As the Philippines government continues to ignore ILO recommendations to address serious trade union rights violations in the country and fails to investigate the killing of trade unionists and violence against unions, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) once again postponed a high level ILO tripartite mission to the country.
The Council of Global Unions (CGU) Pilipinas held a protest action at DOLE on September 9, denouncing the delays that effectively deny workers the right to freedom of association and fail to hold the perpetrators of violence against trade unionists accountable. This only increases the sense of impunity of those orchestrating violence against union leaders, organizers and members, and perpetuates the climate of fear. In dozens of cases the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association has been clear about this environment of fear:
A free and independent trade union movement can only develop in a climate free of violence, threats and pressure, and it is for the Government to guarantee that trade union rights can develop normally.
The actions of the Philippines government – essentially its inaction – creates uncertainty among workers throughout the Philippines about whether they really can form and join unions without fear of violence, intimidation and punishment. It is a fundamental principle of all human rights that the realization of rights is premised on certainty. The certainty that we have these rights and can exercise them.
The inaction and delays of the Philippines government are unacceptable and must condemned by the international trade union movement.
COUNCIL OF GLOBAL UNIONS (CGU) PILIPINAS PRESSS RELEASE
Global unions press DOLE to jail killers of workers; stop attacks vs. unions, workers
Council of Global Unions (CGU)-Pilipinas
9 September 2022
The Council of Global Unions (CGU)-Pilipinas marched to the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) in Intramuros today to demand accountability for the killing and other forms of violence that trade union leaders and organizers have been experiencing.
In a letter addressed to Labor Secretary Bienvenido Laguesma, CGU Pilipinas scored the DOLE for “the very slow pace by which the Department is acting on the very sorry and serious state of freedom of association in the country.”
CGU Pilipinas has learned that the DOLE has formally asked the International Labour Organization (ILO) to move the High Level Tripartite Mission (HLTM) to the Philippines to look into the serious violations to ILO Convention 87 to early 2023 instead of this month.
“We find this unacceptable as moving the HLTM yet again delays the HLTM by three and a half years, without regard for Filipino trade union leaders and organizers who continue to get killed, arbitrarily arrested, red-tagged or who continue to disappear, thereby disregarding civil liberties, human rights and trade union rights with impunity,” said CGU-Pilipinas, composed of the Philippine affiliates of the global union federations and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC),
At the budget hearing yesterday, labor groups wanted Congress to add to the budget of the DOLE which was drastically reduced by 49%
“We want more budget for hiring more labor inspectors and strengthening labor inspection with the direct participation of deputized worker-inspectors, investigation and prosecution of those responsible for the killings and unabated violence against workers, and making them accountable,” CGU-Pilipinas said.
The Philippines is still in the notorious list of the Ten Worst Countries for Workers to live in, according to the International Trade Union Conference Rights Index for the past six years.
“Government has failed to resolve the cases of killings of workers and prosecute those responsible—especially state forces—for the killings, violence, harassment and red-tagging of trade unions, leaders and organizers. Government inaction has also created an environment where irresponsible employers have become bolder in busting unions and not recognizing trade unions,” CGU Pilipinas said.
The group also scored how the DOLE seems to have endorsed the blatantly anti-union activities of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF ELCAC).
“Our members have reported how they have been (forcibly) invited by the NTF-ELCAC to trade union orientation sessions through their employers and in the presence of DOLE officials. The NTF-ELCAC bad mouths labor federations, calls strikes and protest actions as terrorist activities and threatens trade union leaders so they may renounce membership to trade unions they freely joined and formed,” CGU Pilipinas said.
“The NTF-ELCAC should be abolished, and its budget for seminars should be appropriated for trade union education and training that are run by trade unions themselves,” CGU Pilipinas said.
Among the members of the CGU-Pilipinas are the Federation of Free Workers (FFW), Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) and SENTRO, who are affiliated to the ITUC; and the Philippine affiliates of the Public Services International (PSI), Education International (EI) and UNI Global, who are the Pubic Services Labor Independent Confederation (PSLINK), Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) and UNI – Philippine Liaison Council respectively. Also signing on are Nagkaisa! Labor Coalition, Unyon ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) and Confederation for the Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (COURAGE).
