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 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.
In the face of growing international condemnation, Cambodian authorities have released eight of the 11 NagaWorld trade unionists from prison on bail. Eight union leaders of LRSU were arrested in January and another three union activists were arrested in February for exercising their internationally recognized right to strike. Eight women were released yesterday while three men remain in prison, with possible release tomorrow. Although released from prison, the charges against the union leaders – charges that effectively criminalize trade union activities – have not been dropped.
The eight union leaders in arrested in January sought release on bail in order to represent their 365 members still fighting for reinstatement and over 3,000 LRSU members denied the right to union representation. Thousands of workers and their families face severe economic hardship and debt due to the actions of NagaWorld and the Ministry of Labour.
To avoid negotiations with the released LRSU leaders to reinstate hundreds of union members, NagaWorld and the Ministry of Labour created a fake union organization on the eve of their release from prison.
The new organization, called Union for Rights and Common Interests of NagaWorld Employees, was registered in record time. What would usually take months was completed in a matter of hours. The fake organization was quickly established to act as a counterpart in “negotiations” with NagaWorld management. The next step is for the Ministry of Labour to grant the fake organization Most Representative Status (MRS), depriving LRSU members of their collective bargaining rights. It is also expected that NagaWorld management exploit the climate if fear inside the hotel casino megacomplex to forcibly deduct union dues for the fake organization from the wages of the majority of workers.
The actions by NagaWorld and the Ministry of Labour are a desperate attempt to show the world that the rights violations have ended and the dispute is over. Just in time for an international tripartite mission to Cambodia scheduled for the end of March. Yet the actions of NagaWorld and the Ministry of Labour in creating a fake union organization and continuing to persecute LRSU members once again violates ILO Conventions Nos 87 and 98 on freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining.
LRSU has once again made it clear that it seeks good faith negotiations with NagaWorld to secure the reinstatement of unfairly terminated union members and for those opting to accept redundancy to receive their full legal entitlement to separation pay. At the same time the international community must make it clear that all charges against the arrested union leaders must be dropped and comprehensive legal reforms must protect trade union rights and prevent criminalization of trade union activities.
The international community must also make it clear that setting up a fake union organization and creating a climate of fear to silence workers fools no one.
At 2:50PM on Wednesday, February 9, three union leaders wrongfully detained on Saturday under COVID-19 laws were charged and sent to prison for pre-trial detention. Chaup Channath, Sao Sambath and Seng Vannarith were among several striking union members detained on February 5 by authorities under COVID-19 laws. However, because of their role as strike leaders they were charged and sent to prison on February 9, as the government desperately tries break the 53 day strike and cover up the human rights violations at NagaWorld that led to strike action.
The detention of Chaup Channath, Sao Sambath and Seng Vannarith adds to the eight LRSU leaders already imprisoned a month ago and awaiting sentencing: Chhim Sithar (Union President), Chhim Sokhorn (Union Secretary), Kleang Soben (Union Negotiation Committee), Sun Sreypich (Union Negotiation Committee), Hai Sopheap (Union Negotiation Committee), Ry Sovandy (Union Negotiation Committee),Touch Sereymeas (Union Activist), and Sok Narith (Union Advisor).
The actions of the Cambodian government violate several international human rights conventions including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and ILO Convention No.87 and Convention No. 98 on freedom of association and the right to organize and collective bargaining. This compounds the systematic violations of ILO Conventions No.87 and No.98 by NagaWorld management over the past year, when it imposed mass forced redundancies without negotiations with the union, LRSU, and selectively terminated the union leadership and active members. Ministry of Labour officials then colluded with NagaWorld management to prevent effective mediation by the Arbitration Council, forcing LRSU members to vote for strike action.
Instead of resolving this labour dispute during the one month cooling off period in November 2021, management refused negotiations and forced through the unfair termination of union leaders and members. Once strike action began on December 18, 2021, government authorities launched an attack on the union, raiding the LRSU office and arresting leaders and members.
In a further attack on the right to freedom of association, the right to strike and the right to freedom of assembly, new arrest warrants were issued for four women union leaders on February 6, 2022.
ACT NOW! Please support the call to release jailed union leaders!