Needed: More women-friendly CBA provisions

Published by rudy Date posted on July 19, 2011

COLLECTIVE bargaining is the process of negotiating a contract between an employer and a legitimate labor organization, which has been duly certified as the sole and exclusive bargaining representative of all employees included in a specific collective bargaining unit. The history of collective bargaining in the Philippines indicates that, in spite of its weaknesses in terms of content and structure, it continues to be the leading means of improving the working and living conditions of both women and men workers.

From a gender perspective, however, it is still a challenge for unions to integrate and secure the best possible collective bargaining agreement (CBA) provisions beneficial for women members to uplift their lives economically, politically and socially.

In a survey that I conducted among more than a hundred trade union women worker leaders and members from various industries, I identified several important specific gender-related concerns, which the respondents believed should be pursued more adequately in CBA negotiations.

Topmost among these were concerns that relate to inadequate support on reproductive health/rights, such as family planning, maternity benefits, paternity leave, sick/vacation leave, family leave, and provision for services by an ob-gynycologist and pediatrician. Until now, a good number of companies have no nursery/lactation room for nursing mothers.

The second important set of issues more frequently cited pertains to the need for healthy, safe, and improved work environment, such as the lack of adequate women facilities (clean toilets, lockers rooms) and equipment (stools and tools that fit the height of Filipino women); assignment of pregnant women to graveyard shifts or hazardous jobs (e.g. carrying of heavy loads, working in a polluted area, extreme temperature, standing for long hours); very minimal access to information about HIV and AIDS and assistance to manage stress at the workplace.

Third among their concerns focused on the existence of sexual harassment in various forms which are committed by the male boss, co-employee, or customer despite the law prohibiting such acts. Many of the trainees or casual females have also experienced sexual harassment in the workplace which usually remains unreported. At present, many companies still have not created the Committee on Decorum or formulated their implementing rules and regulations required under the Anti-Sexual Harassment Law.

The fourth major issue delves on limited access to training and development programs that should increase women’s awareness on gender issues and unionism, develop their managerial and interpersonal skills, as well as improve their personal life effectiveness.

Last among their important issues is about low and inadequate wages. The women trade unionists perceived that, in general, men received higher wages because of job segregation and the lower job positions of women. They also acknowledged that their current wages are not sufficient to meet their families’ daily needs, especially if they are the main breadwinners.

Considering that women workers are equally important stakeholders in the workplace, family, and society, it is imperative that they share in the benefits reaped by companies from the fruits of their labor.

Therefore, trade unions should improve the provisions negotiated in the CBAs related to the above specific gender-related concerns. On the other hand, employers should allocate more resources to address these needs even outside of, or without waiting for, the collective bargaining negotiations as their gesture of corporate social responsibility.

Dr. Divina Edralin is a Full Professor at the Management and Organization Department of the Ramon V. del Rosario College of Business of De La Salle University. She teaches Human Behavior in Organizations, Strategic Human Resource Management, Labor Relations and Research. She is also a management consultant to SME’s, schools, and NGOs. She may be reached at divina. –Divina M. Edralin, Manila Times

edralin@dlsu.edu.ph. The views expressed above are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official position of De La Salle University, its faculty and administrators.

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