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2011 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Philippines

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 8 June 2011
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2011 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Philippines, 8 June 2011, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4ea661ea28.html [accessed 24 October 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Population: 92,000,000
Capital: Manila
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

Violence against union leaders and union members, outsourcing of work, collusion between company and labour officials, and company efforts to use "yellow" unions to undermine legitimate union organisations remained the key issues affecting trade unions. Union representatives were murdered, while other members were injured while striking. Trade union activities are hampered by excessive legal restrictions, especially concerning the right to strike.

TRADE UNION RIGHTS IN LAW

While basic trade union rights are guaranteed in the Constitution, they are limited by numerous provisions. Foreign nationals may not form or join a union unless there is a reciprocal agreement between the countries. The conditions for obtaining union recognition are too strict, and the names of all the members the union seeks to organise must be provided. All foreign assistance is also subject to prior permission by the Secretary of Labour. While the right to collective bargaining is secured, a number of categories of workers are not allowed to exercise this right, including prison guards, fire-fighters and managerial employees. Collective bargaining in the public sector is also limited as government employees are not permitted to bargain over the appropriation of funds.

Furthermore, in order to call a lawful strike, all conciliation procedures must have been exhausted and prior notice must be given 30 days in advance in the event of bargaining deadlocks. Both the President and the Secretary of Labour and Employment have broad powers to stop strikes in industries that are "indispensable to the national interest", which seriously limits the right to strike. Strikes are banned in the public sector, and the law prescribes heavy penalties for participation in an illegal strike: Union leaders are liable to imprisonment of up to three years.

TRADE UNION RIGHTS IN PRACTICE AND VIOLATIONS IN 2010

Background: Benigno Aquino III, the son of the late president Corazon Aquino, became the new president in May and ran on a platform of fighting corruption and promoting justice for victims of crime. However, political violence continued after the elections as more than 20 activists, journalists, party members, and politicians were killed after Aquino took office on 30 June – three of them union leaders. In September, Andal Ampatuan Jr. and 18 others went on trial for the 23 November 2009 massacre of 58 people, including more than 30 media workers in Maguindanao on the southern island of Mindanao. Almost 300 political prisoners and political detainees are still in jail. The Philippines lost 34 places in the Press Freedom Index and now ranks 156th out of the 178 countries surveyed, down from last year's ranking of 122.

Flagrant anti-union tactics: Trade union leaders continued to face harassment, arrest, and the loss of their jobs by the filing of false criminal charges. One of the most common tactics used by private employers and government, alike, was to label union leaders and members as terrorists. Faced with a legal system that offers little assistance or due process, trade unions persisted in their efforts.

Labour inspection abandoned in favour of voluntary compliance: The Labour Standards Enforcement Framework essentially abandons the principle of government labour inspection for workplaces with more than 200 workers. Instead of a formal inspection, the order only requires self-regulation of labour standards among large companies and in companies where there is a union that has registered a collective bargaining agreement.

Terrorist act concern to unionists: The Human Security Act classifies a wide range of crimes as terrorist acts if they are committed to "create a condition of widespread and extraordinary fear and panic among the populace, in order to coerce the government to give in to an unlawful demand". Mandatory sentences are set at 40 years without possibility of parole for terrorism or conspiracy to commit terrorism, and similarly heavy penalties are created for lesser crimes. There are significant concerns among human rights organisations and trade unionists that the overly broad language in the law leaves it open to abuse by local police and judicial authorities. Arrests without warrants are allowed, and indefinite detention is made possible in instances where authorities find there is an "actual or imminent terrorist attack".

Alta Mode settles with striking workers: On 12 February, the Alta Mode Workers Union (AMWU) filed a strike notice against Alta Mode, Inc. (Alta Mode), a garment factory in the Mactan Export Processing Zone II, Lapu-Lapu City, after the company announced it would close on 15 March for financial reasons. On 16 February, AMWU began picketing Alta Mode to protest the company's decision. AMWU also said that Alta Mode's financial statements do not support its position that it is in financial distress. After maintaining its picket camp for three months, AMWU settled with Alta Mode when faced with legal harassment and an adverse arbitration decision concerning an AMWU sit-in at the factory the year before. As a result of the settlement, Alta Mode workers will receive a generous severance package and Alta Mode will move its factory to Vietnam.

