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2010 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Philippines

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 9 June 2010
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2010 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Philippines, 9 June 2010, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4c4fec5e28.html [accessed 2 September 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

Trade union activities are hampered by excessive legal restrictions, especially concerning the right to strike. Against a backdrop of a high-level ILO mission to the Philippines to investigate allegations of the murder and abduction of trade unionists, the killing, kidnapping and disappearances continued: three trade union officials were shot and killed by unknown assassins and one died after being interrogated by state security forces; three other union members were abducted; one former trade union leader was arrested and charged with murder. Army personnel also harassed and intimated striking workers.

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, and all "contract" workers are excluded. The conditions for obtaining union recognition are too strict, and the names of all the members the union seeks to organise must be provided. Further restrictions on union activities include the requirement that union leaders be employed in the same enterprise as the workers they represent, and all foreign assistance is subject to prior permission of the Secretary of Labour.

In addition, in order to call a lawful strike, all conciliation procedures must have been exhausted, a majority of the union's members must agree on the strike, 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, and anyone who organises activities for "spreading propaganda", which include picketing, may face life imprisonment.

Trade union rights in practice and violations in 2009

Background: The situation in the Philippines is getting worse. During 2009, there were 120 human rights violations that concerned civil and political rights – affecting some 1,500 workers – out of 270 reported human rights cases. Trade unions confronted a culture of impunity in the face of continued attacks and the lack of political will by the Arroyo administration to bring due process and the rule of law to Filipino workers. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) demanded a full investigation to bring to justice those responsible for the biggest single massacre of working journalists in recent history, in which 30 journalists were murdered when a political convoy of 57 persons was ambushed and slaughtered by gunmen in the Maguinadao Province of Southern Philippines.

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".

Unionists arrested and abducted: On 27 January, Philippine security forces abducted Felicidad "Pidad" Caparal, an organiser for Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (Union of Agricultural Workers – UMA). She was missing for nine days. On 5 February, she was claimed to be a top-ranking member of the New People's Army (NPA), and was charged with murder in connection with an NPA ambush in 2002 where two soldiers were killed. On 26 May, National Federation of Sugar Workers members Razel Pelayo and her cousin Jason Pelayo were abducted while working at a nipa plantation in Hacienda Estrella, in Cadiz City, Negros Occidental. They were still missing as of December 2009.

On 21 October, Declard Cangmaong was arrested by agents of the Philippines Criminal Investigation and Detection Group on charges of murder and attempted murder as an alleged member of the NPA. Formerly, Cangmaong was an active member of an independent union in Sensuous Lingerie garment factory in Calamba City, Laguna. Sensuous shut down in 2008 but Cangmaong continued to be active in organising the workers of the union even after the shutdown.

Attempts at union-breaking: On 27 May, the Nagkahiusang Mamumuo sa Baradero (Keppel Shipyard)-National Federation of Labour Union at Keppel shipyard in Lapu Lapu City in Cebu filed a strike notice with the National Conciliation and Mediation Board after the company declared a one-month forced leave for workers with no guarantee of a return to work. The union claimed that the forced leave was an attempt to break the union.

On July 9, all remaining members of Anita's Home Bakeshop Workers Union-Alliance of Nationalist and Genuine Labour Organization-KMU (AHBWU-ANGLO-KMU) were dismissed by Anita's Home Bakeshop based on false charges of misconduct. The company had already in 2008 dismissed six union officers and had others arrested on false charges, as well as transferred other union members to other bakeshop branches to frustrate their union activities.

Anti-union tactics in EPZs: On 7 September, the newly formed Alta Mode Workers Union (AMWU) at the Alta Mode garment factory in the Mactan Export Processing Zone (MEPZ) -1 complained of unfair labour practices as workers voted on whether to certify the union as the workers' representative. On the same day the workers were scheduled to vote on union representation, 120 union members, including all the AMWU union officers, were put on forced leave. Renante Pelino, AMWU President, said that this was designed to intimidate the workers from voting for the union. On 8 September, the union filed a strike notice and an unfair labour practice charge against the company. If the AMWU won, it would be the first successful union in the MEPZ.

On 8 May, members of the Paul Yu Workers Association (PYWA) at the Taiwan-owned lamp shade manufacturer Paul Yu in the MEPZ-2 went on strike to demand the resolution of numerous problems at the company. On 15 June, 400 workers struck, again, to protest the suspension of seven of their leaders. Willy Dondoyano, PYWA leader and one of the seven suspended workers, said the dismissals were in retaliation for the 8 May strike and the filing of unfair labour practice charges against the company on 21 May. On 22 June, more than 300 workers of Paul Yu were suspended for 30 days for participating in the work stoppage in support of their seven leaders. On 2 July, PYWA went on strike again after more than a week of fruitless negotiations with management. The PYWA and the company finally resolved the dispute through negotiations in mid-July.

Trade unionists released after fabricated charges: On 5 February, Kilusang Mayo Uno's (KMU's) chief legal counsel Remigio Saladero, Jr. was released from prison after being held for more than three month in prison on trumped-up charges. Other union leaders released with Saladero included Nestor San Jose, Rogelio Galit, Crispin Zapanta, Arnaldo Seminiano, Emanuel Dionida, and Leonardo Arceta (see 2009 Edition of the Annual Survey). Arceta was arrested on 2 February on unspecified charges. Just six days after his release, Saladero and sixty other individuals were charged with the murder of Ricardo Garmino, who had been killed in 2008. The Rizal Provincial Prosecutor later dismissed the charge against Saladero and the other individuals.

Workers dismissed after filing for union recognition: At the beginning of April, Philippines-owned Unijewel Fashion Accessories dismissed 57 workers, all women and members of the United Progressive Union of Unijewel (UPWUU) in Lahug, Cebu, after the union filed for registration at the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE). The workers later filed an unfair labour practice charge over the dismissals with the DOLE. Although they prevailed on some aspects of the charge, the workers did not win reinstatement to their jobs.

Murders of trade unionists mount: On 1 October, the ILO asked the Philippines to investigate serious allegations of murder and abductions of trade union leaders. The ILO also urged the government to train and orient police officers and soldiers on the rights of workers to organise and to respect civil liberties. During the year, a number of trade unionists were killed, including Edwin Oyeman of the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW); Carlito B. Dacudao, a member of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP); and Reynaldo Bucaling, Chairman of the Pakigdait sa Kalambu-an sa Kambayugo (PSK). Joel Ascutia, President of Condor-Piston-Bikol, a union of jeepney drivers and operators, was also shot and seriously wounded by unknown gunmen.

Union organiser blackmailed: On 24 November, agents with the Intelligence Services of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP) accosted Danilo Belano, a Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) organiser, near his house in Paco, Manila City, and tried to blackmail him into cooperating with them in conducting surveillance on other labour activists. The following day, ISAFP agents called his family to inform them Belano was in Manila City Hospital where he was being treated for a stroke. He died shortly after his family arrived at the hospital.

Triumph International relocated to avoid union: On 3 December, two unions representing Triumph International workers, the Bagong Pagkakaisa ng mga Manggagawa sa Triumph International Philippines (BPMTI) or "New Unity of Workers of Triumph International" and the Triumph International (Thailand) Labour Union (TITLU), filed an OECD complaint against the Swiss multinational for laying off thousands of workers at its factories in Thailand and the Philippines. The complaint states that Triumph failed to enter negotiations with the workers' unions and has, therefore, violated the OECD guidelines for multinational enterprises as well as ILO Convention 158. In the complaint, the unions reveal a hidden agenda of Triumph to get rid of its most outspoken workforce in both countries (see Thailand country report).

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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