The United Nations (UN) designated September 15 as the International Day of Democracy. On this day we call for the restoration of democracy and democratic rights in Myanmar.
One year ago there was a campaign on September 15, 2021, calling on the UN to recognize the democratic National Unity Government (NUG) as the legitimate government of the people of Myanmar and to reject the illegal, bloody military State Administration Council (SAC). This call came just before an important decision of the 75th Session of the United Nations General Assembly on whether to recognize NUG or the SAC.
Despite the tremendous support of several governments around the world, the UN General Assembly failed to make a clear choice. In response, on October 26, 2021, the IUF Asia/Pacific Regional Committee expressed concern that 75th Session of the UN General Assembly had not taken a clear decision on the rejection of the military State Administration Council (SAC) and recognition of the democratic NUG, warning that:
further delay in the rejection of the SAC and recognition of the NUG will embolden the military regime and increase its military attacks on civilian populations.
Tragically this is exactly what happened. An emboldened SAC military junta escalated its brutal war on the people, with military attacks on villages and aerial bombings. Thousands more human rights defenders and trade unionists were arrested, hundreds more were sentenced to prison terms. And on July 26, 2022, the SAC military junta executed four political prisoners.
One year later, on September 15, 2022, the international community again mobilizes to call on the UN General Assembly to recognize NUG and reject SAC.
Only total political rejection of the SAC as an illegitimate, criminal military regime and full support for NUG can help end this reign of terror and provide much needed support for the courageous struggle of all the peoples of Myanmar to restore democracy.
What choice is there now for the UN? The SAC military junta or the democratic NUG? There is no choice. Only justice.
Recognize NUG now!
The newly formed Union of Delivery Riders in Digital Platforms-SENTRO-IUF launched strike action for the first time on July 11, 2022, in General Santos in the Philippines. The digital platform food delivery riders are demanding fair and just delivery earnings, an end to arbitrary and unfair suspension and terminations (including the “off-boarding” of riders’ accounts without due process), as well as calling for accident insurance coverage.
The strike action comes at a time when more digital platform food delivery riders are getting organized. While spontaneous protests and strikes have been common in Southeast Asia in recent years, organized protest increased during the pandemic. Designated as essential workers recognized as providing a vital service, they continue to be subject to the uncertainty and mental stress of malicious complaints leading to unfair punishment, and unexplained changes in earnings. This adds to the existing pressure of fast delivery times and unsafe working conditions, including road accidents and heat stress.
On June 26, 2022, digital platform food delivery riders joined restaurant workers and fast food workers in the IUF Asia/Pacific Regional Food Services Workers Meeting. Over 115 participants from six countries joined the meeting to discuss the challenges faced by food service workers despite being recognized as essential workers in the pandemic. The meeting identified the urgent need for more food service workers to form and join unions – including digital platform food delivery riders – to build the collective bargaining power needed to secure the stable, decent incomes and safe work that essential workers deserve.
11 JULY 2022
“MGA DELIVERY RIDERS NAMAN!”
FAIR EARNINGS, STOPPAGE OF ILLEGAL OFF-BOARDING, ILLEGAL SUSPENSION and PROVISION OF ACCIDENT INSURANCE – UDRDP
Led by the Food Panda Delivery riders from General Santos, members of Union of Delivery Riders in Digital Platforms (UDRDP) the SENTRO and IUF City demands better working conditions by providing fair and just delivery earnings, stoppage of rampant suspension and termination (off-boarding) of riders account without due process and Accident Insurance.
Despite their equally important functions and the regular nature of their work, Food Panda delivery riders more often get lower income and zero benefits; but have heavier workloads; are more prone to road and traffic hazards and sexual harassment or outright assaults from customers; and remains no employee-employer relationships with the delivery platforms – effectively denying them the economic benefits and political gains that may be enjoyed by regular workers, including the right to join a union and to receive additional rights and benefits from a collective bargaining agreement (CBA).
