PH again lands on global top 10 worst countries for workers

Lian Buan
'In the Philippines, union members are particularly at risk of violence, intimidation and murder,' says the International Trade union Confederation

LABOR RIGHTS. Members of Kongreso ng Pagkakaisa ng mga Maralita ng Lungsod stage a Labor Day Protest in front of their houses in Caloocan City on May 1, 2020. Photo by Lisa Marie David/Rappler


MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines once again landed on the top 10 list of worst countries for working people, according to the 2020 global rights index of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).

In the 7th edition of the index, Philippines retained its spot on the infamous roster as ITUC says Asia Pacific ranks 2nd to Middle East as the worst region for workers’ rights.

The 10 countries in the dishonorable roll are: Bangladesh, Brazil, Colombia, Egypt, Honduras, India, Kazakhstan, Philippines, Turkey and Zimbabwe. 

The ITUC said the situation in the Philippines where unionists are killed, subjected to violence, arrested, and where unions are busted systematically. 

The ITUC noted the rampant red-tagging of unionists, a practice of state authorities branding unionists and other activists of being fronts of communist rebels. The ITUC said that in 2019, there was a rising number of trade unionists arrested and charged for illegal possession of firearms and explosives – the usual charges against activists.

“In the Philippines, union members were particularly at risk of violence, intimidation and murder,” said the ITUC.

“In a context of extreme state violence and suppression of civil liberties, employers’ tactics to label unions as  ‘subversive organisations,’ in a process commonly known as ‘red-tagging,’ exposed their members to violence and repression,” it added.

Hall of Shame

Labor group Nagkaisa Labor Coalition said that “for several years now,” the Philippines has been on the “hall of shame” of labor rights rankings.

Nagkaisa chairperson, labor lawyer Sonny Matula, said that in 2019, labor leaders Dennis Sequeña and Reynaldo Malaborbor were killed and have yet to get justice.

Sequeña and Malaborbor are only 2 of the total 45 trade union and peasant leaders killed in the Duterte administration, said Matula.

The ITUC also took note of the establishment of the Joint Industrial Peace and Concern Offices (JIPCO), and said that this was used “to spy on trade unions and ‘militant’ labor actions in the name of combatting communist infiltration of the labour force in industrial zones.”

Matula also slammed the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) for not sending yet the requested invitation for a mission from the International Labor Organization (ILO) to go to the country and validate claims of abuse.

“Unfortunately, DOLE deferred issuing such invitation. Early this year, the DOLE merely issued a memorandum instructing its senior officials to prepare for the ILO High Level Mission,” said Matula.

Matula said the state of workers’ rights may just worsen if the anti-terror bill is passed, a proposed law feared to heavily crack down on activists.

“Things will certainly turn to worst should the Terror Bill becomes a law,” said Matula, who called on President Rodrigo Duterte to veto the measure.

Malacañang has said that Duterte is “inclined” to pass it. The enrolled bill is now up for his signature. –

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email or tweet @lianbuan.