Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Rights of Filipino Workers


This paper discusses the rights of workers (public and private sectors). Specifically, it covers the following topics:

1. The provisions of the 1987 Philippine Constitution on the rights of workers;

2. The provisions of the relevant International Conventions on the rights of workers;

3. The recent Philippine laws on the rights of workers; and

4. The official "social teaching or doctrine" (Magisterium) of the Catholic Church on the rights of workers.


Spread in various parts of the 1987 Philippine Constitution are specific pronouncements and mandates on the protection and promotion of the rights of workers in the public and private sectors, to wit:

1. Under Sec. 18, Art. II of the Constitution, the State recognizes "labor as a primary social economic force" and it endeavors to "protect the rights of workers and promote their welfare";

2. Under Sec. 8, Art. III of the Constitution the State recognizes the "right of (workers) xxx in the public and private sectors to form unions";

3. Under Sec. 2, Art. XIII of the Constitution, the State pronounces "the promotion of social justice" as one of its main goals;

4. The most specific labor-related provision of the Constitution is found in Sec.3, Art. XIII thereof, which provides:

a) That the State shall afford "full protection to labor, local and overseas, organized and unorganized";

b) That the State shall aim to "promote full employment";

c) That the "equality of employment opportunities for all" shall be respected;

d) That the State shall protect the "right of all workers to:

- self-organization,

- collective bargaining and negotiations, and

- peaceful concerted activities,

- including the right to strike, in accordance with law";

e) That the right to "security of tenure" of workers shall be respected;

f) That the workers are entitled to "humane conditions of work";

g) That the workers are entitled to "a living wage";

h) That the workers shall be afforded the right to "participate in policy and decision-making processes affecting their rights and benefits as may be provided by law";

i) That employers and workers must be guided by the precept of "shared responsibility";

j) That the State encourages the "preferential use of voluntary modes in settling disputes" (i.e., conciliation, mediation, and voluntary arbitration);

k) That the State has the power to "regulate the relations between workers and employers";

l) That the State respects the "right of labor to its just share in the fruits of production"; and

m) That, balancing capital with labor, the State recognizes the "right of enterprises to reasonable returns on investments, and to expansion and growth".



The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights protects the following basic rights of workers:

1. The "right to social security" (Art. 22);

2. The "right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favorable conditions of work, and to protection against unemployment" (Art. 23 [1]);

3. The "right to equal pay for equal work" (Art. 23 [2]);

4. The "right to just and favorable remuneration xxx worthy of human dignity, and supplemented xxx by other means of social protection" (Art. 23 [3]);

5. The "right to rest and leisure xxx, reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay" (Art. 24);

6. The "right to form and to join trade unions" (Art. 23 [4]); and

7. The "right to xxx medical care and xxx social services" and the "right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, (and) old age" (Art. 25).


The 1966 International Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights protects the following basic rights of workers:

1. The right to "fair wages and equal remuneration for work of equal value" (Art. 7);

2. The right to "safe and healthy working conditions" (id.);

3. The right to "equal opportunity" for job promotion (id.);

4. The right to "rest, leisure and reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay" (id.);

5. The right "to form xxx and join the trade unions of his choice" (Art. 8);

6. The "right of trade unions to function freely" (id.);

7. The "right to strike" (id.); and

8. The "right xxx to social security (and) social insurance" (Art. 9).


The International Labor Office (ILO) has adopted the following conventions:

1. ILO Convention No. 29 - on Forced Labor (cf. with ILO Convention No. 85, re: Abolition of Forced Labor);

2. ILO Convention No. 87 - on the Right To Organize;

3. ILO Convention No. 98 - on Collective Bargaining;

4. ILO Convention No. 100 - on Equal Pay for Men and Women Workers;

5. ILO Convention No. 111 - on Employment Discrimination;

6. ILO Convention No. 122 - on Employment Policy of Member States.

This document exhorts all member-states to achieve one goal: that "there is work for all who are available for and seeking work" (Art. 1).