The UDRDP lamented that the Food Panda delivery riders are treated as “delivery-partners, free-lancers and independent contractors” which justify their lower wages, although they: work 12-15hrs a day; work within strict time limits (the company requires them to come to work at an appointed time, report their work-break by lunch time and go to a place it designates); and can be suspended or terminated by the food panda.
UDRDP also pointed out that some areas do not have designated waiting areas forcing the delivery riders to find shed under the trees, parking areas and besides the roads; do not have personal protective equipment and do not have regular road and traffic safety trainings. That this blatant disregard for or violation of occupational safety and health standards (OSHS) may result not only to temporary injury but also to permanent disability and death of the delivery riders.
Foremost of these demands are the regularization of employment of delivery riders, wages and benefits befitting their permanent work status, strict observance of OSHS, among others.
The UDRDP-SENTRO/IUF is set to hold more mobilizations until Food Panda heeds their demand to stop the illegal termination/off boarding and suspension of delivery riders and to sit down in a meeting with the union about the fair earnings and insurance.
UDRDP is the Union of Delivery Riders in Digital Platform which is affiliated to the national labor center SENTRO (Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa); and the Geneva-based IUF (International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations).
Members of the the Coca-Cola Employees Union (CCEU) continued their protest actions on July 2, 2022, in response to management’s continued refusal to negotiate good faith and attempts to exclude the company from labour law provisions. Union members are also demanding and end to the violence and threats by goons deployed by Coca-Cola Bangladesh’s 3rd party “waste management” contractor, Md. Shahidul Islam Shahid.
The peaceful protest began on June 4, 2022, but was postponed after goons of Coca-Cola Bangladesh’s 3rd party contractor, Md. Shahidul Islam Shahid, visited workers’ homes and threatened their families with violence. The abduction and vicious beating of the Coca-Cola Bangladesh union president on June 7 by these goons had already created a climate of fear.
The union relocated dozens of union members and their families to temporary accommodation further away from the factory for their safety. The protests in front of the Coca-Cola factory then resumed on July 2.
One of the supervisors of Coca-Cola Bangladesh’s “waste management” contractor videoed the protest to identify the workers who joined the action. The same night goons visited the workers’ homes and threatened them and their families. They also forced workers’ family members to come to the contractor’s office near the factory. They made explicit threats, telling the father of one worker:
He is your only son. He shouldn’t join this protest anymore, otherwise he’ll be in danger.
Using his influence and connections, Md. Shahidul Islam Shahid is also threatening to have landlords to evict union members and their families if the protest continues.
A news story published on June 14 under the headline কোকাকোলার কারখানায় ‘আন্দোলন দমাতে’ শ্রমিকনেতাদের ওপর হামলা [Attack on workers’ leaders to suppress movement at Coca-Cola factory] described last week’s brutal attack on the union president by goons of a 3rd party waste management contractor for Coca-Cola Bangladesh. Within two hours the story disappeared due to what one source simply described as “pressure”.
After being released from hospital and recovering, the union president went to the police station on June 15 to follow up on the complaint filed against Coca-Cola management over his abduction and vicious assault. The police claimed no such complaint exists. This is despite the fact that the Coca-Cola Bangladesh management named in the police complaint had raised concern about allegations of their involvement. Instead of challenging these allegations, the police complaint – like the news story – disappeared.
Meanwhile, goons of the 3rd party waste management contractor providing services to Coca-Cola Bangladesh continued following union members home, intimidating and threatening them. In the factory managers and supervisors told workers they will be terminated if they resume their protest actions.
With protests stopped and the disappearance of the police complaint and the only news media story, the ground has been laid for Coca-Cola Bangladesh to now claim that nothing actually happened. If that occurs, then it will be a massive failure of corporate governance. Making the evidence disappear is not the purpose or intent of the human rights due diligence that should have protected union leaders and members in the first place.
