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Labor group calls for workers’ empowerment on People Power Day
February 24, 2012

 

Labor group Federation of Free Workers (FFW) joins the Filipino people in celebration of the People Power Revolution 26 years ago, but wishes that the legacy of the peaceful revolution extend to economic empowerment and a stronger voice for workers.

“The nation was united against the Marcos dictatorship. The people succeeded in removing the dictator but the revolution did not affect the socio-economic structure,” said Atty. Sonny Matula, President of the FFW.

The FFW is a national trade union that has been in existence since 1950. It sent a strong workers’ delegation to EDSA, PTV 4 and Malacanang for the duration of the four-day People Power Revolution in 1986.

Weak bargaining

“The people are poorer and ever more powerless,” added Matula. He emphasized how trade union membership has declined and how workers’ bargaining power has diminished.

“Now, only 1.6 million workers are unionized and could be officially represented by trade unions to protect their rights and preserve their jobs,” Matula said.

Trade unions are not ordinary workers’ associations or organizations that were created for mutual benefit. Only trade unions have the mandate to engage management in negotiations for better pay and improved working conditions.

“Less than 250,000 workers are covered by collective bargaining agreements (CBA), a mere 16 per cent of workers, who are members of trade unions,” Matula added. 

CBAs are contracts entered into by trade unions and management that define the wages, benefits, rights and responsibilities of workers and employers in a particular company or workplace.

Matula said that the figures become worse when the coverage of CBAs is compared to the number of wage earners that total 17 million.

“That means only a little over 1 per cent of wage earners are covered by CBAs,” Matula said.

There are close to 40 million Filipinos who are part of the labor force.

People Empowerment for Workers

To give life to the legacy of People Power, the FFW is calling for the real empowerment of workers.

“Organizing into trade unions is the greatest expression of empowerment of workers, and a true sign that the legacy of People Power is alive,” Matula explained.

“Thus, we urge the Aquino Administration to liberalize union organizing and speed up decisions involving recognition of unions and employers’ anti-union activities,” added Matula.

In the Philippines, employers are given the right to question the existence of trade unions even as trade union organizing is considered an activity that is exclusive to workers.

The policy of non-interference of employers and government in trade union organizing activities is enshrined in the International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention 87. The Philippines is a signatory to this international treaty.

“Workers’ participation in decision-making is empowerment. The empowerment of workers will facilitate social dialogue in the workplace, generate decent work and lead to the equitable distribution of wealth. This is the essence of People Power that we celebrate today,” Matula said.

FREE WORKERS

FREE WORKERS

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