MANILA (Sept. 21) — The Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) is getting behind the high-level mission sent by the International Labor Organization (ILO) to Manila investigate widespread complaints of violations of the rights of Filipino workers to freely organize themselves.
“We are absolutely supportive of the mission,” said TUCP secretary-general and former Senator Ernesto Herrera.
“We are hopeful that their findings and recommendations will compel the Philippine government to reinforce protection for workers, especially their freedom of association and right to unionize without restraint,” Herrera said.
“Timely and appropriate” was how Herrera described the ILO mission.
“This is an extremely difficult time for workers here because of the continuing threat of job losses, particularly in export-driven industries,” said Herrera, former chairman of the Senate committee on labor, employment and human resources development.
Philippine exports have plunged amid the global economic slowdown. The country exported only $20.53 billion worth of merchandise from January to July this year, down 31.7 percent from $30.06 billion in the same period last year, according to the National Statistics Office.
The nearly $10-billion worth of exports lost over the last seven months implied severe job losses in the (export) sector, regardless of official statistics, Herrera said.
“It is when workers are on the brink of job loss — when they are desperately clinging on to their only source of income — that they tend to be exceedingly vulnerable to abuses,” he pointed out.
Herrera stressed the need for the Philippine government “to clearly demonstrate that it is watchfully safeguarding workers, whether they have unions or not, and whether their unions are moderate, militant or small independent ones.”
A former member of the executive board of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions based in Brussels, Belgium, Herrera once headed the Philippine Worker’s Delegation to the 75th Session of the ILO, where he delivered a major address on human and labor rights.
Composed of senior officials and specialists overseeing compliance and enforcement of international labor standards, the ILO mission will conduct its investigation from September 22 to 29.