Monthly Archives: May 2011

It’s Time for Decent Work for Domestic Workers!

Domestic workers are the biggest sector of workers in the world who are not protected by an international convention. That could change in June: it all depends on whether at least two-thirds of the representatives of governments, employers and trade unionists gathered at this year’s International Labour Conference (ILC) vote in favor of the Domestic Workers Convention 2011.

Held in Singapore on 23-25 April, ‘Towards an ILO Convention: Building a strong Asian solidarity and delegation to the 2011 International Labour Conference was a chance for domestic workers, representatives of national and regional NGOs, trade unions and domestic workers’ organisations from the region to discuss how to help make it happen. The consultation was attended by around 70 people from 12 countries and territories: Belgium, Cambodia, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nepal, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and Taiwan.

We welcomed the ‘Blue Report’ produced by the International Labour Organisation. It sets out the text of the draft convention and recommendations – the result of an extended process of study and discussions at the national, regional, and international levels. When adopted, it will establish an international yardstick of basic standards concerning decent work for domestic workers and could be the basis for adopting and changing national laws. When ratified by member states and applied, it should do much to raise the status of domestic workers and ensure respect for their rights.

We are determined to do all that we can to encourage support for the convention in these final few weeks before the crucial ILC vote.

This year’s ILC session will be the 100th, a fitting occasion on which to pass a landmark convention that reflects its core values. It will also mark the 100th celebration of International Women’s Day.

We strongly urge the governments, workers’ organisations and employers’ organisations of our region to put their support behind the Convention. Decent Work for Domestic Workers should go from being an aspiration to being the observed and accepted standard.

Signed by:

Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL)
Alliance of Progressive Labor – Hong Kong
Asian Migrant Centre (AMC)
Asian Migrant Domestic Workers’ Alliance (ADWA)
Center for Migrant Advocacy (CMA)
Coalition for Migrants’ Rights (CMR)
Federasi Serikat Pekerja Metal Indonesia (FSPMI)
Federation of Free Workers (FFW)
General Federation Of Nepalese Trade Unions (GEFONT)-Nepal
Global Network-Asia
Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU)
Hong Kong Federation of Asian Domestic Workers Union (FADWU)
Hope Workers’ Center (HWC)
Humanitarian Organization for Migration Economics (HOME)
Indian Academy Self Employed Women Association (SEWA)
International Domestic Workers Network (IDWN)
Indonesian Family Network (IFN)
International Trade Unions Confederation (ITUC) – Asia Pacific
International Trade Unions Confederation (ITUC)
Indonesian Migrant Workers’ Union (IMWU)
Indonesia National Network for Domestic Workers’ Advocacy (JALA PRT)
Konfederasi Serikat Pekerja Indonesia (KSPI)
Konfederasi Serikat Buruh Sejahtra Indonesia (KSBSI)
Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU)
Labor Education and Research Network (LEARN)
Legal Support for Children and Women (LSCW)
Migrant Care
Migrant Forum in Asia (MFA)
Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC)
Serikat Buruh Migran Indonesia (SBMI)
Samahan at Ugnayan ng Manggagawang Pantahanan sa Pilipinas (SUMAPI)
Task Force on ASEAN Migrant Workers
Think Center-Singapore Working Group on Migrant Workers
Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2)
Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP)
Visayan Forum Foundation Inc.

Justice for Dusit Hotel Workers! Reverse the \”Hoy Kalbo Tanggal ka sa Trabaho!\” doctrine of the Velasco decision!

While we are supposed to be a democratic society, our constitutional right to freedom of expression and association in the context of labor relations is being eroded by the decision of Justice Presbitero Velasco of the Philippine Supreme Court. Not only it is anomalous but also unconstitutional. Support the quest for justice of the 90 Dusit Hotel workers. They are not only fighting for themselves but for the rights of every worker in the Philippines who will be affected by the said decision of Justice Velasco. Support the reversal of the Hoy Kalbo, Tanggal ka sa Trabaho doctrine of the Supreme Court!

