Sonny G Matula
Janaury 27 at 1101 AM
Trade Unions hail ILO Mission’s recommendation to establish Presidential Commission to address EJKs of workers, promote Freedom of Association
The trade unions of the Philippines express their great satisfaction over the conclusions made and recommendations submitted by the International Labour Organization (ILO) High Level Tripartite Mission (HLTM) to the Philippines at a tripartite debriefing session yesterday, in front of representatives from the Philippine government, employers and workers.
The ILO HLTM has mainly recommended that “a single presidentially mandated body should be established and empowered to comprehensively identify and address through a specified plan of action, including time frames, resources and accountability, all outstanding cases of alleged labor-related EJKs and abductions.”
It added that “ the priority emphasis should be on criminal investigation and prompt and accountable prosecution.”
With the ILO HLTM’s emphasis on presidential action and the creation of a presidential body to address the EJKs of workers and to promote freedom of association, the ball is clearly in the court of President Bong Bong Marcos Jr. “What now, Mr. President?”
The creation of a Presidential Commission is one of the principal recommendations contained in the “Joint Report of Trade Unions to the ILO HLTM” prepared by the Council of Global Unions (CGU) – Pilipinas with the support of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) Philippine affiliates, United Labor and All Workers Unity (AWU), among others.
The ILO HLTM sought the truth behind the killings of 70** Filipino trade union leaders and organizers, and other forms of violence and harassment experienced by workers and their organizations, in clear violation of ILO Convention 87 on the protection of the rights of workers to freedom of association and collective bargaining, as reported by Philippine trade unions to the ILO.
Among the glaring conclusions made by the ILO HLTM is that the “mindset linking parts of the trade union movement to the insurgency, without due process of law leading to wrongly linking trade union activity to law breaking and overthrowing the state; a climate of impunity / no accountability; and impeding workers from exercising their rights free of fear.:”
It also said that there are “severe and long standing cases (of violations of ILO C. 87), very little policy and legislation have been taken (to stop the killings and make Philippine law and policy compliant to ILO C. 87); and genuine tripartism (is) insufficiently utilized.
Workers are optimistic that should the recommendations of the ILO HLTM be adopted by government it could significantly reduce, if not finally put a stop to the killings, enforced disappearances, abductions, illegal arrests and detention and other forms of threats, harassment and intimidation faced by workers.
The President finds himself in a tight deadline. The ILO HLTM has tasked government to report progress on its recommendations by the time the 111st International Labour Conference (ILC) comes to session on June 5, 2023. The ILO HLTM stemmed from the decision of the Committee on the Application of Standards (CAS) of the ILC in 2019 to send an ILO HLTM to the Philippines over its inaction towards labor-related EJKs, interference with trade union affairs and other violations of FOA principles.
In an unprecedented show of unity never before seen in the history of the Philippine labor movement, trade unions from various formations came out with one voice and came up with a joint report for the ILO HLTM. Among the trade union centers and major labor federations coming together for the Report were ITUC affiliates the Federation of Free Workers (FFW), Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), Sentro ng Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (Sentro) and Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP); the Philippine affiliates of global union federations—Building and Woodworkers International, Education International, IndustriALL, international Transport Federation, International Union of Food, Public Services International, UNI-Philippine Liaison Council, Nagkaisa! Labor Coalition, All Workers Unity, United Labor, Unyon ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura, Kilusan ng Manggagawang Kababaihan and many more.
Trade unions also sought the support of employers for their recommendations, leading to the release of a joint statement of workers and employers composed of ECOP, PCCI and PhilExport in support of freedom of association, speedy investigation of the killings and strengthen of the National Tripartite Industrial Peace Council – Monitoring Body (NTIPC-MB).
The ILO HLTM is composed of the government representative of Sweden, The employer representative from Australia, and the workers representative from Fiji . ###
** final tally as of Jan. 25 after complete submission of supporting documents.
While NTUC Phl was not mentioned in the release, NTUC Phl affiliates were in the discussions, including a formal presentation by Federation of Free Farmers (FFF-NTUC Phl) Chair Leonardo Montemayor.