Labor groups want part in task force on rights

AN ALLIANCE of major labor groups in the Philippines called on government to work with representatives in their sector on upholding the right to organize, noting that a recently approved government task force lacked participation from workers.

“Nothing about us, without us,” the All Philippine Trade Unions (APTU) said in a statement on Wednesday. “Workers have conspicuously been left out of the new body despite being its main proponent.”

President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. signed on April 30 an executive order creating an inter-agency body that will investigate labor rights violations targeting trade unionists.

The task force will be led by the executive secretary and co-headed by the labor secretary, according to Executive Order No. 23.

The labor alliance said the government is “duty-bound” to include workers and employers in implementing the measure,” citing its obligation to the International Labor Organization’s (ILO) treaty on upholding the freedom of association.

Labor Secretary Bienvenido E. Laguesma did not immediately reply to a Viber message seeking comment.

In February, a team of ILO representatives met with trade unions and government officials to discuss human rights violations against workers and union organizers.

The trade unions submitted a joint report to the ILO mission on labor rights violations, citing that the government has consistently failed to comply with ILO conventions on freedom of association and the right to organize.

The labor coalition said the country risks being called out by the ILO during the upcoming International Labor Conference on June 5, if it does not boost its efforts to uphold labor rights.

APTU also warned that the Philippines could also lose its trade perks under the European Union’s (EU) Generalized Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+).

The EU makes GSP+ preferences and trade relations subject to Philippine adherence to a number of international conventions on human rights, labor rights, environmental protection, and illegal fishing, among others.

The European Parliament in February last year passed a resolution asking the Philippines to act on human rights abuses or face losing trade perks under the GSP+.

Labor groups have proposed the establishment of a presidential commission that would look into cases of violence against workers.

“What we have been asking for since January when the ILO High-Level Tripartite Mission arrived, is a presidential commission that would oversee the full realization of all the recommendations of the ILO,” it said, citing 69 killings of trade unionists from 2016 to April this year. — John Victor D. Ordoñez