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Hoy-Kalbo-Tanggal-ka-sa-Trabaho/147982591890520

Justice for Dusit Hotel Workers! Reverse the “Hoy Kalbo Tanggal ka sa Trabaho!” doctrine of the Velasco decision!

While we are supposed to be a democratic society, our constitutional right to freedom of expression and association in the context of labor relations is being eroded by the decision of Justice Presbitero Velasco of the Philippine Supreme Court. Not only it is anomalous but also unconstitutional. Support the quest for justice of the 90 Dusit Hotel workers. They are not only fighting for themselves but for the rights of every worker in the Philippines who will be affected by the said decision of Justice Velasco. Support the reversal of the Hoy Kalbo, Tanggal ka sa Trabaho doctrine of the Supreme Court!

For more information, visit:
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Hoy-Kalbo-Tanggal-ka-sa-Trabaho/147982591890520
and sign an online petition.

LEARN – Global Network-Asia joins this year’s ASEAN People’s Forum

In the Conference Statement for this year’s ASEAN People\’s Forum held in Jakarta, Indonesia on May 3-5 2011, more than 1,300 delegates at the 2011 ASEAN Civil Society Conference/ASEAN Peoples’ Forum, representing various civil society organizations and movements of workers from rural and urban sectors as well as migrant sector, peasants and farmers, women, children, youth, the elderly, among others, discussed the main concerns confronting the peoples of ASEAN and developing key proposals for the 18th ASEAN Summit. Edwin Bustillos attended on behalf of the Labor Education and Research Network (LEARN), which is the regional coordinator of the Global Network – Asia. This year’s ASEAN People’s Forum has the theme “Claiming a People-Centered ASEAN for a Just Global Community.”

Some of the issues that came out in the conference as reflected in the Statement include LEARN’s as well as Global Network’s advocacies on labor rights, social protection, decent work for domestic workers and migrant workers’ rights. Specifically, the statement provides the following:

ECONOMIC PILLAR

…Eliminate contract and labor outsourcing system and stop discrimination among workers. Health rights of workers can only be realized if informal workers such as domestic workers are given full labor rights including days off to access health services.

ASEAN member states must eliminate contract and labor outsourcing system and stop discrimination by giving all workers permanent employment status.

ASEAN member states must develop social protection measure to cushion the effects of the food price crisis, especially to rural women and children, who are most vulnerable to the food price volatility.

ASEAN members must recognize domestic work as work and provide domestic workers full labour rights and legal protection. All ASEAN members should support and commit to the ILO Convention on Domestic Workers. We urge ASEAN to respect ILO Core Convention 87 and 98.

SOCIAL AND CULTURAL PILLAR

Labour

ASEAN member states must eliminate contract and labor outsourcing system and stop discrimination by giving all workers permanent employment status.

State must adopt welfare state systems to ensure social security for all peoples in the region.

ASEAN member states must allow all workers including migrants to establish independent and autonomous trade unions for the protection of labour rights. ASEAN member states must ensure that all migrant workers receive the full protection of labour laws in the countries, which they are working.

ASEAN must act against attempts by employers to disguise or evade employment relationships to the detriment of labor or workers rights.

ASEAN members must recognize domestic work as work and provide domestic workers full labour rights and legal protection. All ASEAN members should support and commit to the ILO Convention on Domestic Workers. We urge ASEAN to respect ILO Core Convention 87 and 98.

Migrants

All ASEAN member states should work together to fast-track the process of adopting a legally-binding instrument that protects and promotes the rights of ALL migrant workers and members of their families. This process must be transparent and actively involve migrant associations, trade unions and other representatives of civil society.

Recognising the increasing numbers of women migrant workers in the region who are working in precarious conditions, states parties should remove reservations to the CEDAW and the CRC. At the same time, it should also recognize CEDAW General Recommendation 26, adopted in November 2008. The instrument should reflect this commitment to address the specific working and living conditions of all women migrants.

All ASEAN member states must repeal policies of contractual termination and deportation on the grounds of pregnancy and communicable diseases, such as HIV/AIDS.

States must provide social protection that includes provisions for health care and medical insurance, and that promote safe working environments for all migrant workers and their families.

