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Miscellaneous

TUCP Labor Day Statement: 50 years of the labor code, 50 years of workers’ travails for social justice

The irony is not lost on labor that this year’s Labor Day celebration by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) at the Malacañang Palace will be all about the Labor Code turning 50 years old, while the ordinary workers toil in suffocating heat, worsening traffic, poverty wages, amid the high cost of food and services, not to mention the fast disappearing space for freedom of association and collective bargaining, the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) said in a Statement.

The TUCP, the largest labor center in the country, said it is scandalized by the patronizing memorial presentation by the DOLE of the 50th year of Presidential Decree 442, an issuance of the late President Ferdinand E. Marcos, Sr., to President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. The DOLE program for May 1 should have focused instead on letting workers’ voices be heard by the President on what urgently needs to be done to address the plight of the Filipino workers.

“Fifty years after its enactment, the Labor Code, a landmark social legislation of Ferdinand Marcos, Sr., has now become a relic and a dismal failure in delivering its promise of social justice due to the erosion through 50 years of the workers’ Constitutional right to self-organization, collective bargaining, security of tenure, and just and humane conditions of work,” the TUCP explained.

The TUCP explained that it consistently worked closely in genuine social partnership with former President Ferdinand E. Marcos, Sr., as well as succeeding administrations, as the TUCP believed then, that the Labor Code provided workers both a legal framework and a reasonable foundation to reason and thresh out labor issues, to ensure employment preservation and maintain meaningful industrial peace through social dialogue.

“It is in the spirit of continuing social dialogue that the TUCP is dumbfounded by the lack of labor dialogue even just once a year on workers’ day, particularly, this May 1st. It has been two years into the Administration of President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr., and there has been no labor dialogue set even on the scheduled Labor Day Celebration in Malacañang this year. We therefore ask DOLE: ‘What is there to mark and remember the 122nd Labor Day with?’ Celebrating Labor Day would be a hollow ritual without addressing or even listening to the struggling workers’ pleas,” the TUCP stressed.

The TUCP pointed out that wittingly or unwittingly shutting out or ignoring the Philippine labor movement could derail President Ferdinand R Marcos, Jr., pitch to the world for the Philippines as an investment destination considering that both foreign trade and foreign direct investments are inextricably linked to the clear and categorical observance of international labor standards.

It should be noted that the country has been consistently ranked globally as one of the ten worst countries for workers. The country’s observance of ILO Convention No.87 on Freedom of Association has been under continuing scrutiny internationally since 2009. The latest January 2023 ILO High-Level Tripartite Mission highlighted persistent violations and violence directed against the Filipino workers’ freedom of association, all done with impunity.

The EU-GSP+ monitoring report for 2020-2022 has noted the need for the Philippines to align its national labor laws with international labor standards on freedom of association, to ensure the protection of workers’ right to security of tenure, to better enforcement to eradicate forced and child labor and trafficking in persons, among others. These concerns should be addressed by a genuine tripartite freedom of association roadmap and not a pseudo-tripartite roadmap that leaves out a majority of the trade union movement.

Part-and-parcel of the recommendations of the ILO has been the long-overdue need for amendments to the Labor Code long championed by TUCP. These include:

HOUSE BILL NO. 1512: SECURITY OF TENURE (SOT) ACT that seeks to end the pandemic of ENDO contractualization in the country and to restore security of tenure as the norm in labor relations, rather than the exemption.

HOUSE BILL NO. 1518: UNION FORMATION ACT aims to strengthen the right of workers to self-organization by lowering the requirements for union registration in response to the ILO’s long-standing observation of excessive registration requirements on workers’ organizations in the country.

HOUSE BILL NO. 5536: ASSUMPTION OF JURISDICTION ACT proposes to limit the power of the DOLE Secretary to assume jurisdiction over labor disputes by changing the operative phrase from the overly broad “industries indispensable to the national interest” to “industries providing essential services” as defined by the ILO.

HOUSE BILL NO. 7043: WORKERS’ RIGHT TO STRIKE ACT removes dismissal and imprisonment as a penalty for illegal strikes and lockouts because these are too harsh and disproportionate to the seriousness of the violation.

For the 50th Anniversary of the Labor Code to be truly worth celebrating, the declared State policy “to afford protection to labor, promote full employment, ensure equal work opportunities regardless of sex, race or creed and regulate the relations between workers and employers” and social justice should be realized in practice. But no, sadly, the implementation of the Labor Code has been left severely wanting and in dire need of reforms demanded at home and abroad.

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