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Labor groups unite to boost collective bargaining capacity

SOME 40 labor groups announced yesterday the founding of a national workers’ coalition in a bid to bolster its collective bargaining capacity with the government ahead of Labor Day on May 1.

The formation of NAGKAISA (United), an issue-based umbrella labor rights group, also comes ahead of the Employers Confederation of the Philippines’ two-day conference that starts today.

“We are forming the coalition called NAGKAISA (United) which will consistently and passionately work toward restoring the right to full protection and the chance to live a decent and dignified life for all Filipino working men and women -- whether formal or informal, private or public, here or abroad,” read the joint statement of the member groups forming the broader organization which held its first press briefing yesterday.
Its four major advocacies, to be announced during the nationwide Labor Day mobilizations are:

• the passage of the Security of Tenure Bill;

• contestation of deregulation policies and other government decisions which have led to repeated price hikes for oil, food, electricity and other basic services;

• the ratification of the International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention on Decent Work for Domestic Workers; and

• implementation of “decent” yet region-specific wage increase for workers nationwide.


NAGKAISA’s prominent labor group members include the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP), Federation of Free Workers (FFW), Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL), Alliance of Free Workers (AFW), Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP; Solidarity of Filipino Workers), and Manggagawa para sa Kalayaan ng Bayan (MAKABAYAN), to name a few.

“This is the broadest coalition of workers yet since 1989,” APL-SENTRO Secretary-General Josua T. Mata said on the sidelines of the NAGKAISA press briefing.

“We called for labor groups to push for common causes so [these causes] can no longer be undermined by having different groups turn against each other,” he continued.

Extreme left group Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), on the other hand, declined to join the umbrella group.
“Negotiations among labor groups to form the coalition gained momentum after the TUCP breakaway,” TUCP advocacy officer Alan A. Tanjusay said in a telephone interview.

In January, TUCP’s general council removed Ernesto F. Herrera as its secretary-general to be replaced by Victorino F. Balais.

The TUCP faction led by Mr. Herrera declined invitations to join the coalition, Mr. Tanjusay noted.

NAGKAISA, to some of its members, also represents the opportunity to push for legislation and representation in government processes which are seen to affect job sustainability and security of tenure.
“Our primary concern is also to increase the collective bargaining capacity of workers, so they can negotiate with companies for certain rights -- even a specific wage increase -- because we understand that a number of companies cannot always cope with these regional wage demands,” FFW national president Jose Sonny G. Matula said on the sidelines of the press briefing.

“There are around 17 million workers that need to be organized. Of that 17 million, 1.6 million workers are already part of a labor union as of 2011, but only 212,000 are covered by collective bargaining agreements,” he added.

Meanwhile, Daniel L. Edralin, Social Security Commissioner and APL chairman, said NAGKAISA could potentially serve as the go-to labor representative during government-led consultations on free-trade agreements (FTA) or during actual negotiations of the deal.

Agenda of the coalition are determined jointly by the presidents of its member groups -- called convenors -- and its various technical working groups whose members were determined by submitting nominations, Mr. Tanjusay explained. -- Eliza J. Diaz

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