Labor bets to gov’t workers: We will restore right to negotiate, strike

Lian Buan
Labor bets to gov’t workers: We will restore right to negotiate, strike
The Kapisanan ng Manggagawa sa Government Financial Institutions (KAMAGFI) asks for the right to negotiate salaries and benefits

TAGAYTAY, Philippines – Labor Win candidates pitched to government workers on Thursday, April 25, that if they are elected, they will work towards the restoration of their rights to strike and negotiate for collective agreements.

“That is the biggest problem of unions in the public sector, walang kapangyarihan makipag-usap sa head ng agency para pag-usapan ano ang adjustment sa wages and benefit,” said labor lawyer and senatorial candidate Ernesto Arellano.

(Government unions have no power to negotiate with the agency head adjustments in wages and benefits.)

The labor senatorial bets spoke during an assembly of the Kapisanan ng Manggagawa sa Government Financial Institutions (KAMAGFI) or unions of government-owned and controlled corporations (GOCCs) and government financial institutions (GFIs) held in Tagaytay on Thursday.

Government employee groups – as they cannot be called unions – also cannot strike. (READ: Amend labor code to end endo, labor candidates pitch to voters)

This was a right removed from them during the Martial Law years of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, returned only by Corazon Aquino in 1987 through Executive Order (EO) 180 – but on limited terms, said KAMAGFI chairman Baldwyn Skyimte.

“Hindi siya talagang full union, nawala ‘yung right to strike at right to bargain, ang na-retain lang ay right to negotiate so you can only negotiate on the following items – work-related and non-economic benefits, so ‘yung economic benefits bawal, mga suweldo, benepisyo, bonus, hindi puwede ‘yun,” Skyimte said.

(We can’t be a full union, we lost our right to strike, our right to bargain, what was retained was only our right to negotiate and even the, we can only negotiate on work-related items and non-economic benefits. We cannot negotiate on economic benefits like wages, benefits and bonuses.)

Enabling law

Labor lawyer Allan Montaño said Congress needs only to pass legislation that would complement  International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention 151, which the Philippines ratified in 2017.

Convention 151Article 7 provides for the rights of public workers to negotiate terms and conditions of employment between the public authorities concerned and public employees’ organisations.”

“I personally suggest na ngayon pa lang, habang hindi pa tinatalakay ng Senado ‘yung enabling law, magbalangkas na kayo ng measure na puwedeng isama sa batas. Kasi napakalinaw sa Convention 151 the right of public sector workers to meaningfully negotiate,” Montaño said. (READ: Labor candidates to admin bets: We’ll sing and dance, but only if you debate with us)

(I personally suggest that as early as now, while the Senate is yet to tackle an enabling law, draft your own version of that law. Because Convention 151 is clear that public sector workers have the right to meaningfully negotiate.)

Labor Win candidates Leody De Guzman and Sonny Matula also attended the assembly and spoke about equal benefits among all government employees.

“Huwag na nating hintaying manalo (kami). Ngayon pa lang pagtulung-tulungan na rating ipalaganap ang ganitong tindig hinggil sa usaping ‘yan,” De Guzman said.

(Let’s not wait for us to win. As early as now, let us help each other spread this cause.)

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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.