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TUCP: Bagong Pilipinas needs a new Labor Secretary

Trade Union Congress of the Philippines - TUCP

Despite the steadfast leadership of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. in pitching the Philippines to the world as a global investment hub and as the Marcos Administration strives to address the most pressing issues faced by the Filipino people, the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) is gravely concerned that the perennial obstacle in our whole-of-society efforts is the current leadership of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) which harbors a deep disdain for Philippine labor, sidelining the workers’ survival plight under the guise of supposedly “balancing interests”, which actually is heavily skewed in the employers’ favor. WE NEED A NEW LABOR SECRETARY BECAUSE WE DO NOT HAVE ONE.

The Secretary, unfortunately, is not a man of action but a man of illusion. When food and agricultural prices are skyrocketing, the Secretary gave a bad name to the President when he launched a one-time, big-time “Kadiwa ng Pangulo para sa Manggagawa” which only existed whenever the President was physically present and afterwards, was never seen again, such as what happened in our very own backyard in the ALU-TUCP premises in Quezon City.

As millions remain unemployed and underemployed, the Secretary touted their also one-time, big-time job fairs supposedly offering thousands of employment opportunities which are not necessarily new jobs , nor permanent and decent jobs.

These illusions projected that the Secretary is addressing the survival crisis of soaring inflation, poverty-level wages, and significant joblessness. However, in reality, the TUCP fears that his non-action spells doom for the labor and employment landscape in the Philippines and compromises the efforts of President Marcos to draw in badly needed foreign investments and trade. With the current DOLE leadership, the aim of a vibrant inclusive Philippine economy is being sacrificed for illusory gains.

The Philippine labor movement was awarded last year with the prestigious Meany-Kirkland Human Rights Award from the American labor movement for fearlessly fighting for workers’ rights amidst impunity. The TUCP with other Philippine Labor groups already met with various officials of the United States Government, including National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, Trade Representative Ambassador Katherine Tai, and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo.

All expressed grave concern about the status of labor relations reform in the Philippines and emphasized the need for a genuine worker-centered trade policy between our two countries that ties up labor rights with trade as underscored in the new Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF), US GSP, and as well as the EU GSP+ and future free trade agreements. Yet, we hear nothing – ZERO – from the Secretary.

The billions of trade and investment and hundreds of thousands of regular decent jobs are being placed at risk by the current DOLE leadership because we cannot reap the fruits of worker-centered trade if the Philippines remains one of the ten worst countries for workers for nearly a decade now with no progress in labor reforms under one of the worst Secretaries ever.

The world has changed to understand that good labor rights is also good business. The nation is changing to be modern and modernizing. Therefore, the economic imperatives of Bagong Pilipinas under the Marcos Administration demands a change: a new DOLE Secretary BECAUSE CLEARLY, WE DO NOT HAVE ONE.

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