SONA 2015: Fewer labor strikes under Aquino
MANILA, Philippines – In the 5 years of President Benigno Aquino III's administration, there have only been 15 labor strikes across the country, compared to the 199 under the administration of his predecessor, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, between 2001 and 2010.
Aquino cited this in his last State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, July 27, to emphasize the strides that his administration made in the labor sector.
The President also said 800,000 enter the labor force every year, and cited a survey that showed Filipinos are the most confident job seekers in Asia and second highest in the world.
He praised the work of Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz in improving labor conditions in the Philippines as well as for overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs).
While unemployment in the Philippines has dropped to 6.8% in 2014, the lowest it has been in a decade, the Philippines continues to have the highest unemployment rate in Southeast Asia.
Does the drop in the number of strikes show an improvement in labor conditions?
In recent years, labor unions have complained about dwindling density and the loss of interest among newer workers in joining unions and organizing.
Newly registered unions are at their lowest since 1976, with only 126 new unions registered in 2013 compared to 717 labor unions registered in 2006.
Alan Tanjusay of the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) attributed the waning unionism to aggressive union busting, which has made members more vulnerable to losing their jobs.
"Workers lose interest in unions because they are being discouraged and threatened by employers or companies against forming or joining labor unions," Tanjusay said.
Last May, a fire hit the Kentex footwear factory killed 74 people and injured over 30 others in Valenzuela City. The incident placed labor conditions and safety standards in the spotlight. The fire was not mentioned during the SONA.
When asked by labor groups to pressure Congress to pass pro-labor laws like ending contractualization and criminalizing safety and health violations, Aquino said there was no need for it because there was already an impetus by lawmakers to push for these reforms. (READ: No push from Aquino to pass pro-worker laws)
A top priority in the calls for labor reform is the security of tenure bill. Versions of this bill will limit contractual work to non-core and seasonal positions, and could limit the number of contractual workers to 20% of a company's workforce. (READ: SONA 2015: The state of Philippine labor under Aquino) – with reports from Buena Bernal/Rappler.com