PRESIDENT Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. has approved a measure creating an inter-agency body that will investigate reported labor rights violations against trade unionists, the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) said on Sunday ahead of the Labor Day observance.
“It will look into alleged violations of the freedom of association as contained in the report and recommendations of the International Labor Organization (ILO)-High Level Tripartite Mission,” Labor Secretary Bienvenido E. Laguesma told BusinessWorld in a Viber message.
Under Executive Order No. 23 signed on April 30, “the Inter-Agency Committee for the Protection of the Freedom of Association and Right to Organize of Workers will be chaired by the Executive Secretary while the Secretary of the Department of Labor and Employment will be its vice chair,” the Presidential Communications Office said in a statement.
Labor groups earlier proposed the establishment of a presidential commission that would look into cases of violence against workers.
In February, a team of ILO representatives met with trade unions and government officials to discuss human rights violations against workers and union organizers.
That same month, Philippine trade unions submitted a joint report to the ILO mission on labor rights violations.
The labor groups said the Philippine government has consistently failed to comply with ILO conventions on freedom of association and the right to organize.
The Makati Business Club (MBC), meanwhile, pressed the Philippine government to take more steps to tame inflation and pass a bill on apprenticeship that will support private sector-led skills training.
“We respectfully urge the government to redouble its efforts to reduce inflation to make it easier for working Filipinos to enjoy the fruits of their labor,” the MBC said in a statement on Sunday.
“The MBC honors Philippine workers on this Labor Day. They have enabled the recovery from the pandemic even as inflation reached a 14-year high,” the group said.
The country’s inflation eased to 7.6% in March from the 8.6% in February but was higher than the 4% logged in March last year.
The MBC also called for the immediate passage of a measure that will give businesses more leeway to train workers for available jobs and higher-skill employment.
“Such a bill would allow adequate time for training — in line with practices in some of the world’s most labor-friendly countries — while ensuring it is not used to violate labor rights,” the group said.
“We thank Labor Secretary Bienvenido E. Laguesma for supporting and the House of Representatives for passing House Bill 6253. We respectfully urge the Senate to prioritize passage of their version when Congress resumes session on May 8,” the MBC said.
The non-profit business association also asked government to expand public transportation and infrastructure to “improve worker productivity and quality of life.”
The organization also pushed for more flexibility for workers in various industries, similar to the policy adopted for the information technology (IT) and business process outsourcing (BPO) sectors.
The amended implementing rules and regulations of Republic Act No. 11165 or the Telecommuting Act and a Fiscal Incentives Review Board resolution allowed 100% work-from-home for IT and BPO workers while retaining their incentives.
“We support more dialogue on other measures that will promote flexibility and competitiveness while protecting labor rights and improving healthcare and social protections, including or especially for the rising number of gig workers… We also support dialogue on issues including wage subsidies during crises such as the pandemic, unemployment insurance, and portability of retirement benefit,” the MBC said.
DoLE on Sunday held job fairs and released over P1.88 billion in cash aid to beneficiaries of its employment program for displaced workers.
The job fairs, which will also be held in malls nationwide on Monday, will have participation from 1,286 local employers offering 126,273 vacancies, according to data provided by the department.
At DoLE’s advanced Labor Day celebration held at the SMX Convention Center in Pasay City, Mr. Marcos said the government is optimistic about creating more jobs given the improved employment numbers in the past month.
“Rest assured, the government will not neglect the field of employment,” he said in Filipino at the live-streamed event.
Labor groups have scheduled protest actions on May 1, also known as International Workers’ Day, that is observed in several other countries. — John Victor D. Ordoñez and Revin Mikhael D. Ochave