Amnesty International Philippines
Solidarity Statement for Labor Day Celebrations
1 May 2023
Our human right to just and favorable conditions of work as prescribed under the International Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights include fair wages, equal pay for work of equal value, safe and healthy working conditions, reasonable limitations on working hours, respect and protection of women, LGBTQIA, persons with disability and indigenous peoples in the workforce, and equality of treatment in employment.
Today as we celebrate Labor Day, more than a century after workers marched in 1903 to demand for an 8-hour work-day and fair wages, the Philippines is at a stand still on issues that exacerbate the challenges the labor force face due to extraordinary inflation and high cost of living that weakens the minimum wage standards in the country, especially in the provinces. Filipinos are not earning enough to cover basic needs and to support their daily cost of living. This is a clear regression from hard-won labor protections earned by labor rights activists and human rights defenders in the last 100 years, and in fact takes us further away from living in dignity free from economic insecurity.
The dire situation of workers, compounded by contractualization which exempts employers from their obligation to place workers on tenured posts and reinforces unfair treatment in the workplace, remain unacceptable. Contractualization opens workers to vulnerable situations due to precarious employment status and inadequate social security protections. The COVID-19 pandemic exposed how contract workers even in the health sector faced low protection and delays in their benefits. Overseas Filipino workers continue to suffer a number of labor abuses as well, including illegal recruitment practices, contract substitution, wage theft, and physical abuse at the hands of their employers in destination countries despite their important role in keeping the economy afloat through remittances.
Amnesty International Philippines is one with the workers of the world in calling for states to fulfill their obligations to effectively strengthen government institutions responsible for enforcing labor standards.
Amnesty International Philippines is one with the workers of the world in calling for states to fulfill their obligations to effectively strengthen government institutions responsible for enforcing labor standards. The Philippine government needs to invest more to improve the services of the Department of Labor and Employment, the National Labor Relations Commission, and Department of Migrant workers, provide more resources and greater capacity to monitor labor rights violations inside and outside the country. Giving Local Government Units a greater role in the enforcement of labor standards to harmonize national policies into local ordinances also helps ensure that the country is consistent on the ground in fulfilling the right to just and favorable conditions of work enshrined in the ICESCR.
Amnesty International is also moving towards pushing for countries mobilizing for additional resources through enforcement of additional taxes to do so in a way that challenges, rather than perpetuates, the structural and historic roots of today’s global inequality and the failure or inability of many states – particularly low-income countries like the Philippines towards adequately realizing economic and social rights. A global taxation reform is essential in ensuring that states are able to generate the maximum available resources possible to progressively realize human rights for all in line with UN obligations.
Amnesty International Philippines implores President Bongbong Marcos to make it right with the hard-working Filipino people in the country and elsewhere by uplifting the bare minimum to adequate, fair and enough.
DOLE’s theme for this year’s labor day celebration reflects what the workers need – “Pabahay, Bilihing Abot-Presyo, Benepisyo ng Matatag na Trabaho Para sa Manggagawang Pilipino”. But we say these are minimum standards, and Amnesty International Philippines implores President Bongbong Marcos to make it right with the hard-working Filipino people in the country and elsewhere by uplifting the bare minimum to adequate, fair and enough. While serious concerns about labor rights in the Philippines persist, we will resist, and continue to Protect the Protest!