities.”

With this in mind, Baldoz looks forward to the May 1 celebration of Labor Day dubbed “Matuwid na Daan Tungo sa Kaunlaran Para sa Lahat,” in line with President Aquino’s own “matuwid na daan” motto. The day, Baldoz says, is expected to be a festive celebration.

A highlight of the Labor Day celebration is a nationwide job fair that started in April and will last until June. “100,000 job vacancies will be available, with 1,000 employers, both local and overseas,” Baldoz says of the Manila leg of the job fair, to be held at the Quirino Grandstand. Career guidance seminars and nationwide livelihood fairs have also been planned and one-stop document services (for NBI clearance, etc.) will be made available at the job fairs.

We must invest in our human resource as the best asset to make us more competitive and employable while promoting industrial peace based on social justice,” Baldoz says, echoing the department’s goal.

Baldoz remains hopeful in the department’s ability to serve Filipino workers and enact the proper reforms. “We have a mature institution with which we can address labor management disputes.” It it this positive outlook and her many years of service and growth in the department that have allowed Baldoz to deal with the various changes and challenges in the country’s labor situation.
Baldoz meets with US ambassador Harry Thomas, Jr.

“We are laying a strong foundation so that those who come after us will pursue these programs. People will support this legacy.”

As she gears up to face more challenges in conquering the path towards labor reform, Rosalinda Baldoz is truly proving to be the right woman for the job. –Ida Anita Q. del Mundo (The Philippine Star)

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