Labor situation in 2013 was more hostile to unions and workers rights, labor NGO, Center for Trade Union and Human Rights reported citing trends of increasing labor standard violations, persistent trade union attacks, dramatic decrease in new union registrants, and arbitration mechanisms that undercut workers’ struggle.

Violations of labor standards increased in the past three years from 30 percent of total number of enterprises inspected by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) in 2011 to 43.2 percent in 2013. CTUHR also documented numerous victims of trade union and human rights violations last year: killings (2), disappearance (1), harassment and threat (288), arbitrary arrests (28), filing of malicious and false charges (33), dismissal amid labor dispute (242).

At least 10 union busting cases with a total membership of 1,034 workers were recorded by the group. Four (4) of these unions were busted during certification election, another four (4) during collective bargaining negotiations and two (2) right after the CBA negotiations.

Conversely, the number of new union registrants was slashed by 50 percent from 2012 to 2013 from 38,180 workers (2012) down to 19,216 workers in (2013). As such, percentage of unionized workers is still very low, only 8.5 percent (1.85 million) of the total number of wage and salary workers.

The group stressed that the decreasing number of new union registrants is in itself a problem. “It is reflective of how repressive the labor conditions have become so that workers themselves are no longer encouraged or even afraid to form unions,” Arman Hernando documentation coordinator explained.

“But this downward trend in new unions becomes more disturbing when we look at the growing violations. Unions are supposedly effective in providing protection to workers against labor rights violations, with less and less workers forming unions, workers become more susceptible to abuse from capitalists,” Hernando added.

The group also criticized old and new arbitration mechanisms which the government employs to maintain industrial peace.

“The government’s framework in achieving industrial peace is highly-biased to the employer. Issues of illegal dismissal, union busting are often reduced to economic and financial terms. They are forced to accept money in exchange of their tenure and, or their union,” Hernando said.

Last year, labor disputes were recorded in 55,171 enterprises. All of these underwent various forms of arbitration-mediation processes. Only 104 of these were strike notices and only six of these strike notices materialized into actual strikes.

“With very few strikes launched, the government is able to boast of achieving industrial peace. But this does not mean there are less violation of workers’ rights and that workers now have better working conditions. If any, it only means that the methods of achieving industrial peace have discretely quelled workers’ dissent to ensure a favorable environment for business,” Hernando added.###