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PHL envoy in New Zealand gets union's ire over statement

For supposedly telling Filipinos in New Zealand to refrain from approaching unions, Philippine Ambassador to New Zealand Virginia Benavidez has caught the ire of one trade union there.

“We find it outrageous that the Philippins Ambassador should try and undermine our work and advise Filipino migrants not to join a union, which is their absolute right," said Robert Reid, FIRST Union's General Secretary, in a report on New Zealand news site Scoop.

Reid accused Benavidez of “interfering” in New Zealand's internal affairs.

The accusation was made after Benavidez advised Filipino migrant workers, particularly those having employment problems, to refrain from approaching unions in New Zealand.

GMA News Online was still trying to reach Benavidez for comment as of posting time.

Reid pointed out that FIRST Union has activily aided “grossly exploited migrant workers” for five years, and even formed a Union Network of Migrants (UNEMIG) to aid in their endeavors.

The Scoop report quoted him as saying that these workers include those “virtually imprisoned in their employer’s homes and [those] caught up in immigration scams.”

He added that several of these cases were reported by the media, including the New Zealand Herald.

“The Philippines has one of the worst records of Worker Rights violations in Asia. We do not want these anti-union attitudes perpetuated by its Ambassador to New Zealand," Reid pointed out.

Reid urged New Zealand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs to acquaint Benavidez with New Zealand laws, including their right to freedom of association.

Maplecroft, a global risk analysis firm, has ranked the Philippines as the 27th key growth market to have the most labor violations in the world. Its December 2013 report stated that the Philippines, along with Iraq and Nigeria, experienced increased human rights risk since 2008. — Rie Takumi/KBK, GMA News