MANILA, Philippines – Government employees applauded the Senate’s ratification of the 3-decade old convention that aims to protect their rights, seeing this as the key to further their campaign against government rightsizing and regularization of contractual workers.
Confederation for Unity Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (Courage) vice president Santiago Dasmariñas said that the Interntional Labor Organization (ILO) Convention 151 would oblige the government to allow workers to unionize and negotiate employment terms.
“Aside from the national laws, we now have an international law that is specific for the public sector. Through this, the ILO can now call on the government just like what it does for the private sector [workers],” Santiago said in a phone interview with Rappler on Monday, August 14.
Courage is the umbrella organization of the labor unions in different government agencies. It has been active in pushing for the ratification of the ILO Convention 151 since 1978.
The treaty is the counterpart of ILO Conventions 87 and 98, which assures private sector workers with the right to organize and the right to collective bargaining.
Santiago explained that while collective bargaining occurs between unions and their public sector employers, it is only limited to benefits and other rights. Salary rate is not included because it is dependent on Congress and the Salary Standardization Law.
Despite this, workers still call on the government’s compliance to the treaty. Manny Baclagon, president of the social welfare department’s Social Welfare Employees Association of the Philippines (SWEAP) said that it takes time for government to comply with treaties like this.
“Nasa Saligang Batas na natin iyang right to unionize. Nasa Article 13. Dapat lang hinihiling lang namin kahit di immediate compliance kundi progressive realization nung mga rights na sinasabi nila,” he said.
(The right to unionize is included in our Constitution. It’s in Article 13. What we are asking is the progressive realization of the rights mentioned if they cannot immediately comply with it.)
Among the rights they clamor for is the right to conduct strikes and the right to security of tenure. The treaty urges the government to grant the workers their general civil and political rights aside from the right to organize and collective bargaining.
Regularization of workers has been a big concern for contractual members of the bureaucracy fearing they will be the first casualties of the efforts to streamline the government through the rightsizing bill. (READ: Contractual frontliners vulnerable to effects of gov’t rightsizing)
Out of the 2.4 million workers in government, a quarter or 595,162 are under job order and contract of services arrangements.
“This just adds basis for workers to defend their rights. Like the proposal to streamline the bureaucracy, the convention may be a way of counteracting that because it recognizes civil and political rights [of the workers],” explained Gene Niperos of the Alliance of Health Workers.
“It can be interpreted as liberally as possible [as long as it’s] in the context of social justice,” he added.
Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) also hailed the success of their counterparts in the public sector.
“We are the first Asian nation to ratify this ILO convention and by this ratification we bind ourselves to the right of government workers to unionize. Public sector unionism can only mean a stronger, more assertive civil service,” said TUCP Vice President Luis Corral in a message to Rappler.
It was President Rodrigo Duterte who endorsed the ratification of the convention to the Senate in May this year. TUCP is now looking forward that the President will take action on the measures seeking to end contractualization in the country.
“We await for the Presidential certification of HB 444 and major amendments to cure Department Order 174. This is crucial to ensuring endo will finally end as promised by Duterte,” he said. – Rappler.com