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Are our workers getting a raw deal?

Manila Standard

Is the Philippines one of the worst countries for working people?

If we’re to believe the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), an organization that promotes and defends the rights of workers, that’s true.

For the eighth consecutive year, ITUC has named the Philippines as one of the 10 worst countries for workers.

The group’s Global Rights Index 2024 report released on June 12 showed the Philippines receiving a rating of 5—the same as in 2023—on a scale of 1 (sporadic violation of rights) to 5+ (no guarantee of rights due to the breakdown of the rule of law).

The rating is based on the degree of respect for workers’ rights, with violations recorded annually from April to March.

Despite laws that covered labor rights, the group said, “workers have effectively no access to these rights and are therefore exposed to autocratic regimes and unfair labor practices.”

ITUC noted 22 trade unionists were killed in six countries, including the Philippines, where workers and union members remained “vulnerable to violent attacks, being blacklisted by the government, abductions, and arbitrary arrests.”

The killing of two prominent Filipino trade unionists in 2023, “fostered a climate of fear and persecution, silencing the collective voice of workers” and workers across various sectors still faced significant obstacles when attempting to form trade unions, ITUC said.

Apart from the Philippines, ITUC listed nine other countries where workers face threats to their jobs and personal safety: Bangladesh, Belarus, Ecuador, Egypt, Eswatini, Guatemala, Myanmar, Tunisia and Turkiye.

“It is a national disgrace that our country has been listed among the world’s 10 worst countries for eight consecutive years,” according to the labor group Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (Sentro).

“This black mark on our nation’s record threatens to unravel all the investment efforts the Marcos government has been painstakingly courting.” The group tallied a total 72 union members killed for their union activities from 2016 to 2023,

How would the Department of Labor and Employment react to this report?

We’re sure Labor Secretary Bienvenido Laguesma has something to say about the conclusions of this report, perhaps even reiterate the national government’s commitment to the protection of the rights and welfare of the country’s labor sector.

But we also need to remind the government the 1987 Constitution calls on the State to affirm labor as a primary economic force as well as to protect the rights of workers, including their right to self-organization, collective bargaining and negotiations, and peaceful concerted activities, the very rights that ITUC urges our authorities to uphold at all times.

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