Goldilocks attacks union pickets: Bukluran ng Independenteng Samahan na Itinatag sa Goldilocks, affiliated with the Association of Genuine Labour Organisation and the Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BISIG-AGLO-BMP), started a formal strike action on 11 March against two plants of Goldilocks Company (Goldilocks). One hundred fifty BISIG picketers and their supporters were attacked on 19 March. Goldilocks officials driving two vans filled with strikebreakers tried to ram through the BISIG picket line. When the vans were unable to cross the picket line, the strikebreakers pelted the strikers with stones. Goldilocks security guards followed and attacked the picketers with truncheons. According to BISIG President Joel Lachica, eight BISIG members suffered leg and arm injuries as a result of the attack. The 11 March strike was preceded by a protest picket when the company illegally dismissed 127 workers on 8 February. The dispute ended in October with BISIG successfully concluding negotiations on a collective bargaining agreement.

DOLEFIL wants 'yellow' union: An audit conducted by Société Générale de Surveillance (SGS) during 23-27 March on the labour policies of Dole Foods Incorporated indicates that the company risks losing its Social Accountability (SA) certification. This follows a finding of 'non-conformity' with SA8000 requirements on freedom of association and collective bargaining against DOLE Philippines (Dolefil) for its workers in Polomolok, an Agro-Industrial Sub-Urban Municipality of South Cotabato.

The audit cited Dolefil management for violating workers' right to freedom of association by discriminating against Amado Kadena (AK-NAFLU-KMU), the certified union of workers at Dolefil, while favouring another union, UR-Dole, and assisting the latter to "lodge harassing litigation against AK-NAFLU-KMU leadership". UR-Dole held a company-sponsored union assembly on 13 February in an attempt to oust all 31 duly-recognised officers of the AK-NAFLU-KMU. As a result of this meeting, Dolefil recognised UR-Dole as the workers' representative on 18 February. On 1 July, the Department of Labour and Employment's Bureau of Labour Relations rejected Dolefil's decision to recognise the UR-Dole, rebuked the UR-Dole for conducting an unconstitutional change of leadership of the union and found the 13 February assembly to have been illegally conducted.

ABS-CBN efforts to bust union fail: On 15 June, ABS-CBN Chairman and CEO Gabby Lopez issued an ultimatum to workers represented by the ABS-CBN Internal Job Market Workers' Union (IJMWU) to accept the company proposal on changing their status to regular employees or face dismissal. On 16 June, ABS-CBN terminated, delayed, or rearranged the work schedules of dozens of IMJWU workers who refused to accept the company's proposal on regularisation. IJMWU claimed the company only offered "regular" status to selected workers, and that the offer entailed waiver of all complaints by the workers against the company, no back-pay or recognition of the delayed regular status that was supposed to have been granted for those who had already served many years with the company. In essence, the company's offer of regular status was designed to validate its argument that employees were individual contractors. When IJMWU filed for a certification election in 2009, the company claimed that there was no employee-employer relationship with the workers represented by IJMWU and that IJMWU workers were individual contractors – not regular employees. On 18 August, the Department of Labour and Employment (DoLE) ruled that the IJMWU are regular employees of ABS-CBN. As a result of DoLE's decision, IJMWU is seeking a certification election and the reinstatement of 114 members who were terminated by the company.

Supreme Court decision favours workers: On 26 July, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the sugar mill owned by President Aquino's family had acted in "bad faith" when it reduced its workers' 13th month pay following a violent strike that left 14 people dead. The court ordered Central Azucarera de Tarlac (CAT), which operates the sugar mill and refinery in Hacienda Luisita, to honour its long-established formula in computing the bonus. Noting that the benefit enjoyed for 30 years was only reduced after the strike in 2004, the court declared that "this act of petitioner in changing the formula at this time cannot be sanctioned as it indicates a badge of bad faith."

On 6 November 2004, workers staged a strike to demand the reinstatement of some 327 union members and leaders fired by CAT. The strike led to a violent dispersal that killed 14 people, including young children, and wounded scores of others.

Three union leaders killed: On 2 June, in Santa Rosa City, Laguna, two unknown assailants shot and killed Eduard Panganiban while he was on his way to work at Japanese-owned Takata Philippines, Inc. (Takata), where he worked as a maintenance worker. Panganiban served as the elected Secretary of Samahang Lakas ng Manggagawa sa Takata Philippines – Salamat-Independent (United Strength of Workers in Takata or SALAMAT-Independent), a union that represents Takata workers. Co-workers reported that Panganiban had been receiving threats before the incident. Takata workers had been picketing since March in support of their demand to recognise the union and negotiate a collective bargaining agreement. Union President Fidel Panis said that union officers and members had been threatened and harassed. Panis also reported that agents of the Intelligence Services of the Armed Forces of the Philippines had visited some union officers to dissuade them from pursuing their union activities.

