We uphold, respect, and promote trade union rights–Baldoz

“The Philippines, under the administration of President Benigno S. Aquino III, has pursued –and continues to pursue–reforms to uphold human rights, end impunity, and afford internationally-recognized workers’ rights to all its workers. It pursues reforms under the framework of the “four areas of future actions” committed to address allegations of trade union rights violations.”

Thus said Labor and Employment Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz yesterday by way of comment on the International Trade Union Confederation’s 2014 Global Rights Index Report which has lumped the Philippines with Guatemala and Columbia among countries which the ITUC alleged “still shoot trade unionists with impunity”.

In a statement, Baldoz said it is unfortunate that the ITUC’s 2014 Global Rights Index missed out on the reforms initiated by the Aquino III administration which have already been noted either “with satisfaction” or “with interest” by the International Labour Organization’s Committee on Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations (CEACR) in its observations on the Philippines’ compliance with freedom of association under ILO Convention No. 87 and under ILO Convention No. 98 on collective bargaining from 2010 to 2013.

“I have yet to look into the criteria used by the ITUC, but the CEACR’s note of “with satisfaction” is a closure and its note of “with interest” is an indication of a positive direction,” Baldoz said.

According to the labor and employment chief, the allegation of impunity and obstacles to the effective exercise of trade union rights had been the subject of the International Labour Organization’s High Level Mission visit in the Philippines in 2009, stemming from allegation of lack of substantial progress in the prosecution of cases of extra-judicial killings, or extra-legal killings, and violence against trade union activists, organizers, or union members attributed to some elements of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

“With the change of administration, the government has sincerely pursued reforms  and have institutionalized these reforms in the areas of prevention and protection. Certainly, we have seen progress over the last four years to address decades-old issues on trade union rights,” she emphasized.

Baldoz cited President Aquino III’s Administrative Order No. 35 (A.O. 35) creating the Inter-Agency Committee (IAC) under the Department of Justice (DOJ) to ensure the expeditious investigation, prosecution, and resolution of pending cases concerning alleged harassment and assassination of labor leaders and trade union activists.

The IAC has been looking into the 62 cases of alleged extra-judicial killings of trade unionists endorsed by the National Tripartite Industrial Peace Council-Monitoring Body (NTIPC-MB). It has noted that 50 of the 62 cases transpired between 2001 and June 2010, while 12 cases transpired under the Aquino III Administration, which include four (4) newly-reported cases in 2013 involving transport group leaders.
Of the 62 cases, only 10 cases were identified as A.O. 35 cases and only one case is verified as ‘extra-judicial killing’ (EJK) under the Aquino III Administration.  The 10 cases are now assigned to different IAC structures for case build-up and monitoring.

“The high-level tripartite monitoring body on the application of international labour standards, or the NTIPC-MB which I chair as Secretary of Labor and Employment was created in 2010 to keep track and monitor progress on cases of trade union rights violations. Its membership comes from federations and national unions affiliated with the ITUC,” explained Baldoz.

The NTIPC-MB has a regional structure, known as the Regional Tripartite Monitoring Body, which has an added task of implementing preventive advocacies on observance of trade union rights at the regional level.  The NTIPC-MB already institutionalized under  Republic Act No. 10395, or the Tripartism Law, signed by the President on 14 March 2013. The NTIPC-MB has already monitored two (2) convictions and two (2) acquittals of EJK cases before the Courts.

Baldoz explained that the DOLE has started the capacity-building on monitoring and documentation for the tripartite members at the regional level has already been started, alongside the ongoing capacity-building for the PNP and the AFP with ILO Technical Assistance on improved observance of trade union rights using the inter-agency guidelines on the conduct of members of the PNP and AFP, to ensure the effective exercise of trade union rights and prevention of violations of workers’ rights in a climate free from violence, pressure, fear, and duress of any kind.

She also cited R.A. No. 10396, or the Conciliation-Mediation Law also known as the Single Entry Approach (SEnA), an important measure institutionalizing reforms in labor enforcement and dispute settlement, and a prior resort in all labor disputes which render the use of assumption of jurisdiction unnecessary. Under the SEnA, labor issues are immediately addressed at the first instance before it ripens into a full-blown labor dispute.

Further, she mentioned D. O. No. 40-H-13, a tripartite-processed and -supported measure that addresses the issue of aligning the national interest criteria to the ILO essential services criteria in the use of the assumption of jurisdiction power of the Secretary of Labor and Employment.

“This administrative issuance provides an indicative list of industries indispensable to the national interest harmonized with the essential services criteria of ILO Convention No. 87.  These industries include the hospital sector, electric power industry, water supply services (to exclude small water supply services such as bottling and refilling stations), and air traffic control. Other industries may be included upon tripartite consensus,” Baldoz said.

“It also clears the issue on the claimed arbitrariness in the use of the assumption power of the Secretary and the overbroad criteria of “industries indispensable to the national interest,” she added.

Baldoz further explained that the President has added 372 Labor Law Compliance Officer-positions to the DOLE plantilla who will pursue a mix of regulatory and developmental approach to labor inspection.

She said the DOLE is now in the process of refining the features of the US State Department-supported and ILO-assisted development of the Labor Laws Compliance Systems-Management Information System (LLCS-MIS), an online, web-based application system for the transmission and processing of real-time data collected from the field using an electronic checklist.  The checklist includes compliances with freedom of association and collective bargaining, which the new LLCOs will use to produce reports on ILO decent-work indicators.

END

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