Global unions condemn deteriorating human and trade union rights in the Philippines

Leading to this year’s International Human Rights Day, the Council of Global Unions (CGU) called on the Philippine government to address the alarming increase in red-tagging/terror-tagging, harassment, violence and, most especially, the killings of trade unionists in the country. 

The CGU, which is comprised of 200 million workers worldwide, including the Building and Woodworkers’ International’s (BWI) 12 million affiliate members, urged the Philippine government to immediately investigate all cases of killings and other trade union rights violations. It called on the country’s Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to strengthen its monitoring of labour rights abuses, particularly the full operationalisation of the Inter-Agency Committee on Extra-Legal Killings, Enforced Disappearances, Torture and Other Grave Violations of the Right to Life, Liberty and Security of Persons as provided in the Office of the President’s Administrative Order No. 35 series of 2012, with meaningful trade union representation and renewed mandate. 

The CGU said that for four straight years (2017-2021), the Philippines earned the dubious distinction of being one of the ten worst countries for workers, according to the Global Rights Index of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC). This prompted the International Labour Organization (ILO) to express its concern on the matter, especially on violations related to freedom of association as enshrined in ILO Convention 87 which the Philippines ratified in 1953. 

In 2019, the International Labour Conference requested the Philippine government to receive a high-level tripartite mission (HLTM) to look into reported killings, harassments and violations of trade union rights, particularly ILO Convention 87. The government reportedly dragged its feet and extended the invitation to the ILO HLTM only on April 2020. By then, the COVID-19 pandemic has limited the movement of people worldwide. 

From 2019 to date, the CGU’s Philippine affiliates have, so far, documented seven (7) killings of trade unionists, sixteen (16) cases of arrests and detention, twelve (12) cases of forced disaffiliation and other state interference with the right to self-organization through threats, harassment and intimidation and seventeen (17) cases of red-tagging/terrorist-tagging/ intimidation/harassment. 

Read the full statement here.