International trade union solidarity: Workers of the world help fellow workers in typhoon-ravaged Philippines

The international trade union movement has contributed to the relief and rebuilding efforts for Typhoon Yolanda victims, particularly workers in the Philippines and their families.

“Trade unions around the world are asking their members to donate generously to the relief efforts, and our Philippines partners are right now evaluating how best the global trade union community can help,” said Sharan Burrow, secretary general of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).

"Our hearts go out to the families who have lost loved ones, and had their houses and livelihoods destroyed,” added Burrow who heads the Belgium-based ITUC that represents 176 million workers in 156 countries and territories and has 325 national affiliates.

The Federation of Free Workers (FFW), an affiliate of the ITUC in Philippines, warmly welcomed the support from fellow unionists and workers all over the world.

“We are grateful to receive your solidarity and touching concern for our workers in the Philippines,” said Atty. Sonny Matula, national president of the FFW.

The FFW is providing assistance to its members who are victims of Yolanda with its national Headquarters in Manila, regional branches in Visayas and Luzon and local unions accepting donations of cash, food, soap, medicine and used clothes from members and friends.

“We condole with the family of Mr. Oscar Embarnace, former union president of FFW Chapter at the Container Haulers, who lost his life in Tacloban, and we are deeply concerned for the Hi-Eisai Union member reportedly missing,” added Matula.

“Initial reports place around 250 FFW union members from Universal Robina in Passi, Iloilo, Capiz Emmanuel Hospital in Roxas City and Amigo Hotel in Iloilo City lost their homes and personal belongings to Yolanda,” said Matula. The number does not include 220 members of The Redsystem Company Inc. Employees Association (TRCIEA-FFW) who lost their homes or would need substantial house repair in different places in the country and a yet undetermined number of union members whose families were in the middle of storm surge-hit areas.

Closer to home, The ITUC-Asia Pacific based in Singapore also called on its affiliates to support the relief and rehabilitation efforts of trade unions in the Philippines. “We appeal to you to contribute to the ITUC-AP Natural Disaster Fund,” said Noriyuki Suzuki, secretary general ITUC-AP. The Japanese Union, JTUC-Rengo is sending around USD 5,000.00.

Unionists in Canada through the Steelworkers Humanity Fund have also contributed around USD 30,000 to relief efforts. “Steelworkers are among the thousands of Canadians responding to the urgent appeals for emergency assistance in the wake of the destruction of Haiyan,” said Ken Neumann, National Director for Canada of the United Steelworkers. Their contribution will be sent through Oxfam Canada. The government of Canada will match the workers’ contributions for relief efforts until 9 December.

“This is a big help for our union members who are victims of Yolanda,” said Matula.

Local union initiatives

Meanwhile, a number of trade unions have devised schemes to generate more funds for victims of the super typhoon. 

A number of trade unions have agreed with management to re-allocate their Christmas Party budget this year in favor of the relief efforts, such as Temic Automotive Philippines Inc. Employees Union-FFW, Johnson and Johnson Specialists Council for Employees Affairs-FFW, FFW-Hi Eisai  Pharmaceutical Philippines Chapter, Country Bankers Employees Union-FFW and the BPI Family Bank Employees Union-FFW and TRCIEA-FFW.

At the BPI Family bank, management has agreed to match the total contributions of workers, while the Macajalar Labor Union has allocated at least P10,000 from its union fund. The CDO-based union did not think twice about sending support, remembering that trade unions came to their aid as well when another devastating Typhoon Pablo, struck them last year.

Trade unions back PH delegation to the Climate Talks in Poland

Addressing the root cause of super typhoons, the ITUC has backed the Philippine delegation’s call to the UN climate negotiations in Warsaw, Poland for urgent action on climate change in the wake of the super typhoon that caused widespread devastation.

"The scientific consensus on climate change is clear, and catastrophic events like Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) will only continue to multiply the longer the world delays action. People are paying with their lives while the powerful anti-climate lobby continues to block solutions," said Burrow.

Early this week, the lead negotiator for the Philippine delegation in the climate talks broke down after delivering an emotional statement to the international climate change conference.

"What my country is going through as a result of this extreme climate event is madness. We can fix this. We can stop this madness. Right now, right here," Mr Sano said, in a speech which received a standing ovation from his fellow delegates.

ILO Support

The FFW also lauded the International Labor Organization (ILO) for setting up a multimillion dollar “cash-for-work” and emergency employment program for the estimated three million Filipino workers affected by Super Typhoon Yolanda.

ILO director general Guy Ryder said the program is part of the $301-million relief appeal launched by the United Nations to help rebuild communities and livelihoods in areas devastated by Yolanda.

“The programs will also create jobs and develop skills to facilitate the construction of emergency shelters, and extend social protection to those employed, including a minimum wage and health and accident insurance,” Ryder added.

ILO said that about 44 percent of the affected workers are vulnerable laborers such as farmers, fishermen and informal economy operators.

Much of the livelihood infrastructure, such as farm-to-market roads, fishing boat landing sites and field irrigation, are also destroyed or blocked with debris and require urgent reconstruction or rehabilitation.


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