Filipino workers among the most at risk anywhere in the world – SENTRO

Despite assurances of protection from local and national laws, including international agreements, Filipino workers are living the most perilous time in their own country and in almost all other countries they are working as overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), labor group Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (Sentro) said over the weekend.

In its annual global report released last week, the International Trade Union Confederation has placed the Philippines and the majority of countries where OFWs are eking their living, under category five, which is a rating for the worst countries in the world to work in.

The report said that, “while the legislation may spell out certain rights, workers have effectively no access to these rights and are therefore exposed to autocratic regimes and unfair labour practices.”

“What is notable in this report is that the Philippines is included in a long list of countries whose current regimes do not actively respect workers’ rights. Hence, despite the existence of national law and being signatories to international laws on labor, the workers’ safety and protection of their rights are not guaranteed,” said Josua Mata, Secretary General of Sentro.

According to Mata, these include Bahrain, Hong Kong, Iran, South Korea, Kuwait, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and United Arab Emirates which are all major destinations for OFWs, “which means Filipino workers are really screwed up in and outside of their country.”

“The problem is, our own government do have the moral ascendancy to demand rights for our workers abroad when the Philippine government itself can’t protect its own citizens,” Mata explained. “It can’t even guarantee the fundamental rights of its own workers in its home country,” Mata added.

Another notable aspect of the report is that it included the Philippines as one of the top 10 worst countries in the world for the workers, saying “in a context of extreme state violence and suppression of civil liberties, workers and trade unionists in the Philippines faced threats and intimidation.”

SENTRO suffered the first trade union killing under the administration of Mr. Duterte when Lando Abangan, a trade union and community organizer, was gunned down in Naga, Cebu, last 17 September 2016. Several other trade union and peasant leaders have been killed since then.

The greatest challenge Filipino workers are facing explained Mata, “is the destruction of the collective bargaining capacities of unions through violent reprisals against workers union-building capacities and the weakening of the labor movement in general by not regularizing the workers thus preventing the workers from joining labor movement.”

So long as trade union killings remain unresolved, so long as employers can abuse contractualization, the violent repression of workers’ rights in the country will continue with impunity.

“Mr. Duterte should now realize the folly of listening to the Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP) when he issued EO 51. Rather than realize his campaign promise to end contractualization, the issuance only further legitimized the problem,” Mata said. “This will ensure that the Philippines will maintain next year its notorious distinction as one of the top ten worst countries for workers to work in,” Mata also added.

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