Given the movement of migrants in the ASEAN region, ASEAN must support a residence-based (as opposed to a citizenship-based) health care system. This requires universality and a single, high standard of health services.

Social Protection

ASEAN must create a Social Protection and Health Promotion Fund that would ensure States fulfil their responsibilities to the peoples of the region.

POLITICAL – SECURITY PILLAR

Civil society recognises the interdependence and interrelation between civil liberties and economic, social and cultural rights. They are equally important and equally have to be protected and promoted. This includes social protection and the access of the people to health care and health information. The establishing of an accessible, universal health care system is a social, economic and political question. It is the question of how the conduct of governance takes into account the wishes and aspirations of the lower strata.

The APF 2011 Conference Statement can be accessed through the following URL:

http://aseanpeoplesforum.net/media/press-releases/168-statement-of-the-2011-asean-civil-society-conferenceasean-peoples-forum.html

LEARN observes 108th May Day celebration

The Labor Education and Research Network, together with its affiliates and partner organizations held mobilizations nationwide for the May Day Celebrations. The issues that the groups will bring include the reversal of the Supreme Court decision, penned by Justice Presbitero Velasco in November 2008, which redefined the concept of “strike” thereby dismissing many members and officers of a union in Dusit Hotel Nikko (now Thani) Chapter in Makati Philippines. Just by merely shaving their heads bald, the workers were declared to be in strike and said to have violated certain hotel management’s grooming standards. The ILO already sent a report last year in response to the filed complaint on the said ruling made by the IUF, Global Unions and a hotel and restaurant workers’ federation. According to the ILO report, “In the present case, while having shaved their heads, the employees had not stopped working. The Committee takes into account the concerns expressed by the hotel management with regard to its image and notes that the action by some of the union members have been found by the Supreme Court as having infringed the grooming standards of the hotel. The Committee considers that equating the mere expression of discontent, peacefully and lawfully exercised, with a strike per se results in a violation of the freedom of association and expression.”

For more information on this cause and issue, you can visit:

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Hoy-Kalbo-Tanggal-ka-sa-Trabaho/147982591890520

Aside from this, one of LEARN’s affiliate organizations, the Alliance of Progressive Labor, also conducted mass protests in reaction to the reluctance of the Philippine Government to initiate policy changes, especially on oil deregulation issues and implementation of decent or living wage, despite the current wave of oil and other commodity’s price increases in the country. The group pressed for the passage of House Bill 303 or the Security of Tenure Bill, which seeks to regulate contractual and precarious employment. For more information, you can visit this link:

http://www.apl.org.ph/?p=1100

The issue of Domestic Workers was also brought to the streets. LEARN and Global Network-Asia have been advocating for the passage of the ILO Domestic Workers’ Convention in the next International Labour Conference this June 2011.

Global Network-Asia Co-sponsors Regional Preparatory Conference to the 2011 ILC; eyes the passage of the Domestic Workers Convention

The Global Network in Asia, in collaboration with Migrant Forum in Asia (MFA), International Domestic Workers Network (IDWN), Humanitarian Organization on Migration and Economics (HOME), Transient Workers Count Too, St. Francis Workers Center, Task Force on ASEAN Migrant Workers, Asian Migrant Domestic Workers Alliance (ADWA), National Trade Union Confederation (NTUC), the International Trade Union Confederation Asia Pacific (ITUC-AP) and International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), Brussels, convened a Regional Preparatory Consultation in relation to the 2011 International Labour Conference (ILC) on 23-25 April 2011 at the Catholic Welfare Centre at 55 Waterloo St., Singapore.

With the theme “Towards an ILO Convention on Domestic Work: Building a strong Asian solidarity and delegation to the 2011 International Labour Conference”, the Regional Consultation brought together domestic workers, trade unions, domestic work advocates and other stakeholders across Asia for 3 days of discussions and workshops focusing on a) analyzing the political climate around the campaign for an ILO Convention; b) critically examining the content of the Blue Report; c) mapping and identifying strategies that would create greater social recognition for domestic workers and establish their labor rights as workers; and d) drawing up a plan of action leading to the ILC and, thereafter, towards the convention’s ratification.

