ASEAN trade unions point to PHLlabor problems; The ILO team should

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TRADE unions in Southeast Asia have flagged the Philippines for alleged widespread human and labor rights violations.

A joint resolution was issued by 30 trade union representatives from 10 countries at the end of the Southeast Asia Conference on Trade Union Strategies for Post-Covid 19 Resilience and Renewal organized by the International Labor Organization ( ILO) last Tuesday.

Representatives came from Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Timor Leste and Vietnam.

The group stressed the importance of “respecting freedom of association and the right to bargain collectively in countries where workers do not enjoy basic human and labor rights, such as in the Philippines”, in order to foster a sustainable recovery from the pandemic.

They also called for the restoration of democracy in Myanmar after its military seized power in February 2021.

The important role of labor participation in developing pandemic or disaster recovery measures to ensure that these policies translate into decent work will also be addressed in the resolution.

Extra pressure

Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) General Secretary Jerome Adonis, one of the participants in the two-day ILO forum, said the country’s inclusion in the resolution should be a “wake-up call” for the country.

“The government of the Philippines should be concerned as the country is now accused of violating labor rights, especially freedom of association,” Adonis told BusinessMirror in an interview.

“This should be additional pressure on the government of the Philippines to end attacks on workers,” he added.

Last Monday, the KMU condemned the Philippine National Police for arresting two of its leaders allegedly without due process and using false charges.

The KMU and other workers’ groups said they would ask the high-level ILO mission to investigate the matter.

ILO Confirmation

The director of the ILO’s Bureau for Workers’ Activities (ACTRAV), Maria Helena Andre, finally confirmed on Tuesday that the mission was due to arrive in January 2023.

She said the mission will look into incidents of attacks on trade unionists, which were raised by local workers’ groups before the Committee of Experts on the Application of ILO Conventions and Recommendations in 2019.

Currently, the vice-president of the Federation of Free Workers (FFW), Julius Cainglet, says he has already recorded 56 murders of trade unionists.

“Any cases additional to the initial 43 cases of union killings in 2019 so far will be raised [before the ILO high level mission]Cainglet said.

Possibility of improvement

Upon the Mission’s arrival, Cainglet said they would demand that the government hold those responsible for the killings accountable.

They will also call for the abolition of anti-worker government policies such as the red marking of trade unionists.

Andre said she was confident that the Philippine government would address the issues to assure the international community of its compliance with international labor standards.

“I think the Philippines is well placed to ensure that the rule of law is upheld. You are a country that has many good laws. We need to make sure these are respected and implemented,” said Andre.

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) said earlier that it was already developing a roadmap to prevent incidents of labor rights violations in the country.

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