ENSURING better labor conditions for the country’s work force shall be among the priorities of Partido Federal ng Pilipinas (PFP) standard-bearer Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. if he is elected president in May.
Meeting with officials of the labor-focused party-list groups, Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) and the Associated Labor Unions (ALU), Marcos discussed the problems and issues besetting the sector and outlined his plans and programs to address them.
While he supports the creation of a separate department for migrant workers, Marcos said all the other agencies that deal with the labor sector should be streamlined.
“I will have to put the layout in detail because the issue has become so involved. So many things need fixing, structurally. We should streamline the agencies, because there are too many of them; and our workers are confused as to where they should go,” he said, partly in Filipino.
TUCP Party-list Rep. Raymond Mendoza, for his part, conformed with Marcos’s plans to streamline agencies, noting that overseas workers have met difficulties in their overseas employment, especially among household contract workers in the Middle Eastern countries.
Meanwhile, Marcos also expressed interest in making into a priority bill the Security of Tenure Act, which aims at amending the Labor Code to further protect workers’ rights by prohibiting labor-only contracting in the private sector.
However, he pointed out that the version of the bill that President Duterte vetoed in 2019 for “unduly broadening” the scope of labor-only contracting, and effectively banning other forms “that are not particularly unfavorable to employees,” should be amended to ensure that it will live up to its aim of further protecting workers’ rights.
“That measure needs to be studied thoroughly in terms of how it can be amended to really give protection to workers when it is legislated. This needs to be remedied so that our countrymen won’t be forced to go abroad because of the poor labor conditions here,” he said, partly in Filipino.
Meanwhile, Mendoza, who is also TUCP president, raised the need to hire additional manpower for agencies such as the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration and the Overseas Workers’ Welfare Administration to enable these agencies to better serve the welfare of at least 10-million migrant Filipino workers.
“In one day, they must process a thousand contracts, yet they have few employees. They lack foreign language interpreters to help OFWs [overseas Filipino workers] facing problems in their jobs. Our OFWs are in the millions and they contribute a lot to our economy, so it’s only right that enough people are deployed to attend to them,” he said.
The presidential candidate said this is why he sees the need to streamline the agencies concerned so that there will be an agency focused solely on local workers and another one on overseas workers.
However, he stressed that the end goal should be to make overseas employment merely an option for Filipinos.
Aside from Mendoza, also at the meeting were House Majority Speaker Martin Romualdez and his wife, Tingog Sinirangan Party-list Rep. Yeda Marie Romualdez, ALU-Transport Vice President Michael Mendoza, and ALU National Executive Vice President Gerard Seno, among others.
TUCP, the country’s largest labor group, earlier endorsed the candidacy of Marcos and his running mate Inday Sara Duterte in the upcoming 2022 national elections. This, even though it is a member of the Nagkaisa labor coalition that backs the Leni-Kiko tandem.
TUCP spokesman Alan Tanjusay said there was an overwhelming response from their 1.2 million-strong members to support the UniTeam tandem (Marcos and Duterte) when they held a string of consultation meetings with TUCP members all over the country recently.
Founded in 1975 by 23 labor federations, it is currently the Philippines’s largest alliance of labor federations.
Most of its members come from major industries such as service, agriculture, and manufacturing from Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.