Feb 28, 2023

The International Labor Organization (ILO) sent a High-Level Tripartite Mission to the Philippines in January to investigate the rampant killings of trade union leaders and other forms of violence experienced by workers and their organisations, which violates ILO Convention 87 on the protection of the rights of workers to freedom of association and collective bargaining.

A protest about repression of trade unionists in the Philippines. Photo: MayDay Multimedia.

At the conclusion of their visit, the mission recommended that “a single presidentially mandated body should be established and empowered to comprehensively identify and address through a specified plan of action, including time frames, resources and accountability, all outstanding cases of alleged labour-related, extra-judicial killings and abductions.”

It added that “the priority emphasis should be on criminal investigation and prompt and accountable prosecution.”

The ILO has asked the Marcos government to report progress on its recommendations by the time the ILO meets at its conference on June 5.

Trade unions in the Philippines welcomed the ILO mission and its recommendations. Prior to the mission, the Philippine labour movement worked together to submit a joint report to the ILO with evidence of violence and harassment of unionists. The groups included ITUC affiliates the Federation of Free Workers, Kilusang Mayo Uno, Sentro ng Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa and Trade Union Congress of the Philippines; the Philippine affiliates of global union federations—Building and Woodworkers International, Education International, IndustriALL, International Transport Federation, International Union of Food, Public Services International, UNI-Philippine Liaison Council, Nagkaisa! Labor Coalition, All Workers Unity, United Labor, Unyon ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura, Kilusan ng Manggagawang Kababaihan and many more.

Their joint report called for an end to the killings, harassment, red tagging and enforced disappearances of workers. It includes the release of detained unionists and dismissal of trumped-up charges and take effective measures to prevent further freedom of association violations.

The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) also welcomed the ILO’s recommedations. ITUC Deputy General Secretary Owen Tudor said: “For many years, trade unionists have faced persecution, including murder and abduction, while the perpetrators have operated with impunity.

“Philippines President Bongbong Marcos must now act without any delay to establish the commission, ensure that those responsible for the reign of anti-union terror are brought to justice, and heed the other recommendations of the mission’s report, including full respect for freedom of association. Workers in the Philippines, like everywhere else, must have the right to organise unions without external interference or repression.”




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