by Janvic Mateo (The Philippine Star) – Jul 4, 2019
MANILA, Philippines — The situation of workers in the Philippines continued to deteriorate in the past year, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) said yesterday, citing the latest Global Rights Index released by the International Trade Union Confederation.
CHR spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia said the country once again received the lowest rating from the confederation, noting that workers have no access to some rights that should have been accorded to them.
“It is grievous that our country has drastically regressed in protecting the rights of workers. Considering that this has been the case for two years in a row, the government is expected to have taken urgent actions on this aspect,” De Guia said.
“In particular, trade union members and leaders who are in the frontline of claiming rights must be accorded due protection for they are most vulnerable for fighting for the welfare of their fellow workers,” she added.
The CHR official noted the supposed escalation of violence, attacks and intimidation against workers, especially those who belong to unions.
It noted the death of nine striking sugar farmers in Negros Occidental last year as well as the 14 who were killed in Negros Oriental this year after supposedly resisting arrest.
“The shrinking of democratic space in the country also exacerbates the cause of workers. Their grievances are tagged as political dissent. Hence, many union groups are subjected to suppression, threats and harassment,” De Guia said.
She urged the government to act on the issues raised in the index.
“Proactive efforts must also be done to address the grievances of workers instead of repressing them,” she said.
“There is always a peaceful and democratic way to resolve workers’ issues, both on the part of the government and business, as well as the workers, which is why it is essential to always create a safe and enabling space for dialogue,” added the CHR official.
Meanwhile, Congress will look into the widespread practice of illegal short-term employment and use of violence to suppress workers’ rights, according to the militant Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU).
KMU secretary general Jerome Adonis said the Makabayan bloc has filed a resolution seeking an investigation into illegal contractualization when the 18th Congress opens.
“KMU welcomes the initiatives to hold companies accountable for gross labor laws violations and the violent dispersal of workers’ strike,” Adonis said in a statement.
He said the resolution covers the labor-only contracting scheme of a company in Laguna, which employs more than 500 workers.
The company, Adonis said, allegedly violated the OSH law since contractual workers complain that they were subjected to unsafe working conditions often resulting in work-related injuries.
Adonis said the complaint against the company is a test case for the enforcement of the OSH law.
14th month pay
The grant of 14th month pay to workers will not be detrimental to businesses, which will be given some degree of flexibility in extending the additional pay to their employees, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said yesterday.
Sotto filed Senate Bill 10, which seeks to mandate private employers to provide 14th month pay to their workers at the end of the year as the incremental wage increases are too small and come too few and far between.
The bill was opposed by some employers, who complained about the financial burden of giving additional pay to their workers.
“I hope they read the bill first because their concerns have already been addressed,” Sotto told dzMM, adding the measure lists some exemptions for companies that cannot grant 14th month pay.
Among those exempted from the measure are businesses that have already been granting 14th month pay and more to their workers, and “distressed employers” who will be required to present certifications from agencies, including the Bureau of Internal Revenue, regarding their financial incapacity.
Also not covered by the bill are government employees and individuals who earn income through commissions.
Sotto said the computation for the 14th month pay will be based only on the basic salary.
He said the measure would undergo public hearings, wherein all sectors will be given a chance to air their side on the matter, which hopefully will lead to a better version of the bill.
In filing the bill, Sotto said the 13th month pay “is gobbled up by Christmas expenses” so there is a need for extra earnings in the middle of the year to help ordinary workers pay their school and medical expenses.
“Health and education needs of the ordinary Filipino must be assisted by our government,” Sotto said, adding the latest wage increase of P25 was too small compared to the daily expenses of ordinary workers.
He said improved business earnings have not cascaded down to the rank and file and that several labor groups have been petitioning for an increase in minimum wage.
The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) said it continues to study current settings for minimum wages after various wage hike petitions were filed before Labor Day.
Only the Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board (RTWPB) of each region has the authority to adjust wages, and only after the lapse of 12 months since the last wage order in November last year. – With Mayen Jaymalin, Paolo Romero