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Ten worst countries for workers

Ed Lacson



On the sideline of the recently-concluded International Labor Organization (ILO) tripartite conference in Geneva, Switzerland, a group calling itself the international trade union confederation (ITUC), which claims a membership of more than two hundred million workers in 163 countries, came out with a ranking of the 10 worst countries in the world for workers.
The Philippines was one of them.

I was advised not to dignify the ranking and let it boil over until next year’s ILO conference. But silence might be misconstrued as accepting this affront against employers by an ideologically biased labor union group.

What is ITUC? It is a federation organized in 2006, which consolidated two international labor groups to fight against forced labor and defend the rights of all workers, according to its manifesto.

ITUC has affiliates in the Philippines, namely; Federation of Free Workers, Kilusang Mayo Uno, Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa, and Trade Union Congress of the Philippines.

The top 10 worst countries so named were Algeria, Bangladesh, Brazil, Columbia, Guatemala, Kazakhstan, Philippines, Saudi Arabia and Zimbabwe.

The rankings were allegedly based about violations in law and practice against five indicators – civil liberties, right to establish or join unions, trade union activities, right to collective bargaining and right to strike.

And the following ratings were used:

1. Sporadic violation of rights
2. Repeated violation of rights
3. Regular violation of rights
4. Systemic violation of rights
5. No guarantee of rights
5+. No guarantee of rights due to breakdown of law

ITUC classified the Philippines under rating 5 which mechanically classifies a country as one of the worst in the world to work in. It claims that the country may have laws defining workers’ rights but they have no access to those rights and they are exposed to autocratic regime and unfair labor practices.

The Philippine labor representatives reported the following cases to ensure our country’s inclusion in the shame list — martial law in Mindanao, extension of martial law period, firing of 532 union members in Amerton Inc, dismissal of 80 contract workers at the Korean-owned Shin Sun Tropical Fruit Corp after DoLE’s order to make them permanent.

Additionally, the unions also cited 10 killings of workers in 2018. (NOTE: Similar cases in the past were proven to be inter-union rivalries). They further claimed our democracy is in crisis due to the declaration of martial law in Mindanao which restricts free speech.

In fine, the Philippine labor unions succeeded in putting our country in the worst list using three indicators — violence and murder, brutal repression of public protests and repressive laws.

The slanted, unsubstantiated, and unverified accusations stood unchallenged since the forum did not provide employers and government representatives the opportunity to examine the evidence, or lack of it, nor to speak and deliver counter arguments.

The entire proceeding was like a kangaroo court and the disappointing result cuts deeply into the heart of ILO’s core philosophy of tripartism.

The undue haste by which ITUC ranked the Top 10 worst countries reminds one of an efficient judge who renders his decisions immediately after hearing the prosecution. He does not wait to hear the side of the defense because he says it will only confuse him. And his is the only court of law that has no case backlogs.

It is incredulous for ITUC to judge countries, as they did, especially the Philippines where employers are deeply committed to respect all ILO conventions ratified by our senate, to advance the welfare of labor and achieve a “makeable society.” While employers subscribe to the ideals of tripartism to maintain industrial peace we hope labor groups will share our quest and search for a balance between idealism and pragmatism.

The ITUC ranking maybe a Mickey Mouse job by an anti-employers group but government and ECOP need to submit a post-conference report to ILO and expose the falsity and irrelevance of the shame list.