It also encourages tripartite consultations among the State, Labor, and Management (Capital) in the formulation of employment policies of the State (Art. 3).


The 1966 International Convention on Civil and Political Rights respects the "right (of workers) to form and join trade unions" (Art. 22 [1]).


The 1966 International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination protects the following basic rights of workers:

1. The "right to form and join trade unions" (Art. 5 [e] [ii] to [iv]);

2. The "right to housing" (id.);

3. The "right to public health, medical care, social security, and social services" (id.); and

4. The "right to education and training" (id.).


The fairly recent Philippine laws on the rights of workers are the following:

1. Republic Act No. 6715 - which introduced extensive amendments to Book V of the Philippine Labor Code (Presidential Decree No. 442, as amended) re: unions, unfair labor practices, collective bargaining agreements, strikes, registration of unions, etc.;

2. Republic Act No. 7641 - entitled "An Act Providing for Retirement Pay to Qualified Private Sector Employees";

3. Republic Act No. 7656 - entitled "The Dual Tech Law";

4. Republic Act No. 7658 - entitled "The Anti-Child Labor Law".

This law amended Secs. 12 to 16, Article VII of Republic Act No. 7610, entitled "Special Protection of Children Against Child Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination".

R.A. No. 7658 criminalizes child labor with a penalty of imprisonment of three years or a fine of P10,000.00 or both at the discretion of the court.

5. Republic Act No. 7700 - entitled "Further Rationalization of the Jurisdiction of the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) Divisions";

6. Republic Act No. 7730 - entitled "Strengthening the Visitorial and Enforcement Powers of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Secretary".

It amended Art. 128 (b) of the Labor Code (P.D. No. 442, as amended) and strengthened the visitorial powers of the Secretary of Labor in the enforcement of laws on labor standards.

7. Republic Act No. 7742 - amended P.D. No. 1752 (known as the "Pag-Ibig Fund Law"). It makes Pag-Ibig Fund coverage compulsory for all workers earning at least P4,000.000 monthly;

8. Republic Act No. 7876 - entitled "Senior Citizens Center Act of the Philippines".

It defines a senior citizen as one who is at least 60 years old. It mandates the establishment of a senior citizens center in each city or municipality which shall provide trainings and work opportunities, health care services, and other related services to senior citizens;

9. Republic Act No. 7877 - entitled "Anti-Sexual Harassment Act".

It criminalizes "all forms of sexual harassment in the employment, education, or training environment" with a penalty of six months imprisonment or a fine of P20,000.00 or both at the discretion of the court.

10. Republic Act No. 7796 - entitled "The TESDA Law" promoting the technical education and skills development program of the government;

11. Republic Act No. 8042 - entitled "The Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995".

It expands the definition of "illegal recruitment" (Sec. 6) and increases the maximum penalty therefor to life imprisonment and a maximum fine of P1,000,000.00.

12. Republic Act No. 8282 - entitled "The Social Security Act of 1997".

It expands the coverage of the Social Security System (SSS) and it increases the penalty for violations of thereof to 12 years imprisonment or a fine of P20,000.00 or both at the discretion of the court, without prejudice to the felony of Estafa, where applicable, under Art. 315, et. seq. of the Revised Penal Code;

13. Republic Act. No. 8291 - entitled "The Revised Government Service Insurance Act of 1997".

It strengthens the old GSIS Act (P.D. No. 1146). It increases the penalty for violations of thereof to 12 years imprisonment or a fine of P20,000.00 or both at the discretion of the court, without prejudice to the felony of Estafa, where applicable, under Art. 315, et. seq. of the Revised Penal Code;

14. Republic Act No. 8188 - amended Republic Act No. 6727 (entitled "Wage Rationalization Act").

The new law increases the penalty for violations of R.A. 6727 to a maximum imprisonment of four years or a maximum fine of P100,000.00 or both at the discretion of the court, without the benefit of probation, plus payment of indemnity equivalent to double the unpaid wages and benefits of workers.

