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FROM THE MAIL | On the assumption of ILO Chairmanship by Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III



By Center for Trade Union and Human Rights

Amidst the repressive

e and oppressive legacy of the Duterte regime, Sec. Bello assumes  the chairmanship of the Government Group of the International Labor Organization. The said position, according to the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) press release will give the country a pivotal role in leading the government members of the ILO in its policy-making and setting of global labor standards. 


 This is not shared by the local labor sector, however, which has tremendously suffered under the labor chief’s leadership. CTUHR views this  move towards a higher position and influence in global labor  a complete disregard of and a challenge to the very dismal state of our domestic labor setup.

Contractualization  has worsened under the Duterte regime. In fact, according to Jacinto Paras—the latest Presidential appointee– , it is the least of priorities in the year remaining of Duterte’s term. There are around 8.5 million and 800,000 non-regular workers in private companies and government agencies respectively with construction, real estate and manufacturing having the most percentage, according to IBON, Duterte completely turned his back on his  promise of ending contractualization with his veto of the Security of Tenure Bill. This has emboldened businesses and employers towards working around existing labor-only contracting set forth by the labor code. Violations of labor laws under security of tenure were observed from companies such as Nutri-Asia, PEPMACO, Sumifru and Zagu which had non-regular workers for a maximum of 12 years who performed necessary and desirable work for their businesses. Worker’s rights, wages and benefits were all pressed down due to the persistence of contractualization.

Unemployment remains high at 8.7% or 4.2 million and peaked at 15% in 2020 when strict lockdowns were enforced and resulted in the loss of jobs. DOLE  ordered private businesses and government agencies to implement flexible working schemes which has enabled employers to lower wages and cut the number of workers through mass retrenchments. 

Meanwhile, the minimum wage has seen its lowest increase during Duterte’s term at only 9.4%, gaining the lowest ever recorded among previous terms. The last increase occurred in the National Capital Region 2018 from P512 to P537; an underwhelming 25-peso hike, which is a decision of the  Arroyo administration. Provinces away from NCR are lower despite the ill effects of lockdowns.

It is a challenge to Bello to improve and to comply with international standards set by the ILO.  The least that Sec Bello can do  is to accept the ILO High level Tripartite Monitoring Mission to investigate the killings and rampant labor rights violations. The situation of workers  in the Philippines is far from the ideal model fit to be represented by Bello as chair in the ILO government group.  Even in his own hometown in Isabela, sugar workers have been dealing with harassment from the management of the Green Future Innovations Inc. The Unyon ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) in a  statement said that they have filed a complaint at  the ILO last June 22,2021 over the harassment of the police, military and the GFII management versus t its workers. owledgement. Earlier the sugar workers have filed a complaint on the violation of minimum wage by the GFII management which resulted in said harassment cases. GFII pays their workers, the harvesters for instance, P20/day  for whole days’ work. Minimum wage in the province is P345/day for eight ()8 hours. 

We urge the DOLE’s  secretary to  address  the workers’ condition long characterized as violative of global standards, especially ILO Convention 87 & 98 on freedom of association and fundamental rights at work. Less than 10% of  workers are organized, and informal workers getting themselves organized are also threatened. (CENTER FOR TRADE UNION AND HUMAN RIGHTS (CTUHR)  Public Information and Education Department)


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