Opening address at the consultation-workshop on policy reforms in collective bargaining

By Ms Diane Lynn Respall, Programme Officer, delivered on behalf of Mr Lawrence Jeff Johnson, Director of the ILO Country Office for the Philippines at the consultation-workshop on policy reforms in collective bargaining, Tagaytay City, Philippines, 28 January 2015

Statement | Tagaytay City, Philippines | 27 January 2015
  • Regional Directors and officials of the Department of Labor and Employment
  • Representatives from workers and employers’ organizations in the
  • National Tripartite Industrial Peace Council,
  • Regional Tripartite Industrial Peace Councils,
  • Industry and selected Regional Tripartite Wage Boards
  • Ladies and gentlemen, magandang umaga sa inyong lahat (good morning to all of you)!
Welcome to this Consultation Workshop on Policy Reforms in Collective Bargaining.

This forum builds on discussions on labour relations reforms at the National Tripartite Industrial Peace Council (NTIPC) and the Consultative Forum conducted last June 2014.

In the consultative forum with tripartite partners at the national level, the National Capital Region and Regions III and IV A, our partners, a number of whom are also present today, put forward several policy reform recommendations.

Some of these have since been adopted such as the lowering of the minimum membership requirement for the registration of independent unions and the tax exemption of benefits derived from collective agreements.

This two-day workshop is an opportunity for you to have a deeper and richer discussion on how to broaden the coverage and scope of collective bargaining, amidst declining trade union membership and collective agreements, globalization and integration of markets, mobility of capital, and rising precarious employment of a majority of workers.

Collective bargaining is a fundamental right. It is rooted in the ILO Constitution and reaffirmed as such in the 1998 ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work.

Article 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights upholds collective bargaining as an indispensable instrument for every man and woman to realize their rights which include:
  • The right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment,
  • The right to equal pay for equal work, without any discrimination,
  • The right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for everyone and their families an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection, and;
  • The right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of their interests
Collective bargaining is thus a key instrument to promote social and economic equality in the world of work.

Promoting collective bargaining also makes good economic sense since it provides a platform for social dialogue where workers and employers can promote predictable and sound labour relations by agreeing on fair wages and working conditions, training, occupational health and safety and equal treatment, and the rights and responsibilities of each of the parties.

Furthermore, far from dragging businesses down and reducing productivity, there is considerable evidence that collective bargaining agreements contributed to many solutions which led to positive results in enterprises and industries, such as reduced wage inequality and increased productivity and competitiveness.

Also, when changes in work organization are negotiated with workers and their representatives, improved company performance is often the result.

Collective bargaining has also been used to respond to technological change and rising job insecurity, with training and lifelong learning included in collective bargaining agendas, in the process benefiting both enterprises and workers in times of continuing economic uncertainty.

During the recent economic and financial crisis, in countries with highly coordinated collective bargaining, trade unions and employers were able to negotiate agreements that preserved jobs while at the same time facilitating the adjustment of enterprises.

The Philippines is one of the first countries in Asia to ratify ILO Convention No. 98, or the convention concerning the Application of the Principles of the Right to Organize and to Bargain Collectively, or ILO Convention No. 98. This fundamental ILO Convention has four main principles:

First, is adequate protection of workers against acts of anti-union discrimination, particularly acts calculated to:
(a) make the employment of a worker subject to the condition that he shall not join a union or shall relinquish trade union membership, or;
(b) cause the dismissal of or otherwise prejudice a worker by reason of union membership or because of participation in union activities outside working hours or, with the consent of the employer, within working hours.

Second, adequate protection for workers’ and employers’ organizations against any acts of interference by each other or each other’s agents or members in their establishment, functioning or administration;

Third, ensuring the right to organise, and;

Lastly, the promotion of the full development and use of machinery for voluntary negotiations between employers’ organizations and workers’ organizations, with a view to regulate terms and conditions of employment.

The next two days will provide us this opportunity to review existing policies that affect collective bargaining in the country, and explore mutually acceptable and beneficial reform options, that are consistent with the principles of Freedom of Association and right to collective bargaining under the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention, 1948 (No. 87) and the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949 (No. 98).

Hopefully, the next two days can also provide us an opportunity to examine what else needs to be done to promote collective bargaining in the country, beyond policy reforms. Changes in the policy environment can only do so much.

For policy objectives to be achieved, details of the changes need to be threshed out between tripartite partners in the most inclusive manner possible, changes have to be clearly communicated, stakeholders need to be capacitated to engage in other forms of bargaining or bargaining at various levels, progress of the implementation need to be monitored and evaluated regularly, and best practices disseminated.

Injecting new spirit into collective bargaining also presents challenges to workers’ and employers’ organizations as this may have implications on organizational approaches, and adaptation of organizational structures and strategies.

The ILO Country Office looks forward to a stronger collaboration with government, employers and workers’ organizations in developing reforms that would adapt collective bargaining to the changes in the economy, and in building an environment that supports such reforms.

We look forward to the discussions today to see how social partners envision maximizing collective bargaining as an instrument and as a process for finding solutions that could improve workers’ lives and that of their families and how it can lead to improved productivity, increase enterprise sustainability and viability, and address the needs of communities, societies and the economy.

I wish you a productive and successful forum. Thank you and Mabuhay!