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Filipino workers complain of continuing rights abuses

MANILA (UCAN): Workers in the Philippines are complaining of continuing rights abuses even as the country’s economy grew by 6.8 per cent in the first quarter of the year.
A study conducted by the non-government Centre for Trade Union and Human Rights recorded at least 345 rights violations, including 28 killings of workers in the past two years.
The same study also cited complaints involving at least 9,919 workers whose rights to organise and be part of a trade union were reportedly not recognised.
The centre blamed the administration of the president, Rodrigo Duterte, for failing to address the concerns of trade union workers, including their clamour to end labour-only contracting.
Labour-only contracting is the practice of using manpower agencies to recruit casual workers on behalf of a bigger business to circumvent labour rules and avoid hiring regular employees.
“Duterte did not only miserably fail in ending labuor contractualisation, he also paved the way for the intensification of attacks on workers,” said Daisy Arago, executive director of the centre.
She said branding, or red tagging labour groups and its leaders as communist fronts has also made trade unionists and workers open targets of the military.
The centre said that as of March, there were 22 red-tagging cases involving 809 people that resulted in 25 cases of threats and intimidations, and eight arbitrary arrests.
Father Rudy Abao, covener of the group Church People—Workers Solidarity, said Duterte has broken a promise made to the working class.
During the 2016 election, Duterte vowed help workers, especially those who have no regular employment, by putting an end to the so-called “contractualisation of labour.”
Father Abao, however, said workers have realised that they cannot put their trust in a president “who claims to be for the poor but is relentless in trampling the rights of the people.”
Father Benjamin Alforque of the Promotion of Church People’s Response said workers are dismayed because “the government still favours the rich over poor workers.”
On International Labour Day, Duterte signed an order that was supposed to put an end to the contractualisation of labour.
But workers said the president’s order was an “empty document of false hopes.”
Despite complaints by the labour sector, the country’s economy grew 6.8 per cent in the first quarter of the year, slightly higher than the 6.4 per cent growth in the same period a year ago.
It was the 10th consecutive quarter that the economy grew by 6.5 per cent or better despite this year’s slower agricultural output, higher inflation, and wider trade deficit.
Government socio-economic planning chief, Ernesto Pernia, blamed inflation as the spoiler in a much higher growth rate.
Inflation, or the movement of prices of basic goods and services, rose to another five-year high to 4.5 per cent in April this year.
The upbeat performance of public construction, government consumption, and capital formation helped maintain the high GDP.
The first quarter performance showed the Philippines is still among the fastest-growing economies in Asia, after Vietnam’s 7.38 per cent and at par with China’s 6.8 per cent.

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