Capital: Manila
Population: 99.14m. (2014 est.)

The Philippines ratified ILO Convention No. 87 (Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize, 1948) in1957 and Convention No. 98 (Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining, 1949) in 1953.

Trade unionists in the Philippines have suffered significant and ongoing repression and human rights violations. The enterprise bargaining system combined with a relative lack of protection against anti-union discrimination makes for a difficult organising and bargaining environment. Strikes are frequently sites of conflict and tension, with armed police and even the military being sent in following intervention by the Secretary of Labour and the imposition of back to work orders. Strikes and disputes are also the context for violence by unknown perpetrators, and in dozens of cases armed men have fired on, and even killed, strike leaders, often in drive by shootings. The authorities have frequently made public statements purporting to link legal political organisations with revolutionary armed groups, placing trade unionists at high risk of harassment and violence by the police and military.

Serious violations have also occured around the question of land redistribution. On a number of occasions, notably in 1987 and 2004, dozens of agricultural trade unionists were killed when police and military attempted, violently, to disperse their strikes and demonstrations. The fact of state responsibility for these atrocities has frequently been distorted by the press and by the authorities. In October 2018 nine workers were massacred when unknown men attacked their camp during a protest over land reform and working conditions. A legal representative for the victims was later murdered. In another case strikers at packing plants for the Sumifru banana company have also suffered serious violence, threats, and one worker was killed. The company has spent more than a decade appealing against a ruling (confirmed in 2017 by the Supreme Court) that it should hold a union certification election.

There is a great proliferation of trade unions, with around 20,000 unions representing two million union members, organised into dozens of federations, national centres, confederations, and political and industrial alliances. The ITUC-affiliated Trade Union Congress Of The Philippines (TUCP) remains the largest centre. In 2013 a new national centre was founded, SENTRO, which claims 80,000 members, and which was rapidly accepted into ITUC membership. In 2015 the ITUC accepted the left-wing KMU into membership. KMU members have suffered disproportionately from the violence directed at trade unionists over the decades. In the public sector the KMU-linked Courage is the largest trade union centre.

Full details of the country's political history, the development of trade unionism, and contact and affiliation details for all national trade union centres can be found in ICTUR's in-depth global reference book: Trade Unions of the World.

Link to reportFull country profile: Philippines, from Trade Unions of the World (2016)

Link to letterIntervention letter: death threats against union leader and 'profiling' of union members (2019)

Link to letterIntervention letter: massacre and serious rights violations (2018)

Link to letterIntervention letter: serious trade union rights violations (2018)

Link to letterIntervention letter: serious trade union rights violations (2018)


The International Centre for Trade Union Rights

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