Teresita Borgonos and Santi Nolla from NUBCW.


Unions in the Philippines are taking action decisive against sexual harassment in the workplace, and their efforts are paying off. We have an inspiring experience to share from our partner organisation, the National Union of Building and Construction Workers (NUBCW). 

Recently, the NUBCW organized a groundbreaking roundtable discussion with a leading local construction firm and three unions. This initiative was part of a larger effort to highlight sexual harassment as a critical workplace health and safety issue in a male-dominated industry. 

A key moment of the roundtable was when a victim of workplace sexual harassment bravely shared her story — a first in the history of the construction firm. 

“I was new on the job and my immediate supervisor harassed me, not only once, but a couple of times.”, said Isabel Reyes (not her real name). 

“We were riding a taxi on our way to a project site when my supervisor started to utter malicious verbal remarks with sexual undertones. And maybe because I did not say anything, the nasty act was followed by the touching of my hair, my shoulder and my hand. I yelled loudly forcing him to stop because the taxi driver was checking on us.”  

Despite the Anti-Sexual Harassment Act of 1995 being in place, the construction company had no policy addressing sexual harassment at that time. 

Today, Isabel plays a vital role on the company’s committee on decorum, which investigates and resolves sexual harassment cases alongside union and labour representatives. She shares her experience to empower her coworkers to fight back against sexual harassment. The roundtable, supported by Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA, offered Isabel—a moment she described as still vivid in her memory—the chance to publicly share her story. 

“Sexual Harassment is a power relation issue. People in positions of power prey on their subordinates, those who are weak and powerless. It has nothing to do with the way you dress, talk, act or express yourselves. So don’t ever blame yourself if you become a victim, blame the harasser,” she added. 

Surprisingly, another woman at the roundtable stood up to share her own harrowing experience of sexual harassment, involving unwanted touching by a male colleague. 

The discussion concluded with a powerful statement:

“If you are sexually harassing someone, you are violating their dignity as a human being. Ask yourself, is this the kind of person you want to be? If your answer is NO, then let’s break our silence. Say NO to Sexual Harassment. Stop Sexual Harassment in the workplace, in our union, and all public places.” 

This story from the Philippines is a testament to the power of collective action and the importance of addressing sexual harassment head-on.  

Supporting Women Workers at NUBCW 

With Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA support, NUBCW is helping women build their power within the construction industry. One of their key initiatives is the development of ‘training of trainer’ courses that emphasize the value of women’s work. This initiative is a primary focus of the Association of Women Workers in the Construction Industry, a committee within NUBCW. 

The union also conducts training for women worker leaders who will establish site-level gender training sessions. These trainers participate in skills training activities through the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), with whom NUBCW has developed a strong reciprocal relationship. 

Additionally, the project aims to negotiate at least three Collective Bargaining (CB) or Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) provisions, or workplace policies that address the specific needs of women workers in the construction sector. 

                  NUBCW members commemorating International Women’s Day, 2024.

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