Saturday, April 29, 2023

Labor coalition tells union allies to encourage Biden to remind BBM of need to respect workers’ rights in the Philippines

Because President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has opted to visit US President Joe Biden rather than meet Philippine labor groups on Labor Day to discuss mounting economic and labor rights concerns, the Nagkaisa labor coalition sent appeals instead to its trade union allies in the US to encourage Biden to remind Marcos of the need to restore the free exercise of labor rights in the Philippines amid widespread violations during the Duterte administration as confirmed by the recent ILO High Level Tripartite Mission in its report.

Official advisory of the Marcos-Biden meeting on Labor Day stated security as well as trade and investment as main subjects of the bilateral talk. 

The Biden administration, as explained by embassy officials during a meeting with Philippine trade unions early this month, is pushing for a “worker-centered” trade policy. 

“But how can PH workers benefit from any trade talks with the US when all the coercive instruments instituted by the Duterte regime is kept intact by Marcos Jr.? For us, for trade to be worker-centered, it has to redound to the benefit of workers,” said Nagkaisa Chair Atty. Sonny Matula. 

But anticipating a rather security-focused Marcos-Biden meeting, labor groups in Nagkaisa has requested their counterparts in the USA, the same groups that led the filing of a GSP complaint in December 2022, to urge Biden in their trade talks to encourage Marcos Jr to demonstrate seriousness in addressing the long-standing concerns of the labor movement, starting with taking concrete steps to realize the recommendations of the ILO HLTM. 

“All it takes for President Marcos Jr. to show its seriousness on trade and labor is for him to issue an Executive Order establishing the Presidential Commission on Freedom of Association,” insisted Matula. 

According to Matula, trade union leaders and organizers have faced lethal violence, with 68, or 69 now with the most recent case in Negros, who were killed since 2016. 

“The situation seems to hark back to the 18th or 19th century, as if unionizing is still considered a crime. But with President Marcos opting to visit US President Biden rather than meet with Philippine unions to talk about this issue this coming Labor Day, we hope he learns from Biden’s Presidential Task Force on union organizing that supports union revitalization in the US, and hopes that upon his return a decision is made to establish a Presidential Commission on Freedom of Association in the Philippines, as recommended in the ILO-HTLM report.”

Aside from labor rights and the creation of a Presidential Commission on Freedom of Association, the Nagkaisa and the unified Labor Day action by All Philippine Trade Unions on Monday would also raise demands for immediate wage hike, an end to ‘endo’ or contractualization and creation of decent jobs, as well as provisions of quality public services, including those for women and the youth. ###

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