Labor rights groups assert workers’ rights in ILO dialogue

(Photo by John Lester Pena / Bulatlat)

“We stand firm that there is nothing wrong in fighting for liveable wages, stable jobs, and workers’ rights.”

By PRINCESS FRIEL LONTOC and JOHN LESTER TEÑA
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – Progressive groups sent off labor leaders as they set to participate in the three-day dialogue with the International Labor Organization (ILO) at the Diamond Hotel, Makati.

This dialogue is part of the High-Level Tripartite Mission (HLTM) conducted by the ILO to monitor state compliance with the conventions they ratified and its adherence to upholding international standards.

The dialogue will run from January 23-27, 2023.

“In the past administrations, there have been many high-level tripartite missions but then, none of them really made a difference,” Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) Chairperson Lito Ustarez said.

Still, labor leaders are determined to push for workers’ rights before the high-level mission.

“This is why these leaders are here– to relay our calls and conditions to the ILO,” Ustarez said.

Underpaid and overworked

Among those who joined the send-off were Filipino nurses who also amplified their call for liveable wages and modified working hours, saying that the health sector has been continuously overlooked by the administration.

“Among us nurses, there are only a few of us who fall under the Salary Grade 15, which is equivalent to P35,000. Just like the government, we perform the same duties of serving the Filipino people, but we still get low salaries and only a few benefits,” Filipino Nurses United Vice President Leny Nolasco said.

Despite the lack of human resources, layoffs and contractualization remained prevalent in the country’s public health sector, said Nolasco, adding that these issues prevent medical professionals from providing services to far-flung communities.

“Instead of following the protocol of having one nurse assigned to 12 patients, one nurse handles 20 patients up to one ward,” she says.

“Our fellow nurses are scared to speak up and join the organized struggle because their jobs remain unstable– all due to the administration’s policies. This is why we continue to demand for liveable wages, in hopes that they will heed our call.”

Union-busting and red-tagging

For Rodel Marte, the Acting President of the Unyon ng Panadero ng Gardenia Bakeries (PANADERO-OLALIA-KMU), red tagging has put their lives on the line.

Marte said their union has been engaging in a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with a big bakeshop company to negotiate for higher wages and better benefits.

Marte added that their primary concern is how the government’s counterinsurgency arm, the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict got their addresses.

“I, myself, have been visited by the NTF-ELCAC eight times in my household. First, they wanted to talk about their anti-terrorism campaign, which is why I welcomed them into my home,” he said.

Later on, the task force urged him to disaffiliate with progressive labor groups. This, Marte said, goes against the ILO Convention 87 or the Freedom of Association, which gives them the right to establish and join organizations of their own choosing.

“We stand firm that there is nothing wrong in fighting for liveable wages, stable jobs, and workers’ rights.”

Human rights violations

Bayan Secretary General Renato Reyes also urged the ILO to look into the human rights violations against labor rights organizers, most of whom are murdered, disappeared, or detained for trumped-up charges.

Among the labor leaders who were subjected to various human rights attacks are Manny Asuncion from Cavite, Pol Viduya from Central Luzon, and Elmer Forro from Panay Island.

“Most of the documented attacks on labor leaders and organizers were recorded during the 6-year reign of terror of Rodrigo Duterte. What is disturbing is that there seems to be no policy shift under the Marcos regime,” Reyes shared in a Facebook statement, pointing out that this is just a continuation of Duterte’s bloody counter-insurgency program.

Arman Hernando, chairperson of Migrante Philippines, said that they also recorded human rights violations among their leaders across different locations.

Jory Porquia, the coordinator of Migrante Panay was killed last 2020 during the onset of the COVID-19 lockdowns. He has been a long-time Migrante organizer of the urban poor. Other Migrante leaders are also subjected to surveillance by state forces.

“These are the cases we want to highlight. The administration also harasses overseas migrants and not just local workers,” Hernando told Bulatlat in an interview.

“We know that this dialogue is a way to hold the government accountable for the numerous human rights violations among progressive organizations and to make them listen to our recommendations,” Hernando added.

He also urged the importance of involving organizations and labor unions such as Migrante in forming the proposed commissions and mechanisms of the government. “We want to have an extension or counterpart from overseas who will be a representative in this proposed commission.”

For Reyes, the timing of the HLTM is just right, considering the continued ignorance of the current administration. “The whole world is watching the Philippines and no amount of frequent-flyer miles abroad can cover up the bloodied human rights record of the Philippine government.” (JJE, RVO) (https://www.bulatlat.org)

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