Based on their joint statement, the delegation “welcomed the ‘Blue Report’ produced by the International Labour Organisation. It sets out the text of the draft convention and recommendations – the result of an extended process of study and discussions at the national, regional, and international levels. When adopted, it will establish an international yardstick of basic standards concerning decent work for domestic workers and could be the basis for adopting and changing national laws. When ratified by member states and applied, it should do much to raise the status of domestic workers and ensure respect for their rights.”

The consultation was attended by around 70 people from 12 countries and territories: Belgium, Cambodia, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nepal, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and Taiwan. Participating Global Network-Asia partners were Federasi Serikat Pekerja Metal Indonesia (FSPMI), Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU), Hongkong Federation of Asian Domestic Workers Union (FADWU), Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), Self Employed Women Association (SEWA), General Federation of Nepalese Trade Unions (GEFONT), Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL) and Labor Education and Research Network (LEARN).

Labor Center’s May Day report: P-Noy is failing on his ‘pet programs’ vs poverty, corruption, etc.

REMEMBER the famous and catchy “Kung walang korap, walang mahirap” (rough translation: “If there is no corrupt, there will be no poor people”) slogan of then candidate Noynoy Aquino during the campaign for the presidential election last year?

Although it is naïve or simplistic to claim that poverty will disappear if corruption will be eradicated, that electoral jingle was nonetheless very effective not only due to its plain message but also to the pledge that it implies – that the administration of Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III will simultaneously fight the rampant and worsening poverty and corruption.

But even this early or two full months before his first year in office, the Alliance of Progressive Labor said that this is already enough to gauge the direction or tendencies of the Aquino government: that it has miserably failed to keep its avowed promises.

Corruption has deteriorated with the country landing again in third spot in the entire Asia by scoring 8.9 – with 10 being the worst, from a scale of one to 10 – based from a survey called Asian Intelligence Report held from November last year to February this year. Beating the Philippines – with a slightly “better” previous score of 8.25 – were Cambodia (9.27) and Indonesia (9.25).

It was conducted among top expatriate business executives in Asia by the Hong Kong-based Political & Economic Risk Consultancy Ltd. (PERC).

The PERC specifically cited the country as “perhaps, the Asian country that has been hurt most by corruption,” noting that “(i)f one looked at the end of World War II as the starting point for modern Asia, the Philippines today should be the richest economy on a per capita basis in Asia and a leader in many fields.”

It is almost the same in the global level as shown in the annual report of Transparency International (TI), with the Philippines notching a 2.4 score – with 1 as “highly corrupt” and 10 “very clean,” as opposed to PERC scale – for two straight years now, and placing 139th among 180 countries in 2009 and 134th among 178 countries last year.

Likewise, both the perceived and actual poverty has continued unabated to this very day – despite the boasts of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo of accomplishing “36 quarters (or nine years, January 2001-June 2010) of uninterrupted economic growth” and Aquino’s attaining the “highest economic growth in 34 years” or from 1.1 percent GDP (gross domestic product) in 2009 to 7.3 percent in 2010, mostly in the last half of the year or under the helm of P-Noy.

Even the 1st Quarter 2011 Survey of the Social Weather Stations (SWS) held on March 4 to 7 has confirmed the escalating economic hardship of the majority when it indicated that more than one in five Filipino families or 20.5 percent of the respondents have undergone “involuntary hunger” at least once in the past three months.

It is equivalent to an estimated 4.1 million families or about 20.5 million individuals (based on the average five-member Filipino family), and an increase from 18.1 percent or 3.4 million families or around 17 million people recorded in a similar survey last November 2010.

While 51 percent of the respondents in the said survey considered themselves as “poor,” representing 10.4 million families or approximately 52 million people – a hike from the 49 percent result in November.

In addition, the said SWS survey bared that 40 percent of the respondents or 8.1 million families or about 40 million people believed themselves as “food-poor,” up from 36 percent last November.

At any rate, even the conservative government statistics acknowledged that the number of poor Filipinos – in spite of the said bragging of both Arroyo and Aquino – has swelled from 25.5 million people in 2001 to over 30 million last year.