15. Republic Act No. 8187 - entitled "Paternity Leave Act of 1997".

It grants a seven-day paternity leave with pay to male workers (up to four children). It imposes a penalty of six months imprisonment or a fine of P25,000.00 or both at the discretion of the court for violations thereof.


As of June 1995, there were 409 registered public-sector unions representing 143,000 members, while the total public-sector work force, as of December 1994, was 1,200,000. ("Philippine Human Rights Plan", published by the Philippine Commission on Human Rights, Quezon City, 1995, p. 118).

The basic issues affecting the public-sector workers are the following:

1. The right to strike - In the case of SSS Employees Association vs. CA, et. al., GR 85279, July 8, 1989, the Supreme Court, citing Civil Service Circular No. 6, S. 1987, and Executive Order No. 180 issued by former Pres. Corazon C. Aquino, held that public-sectors workers do not have the right to strike "in the absence of any legislation allowing government employees to strike".

2. Management interference in union matters;

3. "Job evaluation standards" abuses by Management;

4. "Management prerogatives" abuses';

5. Civil Service Circular No. 4, S. 1981, which requires the degree of Master of Arts or Master of Science as a condition for promotion to the rank of Division Chief in the civil service;

6. Executive Order No. 180, which allows the creation of a Labor-Management Council (LMC) in government agencies, does not mandatorily provide for a union representative in such LMC;

7. Privatization of government-owned or controlled corporations - which diminishes or abrogates the right to security of tenure of public-sector workers; and

8. Devolution under the Local Government Code of 1991 - which creates security of tenure problems and results in delayed releases of wages and other benefits.

9. Civilian employees of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) are prohibited from unionizing. ("Philippine Human Rights Plan", op. cit., p. 118-121).


As of April 1995, of the total Philippine work force was 29,300,000, the unemployment rate was 11.9 percent and underemployment, 19 percent. This was aggravated by migration from the rural areas to the cities. Only 14 percent of private-sector workers was organized. Private-sector workers comprised 92 percent of the total Philippine work force. ("Philippine Human Rights Plan", op. cit., p. 127).

The basic issues affecting private-sector work force are the following:

1. Labor standards, e.g. occupational safety and health;

2. Contract labor (labor contracting) and apprentice labor;

3. Global competition caused by the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement and the General Agreement on Tariff and Trade (GATT);

4. Casualization of work, viz labor-only contracting, sub-contracting, and contract-agency hiring;

5. Child labor exploitation;

6. Eighty-five (85) percent of the private-sector workers is unorganized;

7. Delayed disposition of labor cases;

8. Anti-union policies of some local government units which host export processing zones (EPZ) to attract foreign and local investments;

9. Harassments and union-busting;

10. Article 245 of the Labor Code prohibits supervisory unions from affiliating with national federations with whom the rank and file unions are also affiliated;

11. Policy Instruction No. 20 of the Department of Labor and Employment does not authorize project workers to set up bargaining units at the enterprise level;

12. Proclamation No. 50, which created the Asset Privatization Trust (APT), allows the termination of the employer-employee relationship upon the sale or disposition of the ownership or controlling interest of the government in a corporation or asset held by the APT;

13. Article 263 of the Labor Code gives the Secretary of Labor a wide discretion in interpreting "national interest" as to assume jurisdiction over labor disputes, thus barring all sorts of strikes;

14. Unfair labor practice (ULP) violations by Management, despite the law criminalizing ULP. ("Philippine Human Rights Plan", op. cit., p. 128-129).



In 1891, Pope Leo XIII issued the encyclical Rerum Novarum, which, for the first time, concretized the Catholic Church's social teaching (magisterium) on the rights of workers and the regulation of the relations between labor and capital. (cited by Pope Paul VI in his Address on the Occasion of the 75th Anniversary of Rerum Novarum, Rome, 1966).

