PH: Migrant workers have right to organize

from June 17, 2014 04:00 pm to June 17, 2014 04:00 pm

Date posted: June 17, 2014



GENEVA, Switzerland – The Philippines called for the inclusion, as a critical component of fair migration, the observance of the migrant workers’ right to self-organization and collectively bargain wherever they are, and to human rights and decent work guarantees as the responsibility of receiving and sending countries, both of which benefit from migrant workers’ sacrifices and toil.


Philippine Government Employees Association (PGEA) president and Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) vice president Esperanza Ocampo made the call at the 103rd session of the International Labour Conference (ILC) held here from May 28 to June 12.


As the Philippine Workers’ Delegate to the ILC, Ocampo represented the largest labor coalition center in the Philippine Labor Movement, the NAGKAISA or SOLIDARITY, which has 49 labor centers including SENTRO, the Federation of Free Workers (FFW) and TUCP, the public sector federations including PSLINK, the Congress of Independent Unions and PGEA.


According to Ocampo, the first woman and the first public sector worker to be the titular head of the Philippine workers’ delegation to the ILC, more than 10 million of Filipinos live and work in more than 200 countries.


“While we suffer brain drain, we have workers, some of whom are even professionals who, because of lack of opportunities in our country, are forced to take vulnerable work, suffer abuse, occasionally fatal, especially those in domestic work,” she said. “Others become victims or survivors of human trafficking.”


In spite of the risks, statistics and experience would support the claim that Filipino migrant and local workers have contributed to economic growth or in the creation of wealth.


“Rightfully, we should be accorded decent work guarantees,” said Ocampo. “But this is not the case.” “There is a need for speedy resolution of long-standing concerns that take away the dignity and lives of workers.”


She noted that contractualization, both in the private and public sectors, is becoming more pronounced.


“Labor contractors and employers, mostly part of the global supply chain of multinationals and brands, profit from precariousness of work,” Ocampo said.


Thus, concrete steps to ensure compliance with the Tripartite Declaration of Principles Concerning Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy of 2006, including its responsibility to increase employment opportunities and standards should be pursued, she stressed.


Furthermore, Ocampo said many employers remain uncaring as they raise their profits at the expense of wages, safe workplaces and just work terms and conditions.


Daily minimum wages in the Philippines do not even meet the basic food and non-food requirements of workers and their families and cannot cope with rising costs of services like electricity, water, transportation, education and health care, she declared.


“We want equitable share from the benefits of economic growth such as real increase in take-home pay through living wage and tax breaks,” Ocampo said.


In addition, she said legal and practical restrictions on the full exercise of the right to organize and collective bargaining are killing unionism.


“Union organizing is becoming doubly difficult as cases of extrajudicial killings have not been resolved and the perpetrators are roaming free,” she observed.


According to Ocampo, the public sector workers who have sacrificed enormously to advance our government’s program of reform should realize their right to organize.


She said they are relying on the commitment of President Benigno Aquino III who said that he will move the Senate to immediately ratify ILO Convention 151.


Ocampo pointed  out that as unemployment is projected to rise further until 2018, unemployment assistance even for a period of six months is critical to guarantee that workers and their families meet their basic daily needs while looking for employment.


“Expanded or universal health care, social or old-age pension, and child subsidy are also among the social protection programs that workers are entitled to,” she said.


The ILO organizes the ILC here in Geneva every year in June, where conventions and recommendations are crafted and adopted.


Also known as the parliament of labor, the conference also makes decisions about the ILO’s general policy, work program and budget.


Each of the 185 ILO member State has four representatives at the conference: two government delegates, an employer delegate and a worker delegate.


This year, key topics included migration and forced labor./PN



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