On 14 June, National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) organiser, Benjamin Bayles, was also shot and killed in Pamandayan Subvillage, Barangay Buenavista Himamaylan City, Negros Occidental. On 28 June, it was reported that two suspects were detained at the Himamaylan City jail. The two suspects were members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

On 12 November, in Calamba City, Laguna, Carlo "Caloy" Rodriguez, President of the Nagkakaisang Lakas ng Manggawa ng Calamba Water District (Water District Union), an affiliate of the Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (COURAGE), was shot and killed while on his way home from work. Rodriquez worked as a meter reader.

Philippine Airlines attacks its unions: On 19 April, Philippine Airlines (PAL) announced plans to outsource its non-core operations to third-party service providers effective on 1 June. The plan affects nearly 3,000 PAL employees who are represented by the PAL Employees Association (PALEA), an International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) affiliate. In response to the PAL announcement, PALEA President Gerry Rivera said the union would file a strike notice. Rivera said that PAL aimed to outsource work to companies where workers will be non-union and thus receive cheaper wages, fewer benefits and no job security. Regular workers will be retired and then rehired as contract employees.

Various attempts to resolve the dispute were made over the coming months. On 9 December, PALEA announced the result of a vote in which over 86% of its membership agreed to authorise the union to strike. On 10 December, PAL President Jaime Bautista said that PAL would fire and cancel the benefits of all ground employees who engaged in any strike. On 15 December, President Aquino assumed jurisdiction over the matter, staying earlier decisions of the Secretary of Labour that would allow PAL management to outsource PALEA workers. The staying of the orders also meant that PALEA could not strike. The dispute had not been resolved by the end of the year.

PAL was also involved in an ongoing dispute with the airlines' 1,600 flight attendants represented by the Flight Attendants and Stewards Association of the Philippines (FASAP). On 9 September, FASAP filed a strike notice with the Department of Labour and Employment (DoLE) because of outstanding and unresolved issues in negotiations with PAL. FASAP filed complaints of gender discrimination on 20 September with the government's Commission on Human Rights. On 5 October, the DoLE-National Conciliation and Mediation Board (NCMB) announced that it had been unable to reconcile the differences between PAL and FASAP. Due to the collapsed talks, FASAP wished to strike. However, on 6 October, Labour Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz issued an order barring FASAP from striking. "If the cabin crew go on work stoppage as planned, it will be considered as an illegal strike since I have already assumed (jurisdiction) over the PAL labour dispute," Baldoz said. Eventually, on 23 December, Baldoz issued a decision in favour of FASAP.

Striking workers assaulted on various picket lines: On 25 May, members of a vigilante group called the Pasig Action Line attacked the picket line of 4D Employees Union (4DEU) in San Miguel, Pasig City. The 4DEU has been on strike against the 4 Dimensions Sleep Product Manufacturing Corporation (4D) since September 2007 when 4D announced that it would close because of financial reasons. Also in May, Phil Bless Inc. Workers Union-National Workers Brotherhood (PBIWU-NWB) went on strike against Phil Bless Inc. (Phil Bless) over the company's persistent unfair labour practices. A day after the strike started, factory security guards fired two gunshots at the picket line. On 15 October, 50 officials from the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) rammed the picket line and destroyed the striker's encampments.

Triumph workers in the Philippines were violently evicted from their picket line on 4 May when more than 200 security forces invaded the former factory grounds, removed the protesting workers and destroyed their action camp. Security forces also harassed and injured five workers of the independent Bagong Pagkakaisa ng mga Manggagawa sa Triumph International (BPMTI). The workers set up another picket line further down the street, continuing their protest against their dismissals since summer 2009. Triumph International (Philippines) Inc. and Star Performance Inc. factories in Taguig City closed last year, and on 3 December BPMTI filed an OECD complaint against the company. In February, the Swiss National Contact Point (NCP) for the OECD conducted an initial assessment and accepted the case as a specific instance. Currently the NCP is consulting with the parties to establish the terms for handling of the case.

Labour union leader, workers released: On 13 October, by order of the Regional Trial Court Branch 8, Tacloban City, labour union leader Vincent "Bebot" Borja was released from the Tacloban City Jail. Borja was arrested and imprisoned in May, 2007. Borja was freed from prison after the government's lone witness admitted he did not recognise Borja and that he was not involved in the crime the witness was supposed to have seen.

On 19 March, the remaining three imprisoned workers of Rizal-based Karnation Industries and Export Inc., Joseph Atienza, Pulido Baguno, and Claro Claridad, were released on bail. The accused are facing charges under the Serious Illegal Detention provisions of Article 267 of the Revised Penal Code following a strike in May 2007. The 2007 strike was precipitated because of Karnation's labour rights' violations.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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