Unionism is Not Terrorism! Assert the dignity of Labor Against Union Harassment and Intimidation

The formation of the Joint Industrial Peace and Concern Office (JIPCO) by the PNP in Central Luzon in close coordination with the Philippine Economic Zone Authority is a dangerous development, one that ignores the root causes of labor unrest in the country. Under the pretext of public security, anti-insurgency, and the favorite buzzwords of peace and order, this expansion of police presence in the hotbeds of labor violations constitute nothing less than the brazen collaboration between the Philippine State’s security forces, local businesses and multinational corporations to suppress workers’ Constitutionally-guaranteed right to self-organization.

Betraying the clearly pro-business agenda of this initiative, Sentro Secretary General Josua Mata comments that JIPCO’s launch has been presented as a concerted effort to prevent the entry of “militant labor” in the various industries, ecozones, and businesses across Central Luzon. He continues by saying that Labor Unions are implicitly presented as “communist fronts”, terrorists, and enemies of progress. “While JIPCO is introduced as “protecting both labor welfare, labor rights, and productive industry gains, without sacrificing industrial peace”, the focus on anti-insurgency and combating the “communist threat” conveniently forgets to mention the long list of crimes, intimidation, harassment, and even murder of workers at the hands of corporate interests and their hired thugs” says Mata.

The absence of any mention of the more than 43 labor and peasant leaders killed since 2016 for fighting for workers’ and trade union rights, the prevalence of union busting, intimidation of unionists, and the practical supremacy of capital over labor in our ecozones raises the question “What kind of Industrial Peace will JIPCO uphold?”. Given these issues, and the absence of labor in its launch, the answer is clearly a peace where local corporations and the big, multinational firms are free to operate with impunity. The national police will essentially continue to play the role of a private security force used to harass and prevent union efforts to protect and represent worker’s interests in workplaces and factories.

For Mata, “Rather than addressing longstanding issues of job precariousness, contractualization, low wages, unsafe work environments and harassment, JIPCO’s launch and stated objectives show that the Philippine State, under the supposedly pro-people Duterte government, is continuing the decades-old policy of supporting the interests of Big Business over the rights, and lives, of millions of workers through this barely-hidden assault on the right to unionize.”

Sentro condemns this most recent assault on the dignity, security, and survival of working people. In particular, we demand that DOLE fulfill its mandated role of upholding the rights of workers through existing laws, regulations and mechanisms such as the Industrial Tripartite Peace Councils to address the primary causes of labor unrest and suffering that misguided projects such as JIPCO will merely worsen. We call on all labor unions, centers, and federations, as well as the general public, to oppose this disgusting act of using taxpayer money in defense of unjust business practices and labor violations in the name of progress and global competitiveness.To these false promises of development our reply is that we can, and must, build an economy built on equality, justice, and the dignity of work. The seeds of this free, sustainable and peaceful economy lies with the defense of our Unions and communities – these are our main instruments for securing a better future for ourselves and all working people in the country.

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