There are other studies that yet put the number of impoverished Filipinos to as much as 2/3 or at least 70 percent of the Philippine population, which already reached to 94 million in 2010.

“Jobless growth” is one of the terms that economists describe this type of economic “development,” which is characterized by its failure to equitably redistribute income or at least – to use a classic capitalist cliché – to “trickle-down” the wealth to the majority of the citizens.

And as the term denotes, in a jobless growth there is a proliferation of generally poor quality jobs or a rapid surge in the ranks of contractual or non-regular workers, which is in fact happening today, the APL said.

A study by a leading local research institution disclosed that between 1995 and 2005, the Philippine contractual labor has “soared from 65 percent to as much as 78 percent of the country’s labor force.”

Significantly, contractuals and the like – casuals, probationaries, apprentices, seasonals, OJT (on-the-job) trainees, practicumers, pakyawan, etc. – are usually low-paid, lack many benefits, have no security of tenure, and banned from joining trade unions and thus are not covered by CBAs or CNAs.

They encompass even the so-called “highly-paid” (but with unstable wages and benefits) staff in the burgeoning business process outsourcing (BPO) industry, especially the call center agents, precisely because most of them are hired as contractual employees or based on a specific project only.

Related from this are the still distinct two groups of workers, the self-employed and unpaid family workers – designated by the International Labor Organization (ILO) as belonging to “vulnerable employment sector” – that are quickly rising in number.

Also referred to as the “informal sector,” the ILO described them as being deprived of even the basic elements of “decent employment,” like minimum wage as well as “social security, health benefits and recourse to social dialogue or effective collective bargaining mechanisms.”

Even the data from the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) conceded that “vulnerable workers” have steadily grown from 13.5 million in 2004 to 14.9 million in 2009 or a staggering 42.6 percent of the 35 million “employed” in that year. It further expanded to more than 15 million of the 36 million “employed” or nearly half of the 39 million labor force last year.

There is still a separate and even more pathetic and exploited class of workers called by the ILO as “working poor people” – those who earn less than $2 or below P100 a day – and in the Philippines has multiplied from 7.9 million in 2003 to at least 9 million in 2009 or a shocking 30 percent of the total “employed” in that year.

As if these are not enough, the costs of basic commodities and services have recently and uncontrollably skyrocketed. For instance, prices of petroleum products, particularly gasoline and diesel, have increased more than 12 times from January to April causing a domino effect in actual or planned hikes in LPG rates, transport fares, electricity and water bills, toll gate fees, prices of various food items, and many others, which will obviously affect more the majority poor than the few rich.

The problem is, aside from the real oil price hikes in the world market – triggered by the catastrophes in Japan and the continuing social upheavals in the Middle East and in North Africa, specifically in Libya – the undue surge of prices of local petroleum products is caused more by “predatory pricing” led by the “Big 3” oil cartel of Petron Corp., Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corp. and Chevron Philippines Inc. (formerly Caltex).
Even the Department of Energy (DOE) has grudgingly admitted that at least the fuel price hikes during the Holy Week – first exposed by journalist Jessica Soho and later satirized as “Oily Week” by the Philippine Daily Inquirer – “were more than what was warranted” (read: not justified).

This relentless price hikes coupled with greedy profiteering have further diminished the purchasing power or the real amount of the already low salaries of most of the Philippine workers. For example, according to a study by a reputable research institution, the current P404 minimum – and nominal – wage of workers in Metro Manila is actually equivalent to P253.43 only today by using 2000 as the standard base year and considering changes in inflation.

Furthermore, the same study demonstrated that in so short a time since Aquino was inaugurated as president on June 30 and until as recently as February this year – the real value of the Filipino workers’ already meager wage has been sliced by as much as P7!

In a nutshell, the APL asserted that the Filipino and Filipina workers have not enjoyed any significant gain since P-Noy assumed the presidency. His continued although still discreet promotion of unfettered neoliberal programs – liberalization, deregulation and privatization – will exacerbate poverty and misery of the vast majority in the Philippines, especially the working people.