Message at the 14th Supreme National Congres, "Advancing unionism to uphold dignity of labor and achieve green and decent work" of the Associated Labor Unions (ALU)

By Mr Lawrence Jeff Johnson, Director, ILO Country Office for the Philippines at the 14th Supreme National Congress, "Advancing unionism to uphold dignity of labor and achieve green and decent work" of the Associated Labor Unions (ALU), Cebu City, Philippines, 28 July 2012

Statement | Pasig City, Philippines | 28 July 2012
  • Brother Mendoza and officials of the Associated Labor Unions (ALU),
  • Honourable Speaker Belmonte of the House of Representatives,
  • Governor Garcia,
  • Congressman Mendoza,
  • Reverend Dakay of the Cebu Archdiocese,
  • Mr Tolentino, regional representative of BWI Asia-Pacific
  • Local government officials,
  • Trade union leaders, brothers and sisters representing workers’ organizations,
  • Ladies and gentlemen, maayong buntag (good morning)

Let me extend my warm greetings to the officers and affiliates of the Associated Labor Unions on your 14th Supreme National Congress.

The Associated Labor Unions is one of the major forces in the Philippine labour movement. Since 1954, ALU has been at the forefront of promoting workers’ rights and supporting social dialogue.

Let me commend Brother Mendoza for his leadership. Brother Mendoza or Borther Kito is highly regarded both within the Philippines and internationally for his significant contributions.

Brother Kito along with Atty. Cecilio Seno and Atty. Januario Seno founded the ALU in 1954 with the vision of helping workers equitably share the fruits of development and participate broadly in the expansion of social and economic opportunities.

In 1994, Brother Kito also served as Vice-President representing Workers in the 81st session of the International Labour Conference. Within the context of the Director-General’s report, the Conference raised for the first time the question of the ILO's future activities with regard to fundamental rights as a priority matter for deliberation.

Your theme for this year’s National Congress, “Advancing unionism to uphold dignity of labor and achieve green and decent work” is indeed very timely and relevant.

The ILO and our partners are aware of the challenges many communities are facing following the global economic crisis.

The global economic crisis has shown us over again that economic growth alone is simply not enough. We need to change our focus from the question, “what level of economic growth do we need to achieve?” and start asking ourselves how we achieve sustainable, inclusive and greener economic growth.

The ILO’s Global Jobs Pact call for a paradigm shift and puts forth the point that decent and productive work is the key mechanism to achieve sustainable, inclusive and greener growth.

Even the IMF acknowledge this simple fact when their former Managing Director Strauss-Kahn said on a visit to Singapore that we will only get the recovery right if we take a holistic approach to managing the economy—one that focuses not only on standard macroeconomic and financial policies, but also on job creation and social protection.

We need to ensure that economic growth will have a lasting impact on addressing vulnerable employment and reducing the number of working poor.

As you’re aware, workers in vulnerable forms of employment are often forced to accept or create whatever work is available just to survive. However, they find it hard to lift themselves and their families out of poverty.

We are also all aware that child labour is a symptom of poverty which is brought about by the lack of decent and productive work.

The 2011 Survey on Children of the National Statistics Office revealed that of the 29 million Filipino children, aged 5-17 years old, there were roughly about 5.5 million working children, of which almost 3 million were in hazardous child labour.

Congressman Mendoza expressed his concern on child labour and Representatives in Congress filed a resolution citing the cases of child labourers forced to work as water buffalos. Just this week, I had the chance to meet with these children and their families. These children were forced to mortgage their future and put their lives in danger, dragging and pushing logs to earn a few pesos, just so they and their families can survive another day.

In response, the DOLE with the DSWD, DTI, and national and local government agencies turned over water buffalos and school supplies, set-up training for their parents and extended other support following a much needed convergence approach to address the root cause which is poverty.

I believe that convergence and social dialogue are vital in finding solutions that will put an end to the worst forms of child labour. Convergence and social dialogue contribute to efforts to reduce poverty and improve our society.

Social dialogue is the key factor in strengthen institutions and organizations to ensure industrial peace.

Rest assured that the ILO stand ready as your partner to support an environment where workers can freely engage in social dialogue with employers and the Philippine government.

The ILO is also implementing a number of initiatives and projects in the Philippines to support and strengthen workers organizations in order to foster collaboration with government and employers to prompt sustainable inclusive greener growth.

We remain committed in our work with you to promote international labour standards such as ILO Convention 87 on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise and ILO Convention 98 on the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining.

In this occasion, it’s time for each of us to look back at ALU’s modest beginnings, its heroes who offered their lives in the course of pursuing workers’ rights.

The triumphs achieved every time a collective bargaining agreement was concluded and the emerging young leaders with strong commitment and passion to the work which you started 58 years ago.

At the same time, it’s an opportunity to look forward and reach out to those who are not yet represented. I have seen the power of trade unions working for the greater good of society in my own childhood community.

However, new workers, mostly young people often don’t realize the importance of social dialogue and the role of trade unions so this is a call for ALU and workers organizations to reinvent and reinvigorate in order to reach out in new was to the youth of the country.

More importantly, I ask you to continue your efforts in protecting workers’ rights, prompting and supporting decent and productive enterprises which together can help lift workers and their families out of poverty, while improving the community and the country.

ALU plays a critical role in building a strong nation and achieving sustainable, inclusive and greener growth.

Let me also take this opportunity to thank ALU as partners whose support has been instrumental in promoting workers’ rights and a dignified life through decent and productive work.

Again, congratulations to Brother Kito and to the leaders and members of the Associated Labor Unions. I wish you success and all the best to your 14th Supreme National Congress.

Thank you and Mabuhay!