Press Release
May 17, 2017

Sen. Joel Villanueva's opening remarks during the hearing on occupational safety, workers' right to self-organize, and wage rationalization

Maganda at mapagpalang araw po sa inyong lahat.

On our tables are three very important legislative proposals which are all supportive of workers' rights.

First, Senate Bill No. 1317 or the "Occupational Safety and Health Standards Bill".

Alam nating lahat na ang buhay ng manggagawa ang nakataya sa pagpapabaya. Kaya naman po para maiwasan ang disgrasya at panatilihing ligtas ang ating mga lugar ng paggawa, nararapat lang na palakasin ang ating batas at magtakda ng karampatang parusa sa anumang paglabag dito.

Because safety and health is not just for the workers or employers, it is for all of us. Accidents, illnesses or deaths due to unsafe or unhealthy workplaces or practices affect everyone.

For example, fatal accidents and disabling injuries in construction sites, mines, factories and even on our roads cost a worker his or her life and limb. No-one should be expected to risk life and limb in return for a contract of employment. Bear in mind also that accidents at work is also losses for the employers, and most of the time, it gives agony for the entire country.

I believe that non-compliance with occupational safety and health standards is a crime, it's a reckless endangerment that should not be tolerated.

Therefore, the Chair believes that we should amend the Labor Code to emphasize the importance of OSH and outline the rights and obligations of the employer and workers and the responsible government agencies.

For the longest time, violation of occupational health and safety standards has no fines or penalties. DOLE only issues a Work Stoppage Order (WSO) if there is an imminent danger or would result to disabling injury. Obviously, this practice has not been successful in inculcating culture of OSH compliance nor in addressing wanton disregard of OSH standards.

And we continue to witness work accidents and the latest is the fire at Yokohama tire factory in Clark last Sunday. Up to now we have no report on its cause and whether there were injuries.

Not a long time ago, the House Technology Industries (HTI) burned for 46 hours from early evening of February 01 until the afternoon of February 03. HTI is the biggest employer in Cavite Export Processing Zone with 15,000 workers. The fire left behind one death and a total of 125 injured workers not to mention the cost of damage estimated to reach P15 billion.

Last Saturday, May 13, we remember the 72 workers who perished at the Kentex Fire in Valenzuela three years ago. There are many more in the mines, hospitals and construction sites, and the list gets longer.

Violations of OSH standards are not only patent disregard of the standards but deliberate disrespect of the well-being of our workers and derogation of their right to safe and healthy workplaces.

Second is Senate Bill No. 1169 Or "The Worker's Right To Self-Organization".

Everything in this proposal is in line with the Philippine commitment to align the Labor Code provisions affecting the exercise of the right to self-organization to the requirements of ILO Convention 87 on the right to self-organization and ILO Convention 98 on the right to collective bargaining.

The ILO High Level Mission in 2009 and the ILO Committee of Experts on the Application of Convention and Recommendations (CEACR) repeatedly called on the Philippines to "ease the membership requirement for registration of independent unions and federations" as well as the "prior authority" requirement on foreign assistance to local trade union activities.

Of course, we are firmly behind the country's commitment to align the Labor Code with the ratified ILO Conventions. Hence, the bill proposes to lower the minimum membership requirements for registration of independent unions from 20% to 5% and for federations, from 10 to 5 duly recognized bargaining agent-local chapters.

It also proposes to remove the "prior authority" requirement on foreign assistance to local trade union activities under Article 285, which is a dead provision. The removal of prior-authorization would help strengthen the capacities of both trade unions and employers' organizations.

Tinging ko po kung mapapababa natin ang minimum requirements para sa registration ng mga independent unions, mapapalakas po natin ang karapatan ng mga manggagawa sa pagtatatag ng sariling organisasyon, sama-samang pakikipagkasundo at negosasyon. Nang sa gayon, maiwasan po ang pang-aabuso at mapalakas ang kanilang boses sa pamamagitan ng mapayapa at magkakaugnay na pagkilos.

Pangatlo ho and finally, Senate Bill No. 1381 or "The Amendment to the Wage Rationalization Act".

Sang-ayon po ako kay Senator JV, ang author ng SBN 1381, na may mga suliranin pa rin sa compliance sa tamang pagpapasahod sa ating mga manggagawa. Nararapat lang na palakasin ang monitoring capability ng DOLE para seguruhing napapasahod ng wasto ang lahat ng mga manggagawa nang naaayon sa batas.

Hence, this bill proposes to increase the penalties for non-compliance of the prescribed increases and adjustments in the wage rates of workers by amending RA 6727 or the Wage Rationalization Act.

I urge for your support to these three bills to protect and improve the lives of Filipino workers.

Maraming salamat po at magandang hapon.

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