Int’l labor group doubts PHL taking steps to stop labor violations

Published by rudy Date posted on April 11, 2013

The International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF) is skeptical of the ability of the Philippine government’s interagency committees to deal with labor issues such as labor-related killings, the transcript of a United States Trade Representative (USTR) hearing showed.

“[W]hat I’ll say is the Philippine government has, I would characterize it as taking their foot off the gas pedal, but they haven’t actually taken steps to resolve the violations that we are here to talk about today in a meaningful way,” ILRF director of policy Brian Campbell told the USTR at the March 28 hearing, which was also attended by representatives from the Philippines’ Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).

The ILRF had petitioned the USTR to remove the Philippines from its generalized system of preferences (GSP) program over its concern about the jurisdiction and registration of unions, the passage of pending labor legislation, and the effectivity of interagency committees on violence against union members in the country.

The GSP is a trade assistance program providing duty-free treatment for 4,975 tariff lines worth $18.5 billion from 129 beneficiary economies. Philippine goods under the US GSP are bananas, sugarcane, edible oils, wood products, cotton fabrics, rattan products, footwear materials, ceramics and baskets, with a total yearly estimated value of $1.1 billion.

The current program took effect on Nov. 5, 2011 and will end on July 31.

The USTR asked the ILRF on the committees formed by the Philippine government to look into labor-related killings in the country.

“My views on that issue right now are I just don’t understand how it is going to be different from the last five. They have been doing this starting with the Melo Commission in 2007. I feel like there is a new one every year,” Campbell said.

The Melo Commission was formed in 2006 by then-President Arroyo to probe labor-related killings. Its report pointed to the Armed Forces of the Philippines as being behind most of the killings.

Labor Undersecretary Rebecca C. Chato insisted on the government’s commitment “to uphold human rights” and “afford workers internationally recognized workers’ rights.”

“This commitment can readily be seen in the fact that barely three years into office, the Aquino government has made continuing progress in addressing decade-old issues through reforms in law and practice, and awareness raising and capacity building for state actors and stakeholders,” she said.

The government said it is in the process of refining the powers of interagency committees that will investigate labor disputes and claims of harassment from labor leaders. — BM, GMA News

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