On the International Day for the Elimination of Child Labour, 30 union leaders from agriculture, fisheries, and food and beverage processing unions from Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan called for urgent action to end child labour in the food supply chains and implement the Durban Call to Action on the Elimination of Child Labour. Union leaders reported on the use of child labour in agriculture and factories, highlighted the key drivers of child labour and discussed strategies to eliminate child labour.
In addition, unions highlighted the impact of climate change contributing to climate migrations and increased risk of child labour.
Sister Sharmin Sultana, President of the Bangladesh National Women Farmers & Workers Association (NWFA), observed that:
Due to rising sea levels, flooding, river erosion, coastal erosion, and extreme weather in Bangladesh, people are forced off their lands resulting in loss of livelihood and income. In rural areas children previously engaged in agricultural activity on family farms are increasingly accompanying their parents in paid work as migrant workers or are hired directly.
Sister Rafia Gulani, President of Sindh Nari Porihayt Council (SNPC) in Pakistan, added that:
This year’s heat wave in Pakistan has made working in field very challenging for SNPC members and it was more hazardous for children who accompany their parents to work in the field. Families are under debt and work on piece rate systems which forces them to bring children to work.
Sister Vineetha Sailesh, youth leader from Gujarat Agriculture Labour Union (GALU) in India reported on the employment of child labour in potato farms in Gujarat, India in the supply chain of TNCs and in cotton farms under hazardous conditions:
Recognizing agriculture as a hazardous sector, governments must take measures to improve health & safety conditions and to immediately stop children from working on agricultural farms where pesticides are used. Along with that effective implementation of the right to education which will reduce child labour from farms and rehabilitate them by enrolling them into schools and by providing an adequate living wage and employment opportunities for adults.
Brother Raja Reddy, Council President from Andhra Pradesh Vyavsaya Vruthidarula Union (APVVU) India, highlighted the use of piece-rate wage systems in seed companies and fields forcing parents to bring children to work.
We must end the quota system in seed companies where we have found substantial use of child labour and we must create year-round employment opportunities in rural areas with guaranteed living wage.
Brother Balu Gadi, a youth leader of APVVU added that:
The increased food prices are contributing to children dropping out of schools and are forced to work. The government’s failure to take measures to control prices and protect food security is increasing child labour and children may never go back to school.
Sister Megha Desai from the Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA ) reiterated the importance of stable income and livelihood for adults, right to education, right to healthcare and tackling climate change as key strategies to eliminate child labour in agriculture.
Unions from food and beverage processing highlighted the need to investigate child labour in the supply chain and committed to include elimination of child labour in their collective bargaining agreements and support unions in agriculture to end child labour.
Brother Abdul Mannan from IUF Food Workers’ Council in Bangladesh recalled the Hashem Food Fire tragedy which killed 19 children working in the factory on July 8 and reported the use of child labour in other factories in Bangladesh.
The IUF Food Workers Council will investigate the use of child labour, workers’ rights violation and hazardous working conditions in other food factories and is committed to ensure that children are not exploited in the factories. Along with that the council will support workers in food factories to organize and form unions.
Brother Khaista Rehman, General Secretary of the Pakistan Food Workers’ Federation (PFWF) added:
PFWF is committed to support unions working to eliminate child labour, we will include a clause on eliminating child labour in the supply chain in union collective agreements.
Brother Amol, President of Sunfresh Agro Industries Kamgar Sanghatana in India said:
Companies should take responsibility to tackle child labour in their supply chain and the companies will not take it seriously unless we make the issue of child labour a priority.
Brother Anwer Zeb, youth leader from the Tobacco Growers’ Association (TGA) in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan, where the prevalence of child labour in tobacco growing is high, reported that the TGA has changed their constitution of include eliminating child labour in tobacco farming and membership to the association will depend on members’ commitment to end child in tobacco farms.
We need to put the effort in monitoring child labour in our farms as it is a continuous process and whenever we become unfocused use of child labour may return.
All of the participating unions highlighted the importance of freedom of association in ending the conditions that forces children to work in hazardous conditions and unions in food sector working together to eliminate child labour.