Labour and human rights

Opening address at the Writeshop on Freedom of Association for the Commission on Human Rights

By Khalid Hassan, Director, ILO Country Office for the Philippines, at the Writeshop on Freedom of Association for the Commission on Human Rights, 28 June 2018, Quezon City, Philippines

Statement | Quezon City, Philippines | 28 June 2018
  • Undersecretary Maglunsod, OIC-Assistant Secretary Benavidez and officials of the Department of Labor and Employment;
  • Ms Yosuico of the Delegation of the European Union to the Philippines;
  • Chairperson Gascon, Commissioner Gomez-Dumpit and officials of the Commission on Human Rights;
  • Our partners from the government and workers organizations,
  • Atty. Santiago; distinguished guests, colleagues, ladies and gentlemen, good morning!
Thank you for joining this writeshop and dialogue on Freedom of Association. Early this month, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) Global Rights Index 2018 cited the Philippines as one of the 10 worst countries in the world for working people on the basis of freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining.

The report noted collective efforts to achieve better wages and working conditions, but workers struggled to assert their basic rights to organize freely and faced violent opposition of certain companies mentioned in the report. The strong advocacy of workers’ organizations and trade unions in the Philippines for decent work has contributed to the development of the report.

The Philippines has taken significant measures to address gaps related to freedom of association and collective bargaining. In 2009, the Philippines accepted the ILO High Level Mission, and thereafter implemented national reforms. Challenges remain to ensure respect for workers’ civil liberties and trade union rights in the Philippines, including application of the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention, 1948 (No. 87) and Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949 (No. 98).

Thus, in June 2016, the ILO Committee on the Application of Standards (CAS), worked alongside with the government, workers’ and employers’ organization to address remaining concerns and allegations of anti-union violence, and lack of progress in the investigations of labour-related killings.

That same year, Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations commented on the role of the Commission on Human Rights in investigating and monitoring labour-related killings. The Direct Contacts Mission in 2017 recommended for CHR to improve measures to protect victims or potential victims of violations of workers’ civil liberties, human rights, and trade union rights.

The road to stronger application of freedom of association and collective bargaining requires involvement of many players. It is on this context that the ILO and CHR have partnered to enhance the capacity investigators and staff on the ground towards better addressing cases of violations of workers’ civil liberties and trade union rights.

Through these collaboration, we are optimistic this will lead to developing and integrating a labour lens in the human rights programmes of the Commission.

Labour rights are human rights. International labour standards promote decent work and set out basic principles and rights at work. Fundamental principles of labour rights and human rights are stated in the ILO’s Constitution of 1919 and in the Declaration of Philadelphia of 1944.

Core ILO Conventions are considered basic rights in the world of work. In 1998, the Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work further commits ILO member States to respect principles of freedom of association and collective bargaining; elimination of child labour; elimination of forced labour; and elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights further reiterated workers’ rights that, “Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association”

While ILO Conventions on freedom of association and collective bargaining provide for the rights of employers as well as workers, these have generally been of major importance to workers and the development of their organizations.

It is essential in the exercise of trade union rights, specifically respect for the right to:
  • freedom and security of person and freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention;
  • freedom of opinion and expression;
  • freedom of assembly;
  • the right to fair trial by an impartial tribunal; and
  • the right to protection of the property of trade union organizations.
Enhancing the relevance of international labour standards is one of the seven centenary initiatives as the ILO celebrates its 100 years in 2019. It aims to strengthen the role of international labour standards in advancing social justice and promoting decent work.

As the ILO prepares for the future of work, the initiatives to secure fundamental principles and rights at work need to be guaranteed in the present bearing lessons of the past.

The Sustainable Development Goals and the EU Generalized Scheme of Preferences Plus further advances human and labour rights in the context of socially responsible business practices, sustainable trade policies and investments.

In the Philippines, the ILO with the support of the European Union implements the ILO EU GSP+ Project on better application of Conventions 87 and 98 on Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining.

This writeshop and partnership with the CHR is among the initiatives under the project, and we are grateful to the European Union for its continued support to ensure that core labour standards are respected and that freedom of association and collective bargaining rights are guaranteed.

The ITUC Global Rights Index 2018 cited that democracy is under attack in countries that fail to guarantee people’s right to organize, speak out and take action. Joint efforts are crucial to ensure that significant progress made by the Philippines will continue towards strengthening freedom of association and collective bargaining.

Your participation in this Writeshop is vital and we appreciate your presence and support. I look forward to receiving the module developed out of this important partnership.

Thank you!