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Philippine bishops May Day calls for workers’ rights

Manila (UCAN): “First, create jobs so that(people) will never be forced to find work in foreign lands and be separated from their families,” Bishop Ruperto Santos, head of the Episcopal Commission on Migrants and Itinerant People, said. On May 1 as thousands of people Filipinos marched in protests along the streets of Manila on Labour Day.
 
Several Catholic bishops lent their voices to calls for decent jobs and employment security for workers, saying these were the best gifts the Philippine government could give to its people.
 
Bishop Santos, who heads the Diocese of Balanga, said an end to “labour-only contracting” or “contractualisation” of labour will also provide stability for workers.
 
Labour-only contracting is the practice of using agents or manpower agencies to recruit casual workers on behalf of a bigger business which circumvents labour rules that apply to regular employees, consequently making it easier to sack workers.
 
In a statement, the ecumenical group, Church People-Workers Solidarity said the government’s “lack of political will” to end “contractualisation” has allowed the exploitation of workers.
 
Data from the independent think-tank, Ibon Foundation, showed that 90 per cent of the Filipino workforce is “contractual.”
 
Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo of Manila, said the situation for workers in the Philippines goes against Church principles on social justice.
 
“The workers have long been demanding security of tenure,” the bishop said.
 
In his Labour Day message, Philippine president, Rodrigo Duterte, called on legislators to pass laws to protect workers’ rights and ensure security of tenure.
 
He said he remained optimistic that Congress would “consider passing much needed legislative measures” to protect workers’ rights.
 
However, Duterte said that banning all forms of contractualisation was not within his power but was up to Congress because only the legislature could amend the country’s 45-year-old Labour Code.
 
In September 2018, he declared as urgent a Security of Tenure bill, which seeks to ban the hiring of workers on fixed-term basis.
 
Labour groups slammed Duterte’s earlier order to enforce existing labour laws, saying it only reiterated existing policies instead of introducing reforms.
 
In his message, the president lauded overseas Filipino workers who leave their families to earn a decent living abroad.
 
He also recognised the contribution of workers to development “not as a tool of employers and capitalists, but as an essential catalyst for our nation’s progress.”
 
The Global Workers’ Rights Index, a report from the International Trade Union Confederation in 2018, noted that the Philippines is among the 10 worst countries in terms of repressing workers’ rights.
 
The Centre for Trade Union and Human Rights documented about 16,000 workers whose rights were violated as regards to freedom of association and collective bargaining in the past two years.
 
It also recorded at least 109 cases of civil and political rights violations, affecting at least 7,000 workers from 2016 to 2018. 

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