Difficult to love

We are almost certain that when a world-renowned diva recently exclaimed—with an expletive to emphasize her point—that the Philippines is so difficult to love, she didn't have workers specifically in mind.

Yet Filipino workers could very well adopt her observation, given the lack of proper pay and protection they receive as a matter of course.

Once again, the Philippines made the list of 10 worst countries for working people, joining the likes of Bangladesh, Brazil, Egypt, Honduras, India, Kazakhstan, Turkey and Zimbabwe, according to the 2020 global rights index of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).

In the Philippines, union members are particularly at risk of violence, intimidation and murder, the ITUC said in its report. “In a context of extreme state violence and suppression of civil liberties, employers’ tactics to label unions as ‘subversive organizations’ in a process commonly known as “red-tagging,” exposed their members to violence and repression,” the ITUC said.

“In 2019, an increasing number of trade unionists were arrested in their homes and charged on dubious grounds, such as illegal possession of firearms, which had been planted by security forces,” the report continued.

The ITUC then went on to identify several instances of violence against workers, including the violent dispersal of a strike in July 2019 by a condiment company’s plant in Cabuyao City, Laguna; the murder of a union organizer in June 2019, and the killing of a union leader in November 2019, also in Cabuyao.

The ITUC also took note of the establishment of Joint Industrial Peace and Concern Offices, which it says were used to spy on trade unions and militant labor groups in the name of combating communist infiltration of the labor force in industrial zones.

The Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) said it was not surprised by the country’s inclusion in the list of worst countries for working people, saying “the writing is clearly on the wall.”

"When we consider the actual circumstances on the ground, the current state of labor relations policy during the quarantine allowing wage reductions and suspending labor rights inspections, the anti-labor and the anti-consumer program of our economic managers to raise anew excise taxes and opposing security of tenure, as well as the dangerous political slide towards authoritarianism evidenced by passage of the anti-terror bill, we see the handwriting clearly on the wall," the TUCP statement said. "There remains unresolved assassinations, allegedly labor-related disappearances, various repressions, red-tagging, and wanton attacks on workers and workers' fundamental rights that make the current environment dangerous and difficult for workers.”

As if this weren't enough, a study conducted in January this year by the e-commerce company Picodi found that the Philippines is also one of the worst countries to live for minimum wage earners because food costs take up so much of their take-home pay.

While the company noted a 3.2 percent increase in the minimum wage from last year, food prices eat up a significant portion—up to 62 percent--of the compensation that minimum wage earners took home, which is far from ideal. This ranked the Philippines at No. 51 out of 54 countries in terms of the ratio of food prices to the minimum wage.

The results of these studies—and the everyday experiences of millions of Filipinos at toil away for employers that don't even bother to compensate them properly—give credence, indeed, to the observation that this is a country that is difficult to love, especially if you are a worker.

Topics: International Trade Union Confederation , Trade Union Congress of the Philippines , Joint Industrial Peace and Concern Offices , workers , minimum wage
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