Cases of harassment and intimidation against trade unionists and labor activists dramatically soared in Y2015 as documented by the Center for Trade Union and Human Rights. Compared to five cases in the previous year, at least 35 cases of harassment and intimidation committed against 192 individuals comprised mainly of trade unionists, labor activists and staff members of national trade union centers have been documented by the labor NGO in 2015.
Civil and political rights violations (CPR) committed against workers and the urban poor also intensified with as documented cases increased by 200 percent from 30 cases in 2014 to 91 cases in 2015. Cases of CPR violations documented by the group include extra-judicial killings (2), physical assault (7), assault on the picketline (9), divestment and destruction of property (6), grave threat (8), divestment and destruction of properties (6), fabrication of criminal charges (3), arbitrary detention (4) and food blockade (2). (See complete Trade Union and Human Rights Violations Table here)
Daisy Arago, CTUHR Executive Director CTUHR noted that the dramatic rise in cases of harassments and other rights violations against trade unionists and labor activists as well as other rights violations shows not just a continuing but intensifying state policy to suppress independent and progressive trade unionism in the country.
The group noted that harassments particularly targeted the staff members of national labor centers Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) and union officials of public sector union Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (COURAGE). Looking at the cases the group observed a familiar pattern: men who introduced themselves as from the military followed these staff members or officers of the organizations or visited them at home at no standard time, but usually in early morning, told the victims that they know what the unionists or staff members are doing and offered them help if they cooperate with the state. Some of these men left cellphone numbers to their targeted victims for contact.
Killings of labor activists and members of the urban poor also persisted according to the group. At least two individuals (one labor organizer and one from the urban poor sector) were extra-judicially killed last year).
In addition, the government and capitalists also used naked force to break up the workers’ peaceful protests that injured at least 100 individuals. Notably, contractual workers of Tanduay Distillers Inc. went on strike since May 18 and experienced several incidents of violent and bloody assaults from both state agents and goons reportedly hired by the Lucio Tan-owned company.
CTUHR also expressed alarm over increasing insecurity and deteriorating working conditions in the country amidst the so-called stable growth. Major cases of labor standards and rights violations against workers across industries and sectors nearly doubled from 50 cases in 2014 to 90 cases in 2015 affecting thousands of workers. Twelve cases of retrenchment and closure documented by CTUHR displaced 3,653 workers and driving them to join the army of unemployed.
Workers who were able to withstand earlier attempts to bust their union are kept to struggling harder as violations of collective bargaining agreements also deepened. Cases of this type of violations doubled from 7 in 2014 to 14 cases in 2015 affecting over 6,000 workers. This involved unions which were established years ago.
Occupational accidents resulting in workers death was also highest in 2015, when 118 workers died compared to 11 victims in 2014. Kentex Factory fire the biggest casualty, accounted for 74 deaths.
“With this state of labor rights in the country, it becomes crystal clear that the Aquino government’s policies of relaxing labor standards further opened the floodgate for more workers rights violations while ensuring favorable and profitable business climate,” Arago said. The group warned that if this style of “daang matuwid” labor policy will be continued by the government who will succeed Aquino, the 40 million Filipino workers are bound to bear more miserable conditions.###