The early 20th century papal encyclicals on labor rights were:

1. "Social Reconstruction", by Pope Pius XI;

2. Various Social Messages, by Pope Pius XII;

3. "Mater et Magistra", by Pope John XXIII; and

4. Various Vatican Council II Documents, c. 1960s.

(cited in Pope Paul VI's Address, supra).

Prominent among the Vatican II documents is Gaudium et spes (Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World), infra.

In Pope Paul's address on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of Rerum Novarum, supra, he stressed the following points:

1. The Church's social teaching on labor is based on "love and justice";

2. The Church takes "a position besides the defenseless" (cf. the social teaching on "preferential option for the poor" enunciated by the Pastoral Council of the Philippines II (PCP II);

3. The Church respects the "dignity of labor of whatever kind, so long as it is honest";

4. The Church calls for the equitable distribution of wealth ("principle of the progress of social justice"; and the "just distribution of the advantages and burdens of life in society");

5. "Individual charity" and "social charity" must guide the relationship between capital and labor;

6. The Church respects of workers "to form trade unions";

7. The Church believes that the worker is not a "mere executive tool, but xxx a sharer xxx and xxx (a) participant in the productive cycle";

8. The Church denounces the principles of "radical Marxism", "atheism", "materialism", "totalitarianism", and "class struggle" because they "extinguish his (worker's) true

spirituality", "impedes social peace", "ends in violence and oppression", and leads to "abolition of liberty"; and

9. The Church believes that Christ is the "light of your individual consciences" and "the center of the movement of christian workers". (see The Catechism of Modern Man: All in the Words of Vatican II; Answers to Contemporary Man's Problems, St. Paul Publications, Pasay City, 1967, pp. 508-514).

In the Vatican Council II document Gaudium et spes, the Church emphasized the following teachings:

1. Human labor is "superior to the other elements of economic life, for the latter have only the nature of tools" (No. 67);

2. It is the "duty of society xxx to help citizens to find sufficient employment" (id.);

3. Economic control must be democratized and wide sectoral consultation encouraged in the formulation of "policy judgment" (No. 65);

4. The Church aims to promote "justice and equity" and it deplores "immense inequalities" and "individual and social discrimination" in the world. (No. 66);

5. The Church believes that "the workers xxx should have a share xxx in determining (their economic and social) conditions -- in person or thru freely elected delegates" (No. 68);

6. The "right to work" is a human right and "the duty of working faithfully" balances that right (No. 67);

7. In settling labor disputes, preference must be given to "sincere dialogue". The "right to strike" is an ultimate option. At every chance, the parties must "resume negotiation and discussion of reconciliation" (No. 68);

8. The Church respects and promotes the "basic right xxx of freely founding unions xxx without risk of reprisal" (No. 68);

9. Remuneration must be "such that man may be (able) to cultivate worthily his own material, social, cultural, and spiritual life and that of his dependents" (No. 67);

10. On migrant workers, "all discrimination xxx must be avoided"; they must be treated "not as mere tools of production"; they must be helped "to bring their families to live with them"; and they must be "incorporated into the social life" of the host country (No. 66).


The 1987 Constitution contains provisions which promote and protect the rights of workers. But labor law violations continue.

To minimize the same requires tripartite vigilance.

Congress and the Executive must look into our rate of compliance with various international conventions affecting rights of workers.

The present jurisprudence prohibiting public-sector workers from striking must be re-examined. Congress needs to review E.O. No. 180 and CSC Circular No.6, s. 1987.

The issues raised in the Philippine Human Rights Plan of 1995 must be given a more serious look by Government, Management, and Labor in the spirit of tripartite consultation.

The social teaching of the Church on employer-employee relationship deserves deeper consideration by all sectors of the Philippine society.


c. 1998

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