The Philippines is ranked as one of the 10 worst countries for working people. Unions there face attempts to bust their organization, arrests and violence–including murder. And last year, four union activists were killed for their work. Still, the labor movement is rising to a multitude of challenges, addressing issues of importance to their members and advancing the cause of worker rights in general.    

For example, the National Union of Building and Construction Workers (NUBCW, above) is addressing unsafe construction practices that put workers at risk including lack of days off and risks of slipping, falling and being hit by heavy falling objects.

Union members with RIDERS-SENTRO say insurance is fundamental to their ability to earn a living. Yet, while the Philippines has government-mandated social and health insurance benefits that employers must contribute to, motorbike delivery workers are categorized as independent contractors, not employees. Riders say they cannot afford those benefits on their own, and if they do not work, they do not earn a living. RIDERS-SENTRO launched a campaign for comprehensive insurance, as well as fair rates and other demands.

Solidarity Center Executive Director Shawna Bader-Blau rides with a delivery worker in Pampanga.

Associated Labor Unions-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (ALU-TUCP) and their affiliate unions, D’Luxe Bags Union (garments); Metroworks Union (telecommunications), Associated Philippines Seafarers Union, and Juan Wing Association of the Philippines (flight attendants) recently met with the Solidarity Center to discuss issues they face, including union busting, forced leave and non-payment of overtime. 

For their courage and persistence in the face of escalating threats to their own lives, seven delegates representing the Philippine labor movement receive the 2023 AFL-CIO George Meany-Lane Kirkland Human Rights Award in a ceremony in Washington, D.C., including (L to R) PSLINK President Annie Enriquez Geron, ACT Secretary General Raymond Basilio, BIEN President Mylene Cabalona, FFW President Sonny Matula, KMU Chairman Elmer Labog, SENTRO Secretary General Josua Mata, ALU-TUCP National President Michael “Mike” Democrito C. Mendoza. Photo: AFL-CIO

In December, seven delegates representing the Philippines labor movement received the 2023 AFL-CIO George Meany-Lane Kirkland Human Rights Award at a ceremony in Washington, D.C., in recognition of “the Philippines labor movement’s resilience, persistence and courage,” as AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler said at the event. The same month, the Philippines became the first Asian country to ratify the International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention No. 190 (C190) to eliminate violence and harassment at work.

On a recent trip to the Philippines, Solidarity Center Executive Director Shawna Bader-Blau met with unions and workers to hear firsthand about their advances and challenges. She also met with Senator Risa Hontiveros, a major labor ally and supporter of the labor movement’s successful campaign to convince the government to ratify International Labor Organization Convention 190 on violence and harassment. 

In a recent discussion with the Solidarity Center in Batangas, workers at a factory where automotive wiring harnesses are made said they face grueling overtime. “We work long hours with constant overtime, from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.,” a worker said, noting they can work six hours standing on the assembly line with no rest, often for seven days a week.

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the News from The Solidarity Center