Philippine unions present a 15-Point Labour Agenda to improve working conditions for formal and informal workers

The document is the result of months of discussions among the biggest national trade union centres and labour federations in the Philippines and is the culmination of a long-held advocacy by Philippine trade unions to lobby for their joint positions through a Common Labour Agenda.

Trade unions and workers’ organisations in the Philippines have taken their unity to another level by releasing its joint 15-Point Labour Agenda that would ensure decent work and realization of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

The Labour Agenda was unveiled by trade union leaders themselves on 13 December to government officials from the Department of Labour and Employment; and National Economic Development Authority, the government’s planning agency; as well as to employers and business groups; foreign embassies and diplomatic missions in the Philippines; and other international development partners at an event co-hosted by the ILO Country Office and the UN Country Team in the Philippines.

The 70-page document outlines the most important issues for workers in the Philippines, including addressing the precariousness of work and promoting the full recognition of freedom of association and a national minimum wage towards a living wage. The release comes at the heels of the long-awaited ILO High-Level Tripartite Mission (HLTM) to the Philippines that will look into the killings of trade union leaders and organisers and other blatant violations of the right to freely organise as enshrined in ILO Convention 87. The International Labour Conference Committee on the Application of Standards has recommended the HLTM as early as its session in 2019, but the Administration of former President Rodrigo Duterte kept evading it, using the pandemic, among others, as an excuse. It finally accepted the Mission before his term ended.

The agenda will serve as a guide for labour organisations to coordinate their efforts strategically. The document provides information that unions can use when engaging with local, national and international policymakers and other stakeholders. It also enables them to identify priority demands and decide effectively how to allocate their organisational capacity and resources.

The 15 points outlined in the agenda respond to the contextual situation faced by Filipino workers and unions. In addition to living in a country that is extremely exposed to the impact of the global climate crisis, trade unions and workers in the Philippines face many serious challenges, ranging from serious obstacles to the right to organise and bargain collectively, to recurrent labour standards violations, to the assassination of trade union leaders.

The 15 points raised in the agenda are:

  1. Fully realise freedom of association and workers’ right to security of tenure. Among other actions, this includes ending obstacles to freedom of association such as all forms of contractualisation of labour and non-standard employment.
  2. Strengthen and expand collective bargaining, including the promotion of multi-employer and industry bargaining, among other asks.
  3. Strengthen wage policies, especially for the low-wage sectors.
  4. Implement universal and adequate social security and (contributory and non-contributory) social protection for all.
  5. Ensure quality public services (health, education, housing, water, power/energy, transportation).
  6. Protect and support enterprises and workers in the informal sector.
  7. Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls and the LGBTQI+ community.
  8. Adopt and implement a resilient, equitable and sustainable development path for communities by integrating climate change and peace and resilience measures into national policies, strategies, and planning.
  9. Protect the rights and ensure the well-being of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), including undocumented workers.
  10. Adopt and implement a sustainable industrial policy that combines economic upgrading and social upgrading.
  11. Tax the wealth of the super-rich to fund universal social protection and economic recovery.
  12. Strengthen and deepen social dialogue.
  13. Adopt policies and measures aimed at protecting workers in the digital economy and those that perform work remotely using digital tools and platforms.
  14. Agenda for the future of work, workers, and workers’ power.
  15. Assert the Philippines’ sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea and ensure the demilitarisation in the area to defend the livelihood of our fishery workers, agricultural workers, and other rural workers living in the islands surrounding the area.