Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

Trade unions reported continued poor compliance with the law, due in part to the government’s lack of capacity to inspect labor practices in the informal economy. The government continued awareness-raising activities, especially in the provinces, in an effort to prevent forced labor. In 2016 the Labor Department began an orientation program for recruits for commercial fishing vessels, who were among the workers most vulnerable to forced labor conditions.

Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

NGOs and government officials continued to report cases in which family members sold children to employers for domestic labor or sexual exploitation. Findings from the joint National Statistics Office-ILO 2011 Survey on Children, the most recent data available, estimated that 5.5 million of the country’s 29 million children between the ages of five and 17 were working and that three million worked in hazardous jobs. The survey also found the highest incidence of child labor (60 percent) in the agricultural sector.

Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

Acceptable Conditions of Work

As of July 2018, tripartite regional wage boards of the National Wage and Productivity Commission had made no increases to the daily minimum wage rates for agricultural and nonagricultural workers. Minimum wages in the nonagricultural sector were highest in the National Capital Region, where the average minimum daily wage rate was 512 PHP ($9.63). Due to the weakening of the peso versus the dollar. The present NCR minimum wage is actually less than what workers earned in 2016.The lowest minimum wage rates were in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), where the daily nonplantation agricultural wage was 280 PHP ($5.26). The law did not cover a substantial number of workers because wage boards exempted some newly established companies and other employers from the rules because of factors such as business size, industry sector, export intensity, financial distress, and capitalization level.

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) issued a resolution ordering the regularization of 7306 workers of the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company (PLDT). The DOLE reiterated its directive for companies found to be labor-only contractors to desist from further engaging in contracting activities. Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello also ordered regional directors to initiate appropriate proceedings against erring contractors.

In a report to Undersecretary Joel Maglunsod, DOLE National Capital Region Director Henry John Jalbuena said his office has issued separate compliance orders to Jolibee Food Corp. (JFC) and Perf Restaurant, also known as Burger King, to provide regular employment to the affected employees, and also meted out compensatory penalties to the two firm’s contractors. JFC has a total of 6,482 workers while Burger King has 704. Aside from seeking the regularization of its workers, DOLE also directed Jollibee to refund P15.4 million worth of illegally collected payments to 426 workers.

There appears to be some adverse reactions resulting from President Duterte’s pronouncement against contractualization. At least 200,000 contractual workers have been retrenched by their employers two months after President Rodrigo Duterte issued Executive Order 52 banning that sought to ban contractualization. Rep. Ariel Casilao of Anakpawis party-list made the claim based on data from Kilusang Mayo Uno, which showed some of the country’s biggest companies terminating their contractual workers instead of granting them regular employment after six months in accordance with Labor laws. Some of these companies who allegedly practice “endo” are Nutri-Asia, PLDT, Hanjin shipyard, Manila Harbor Center, Jollibee, Monde Nissin, among others.

During the year various labor groups criticized the government’s enforcement efforts, in particular the Labor Department’s lax monitoring of occupational safety and health standards in workplaces. Between January and July, the BWC recorded 11 work-related accidents that caused 38 deaths and 11 injuries. Statistics on work-related accidents and illnesses were incomplete, as incidents were underreported, especially in agriculture.

The government and several NGOs worked to protect the rights of the country’s overseas citizens, most of whom were Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) contract or temporary workers. Although the POEA registered and supervised domestic recruiter practices, authorities often lacked sufficient resources to provide worker protection overseas. The government, nonetheless, launched an interagency humanitarian mission to provide assistance to thousands of citizen workers laid off or stranded in Saudi Arabia and facilitated the repatriation of hundreds. As of September the Department of Social Welfare reported “hundreds” of citizens still needed repatriation from Saudi Arabia.

Following the gruesome murder of domestic helper Joanna Demafelis, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has urged the government to adopt a selective policy OFW deployment. The Commission recommended that Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) be deployed only to countries that have guaranteed to protect their rights as provided under the amended Migrant Workers’ Act.

According to Commissioner Gwendolyn Pimentel-Gana “Joanna’s tragic death on the hands of her cruel employers underscore the need to ensure that every aggrieved OFW has access to justice in the country where he or she works,” Human Rights Commissioner Pimentel-Gana also pointed out that under the Migrant Workers’ Act, the Philippine government should look for “guarantees” from the labor-receiving country, such as existing labor and social laws protecting the rights of workers, including migrant workers.