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House panel approves bill protecting labor unions from interference

The House labor and employment committee has approved a bill seeking to protect workers' organizations from interference by their employers or government authorities, Kabataan party-list Representative Raoul Manuel said Thursday.

House Bill 407, authored by Representatives Arlene Brosas (Gabriela), France Castro (ACT Teachers), and Manuel, listed the following acts of interference, intervention, or intrusion:

  • to require, force or coerce a worker to not join a workers' organization or union, or to relinquish or renounce membership therein;
  • to require, force or coerce a workers' organization or union to relinquish or renounce its affiliation or membership to any workers' federation or national union;
  • to require, force or coerce any worker to not join a workers' organization or union, or to relinquish or renounce membership therein to be able to access any government service, aid or program;
  • to require, force or coerce any worker to attend any information drive or seminar which dissuades workers from organizing a union or participating in any activity of the organization or union, or that which labels or vilifies any union or labor organization;
  • to discourage a worker from voting or supporting a specific organization or union during certification election;
  • to discriminate a worker in any commercial establishment or business, in order to discourage membership in any workers' organization or union;
  • to prevent a worker from carrying out duties laid upon them by their position in the organization or union, or to penalize them for the action undertaken in such capacity;
  • to interfere, impede, obstruct , or hinder in the establishment , functioning , or administration of workers' organizations or unions;
  • to vilify , label, brand, red-tag, name or accuse a worker or workers' organization or union as subversives or terrorists ;and
  • to otherwise interfere, impede, obstruct, or hinder, without authority under the law. any lawful and peaceful activities of the workers and workers' organizations or unions.

Any member, personnel or officer of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, including the CAFGU Active Auxiliaries and the Special CAFGU Active Auxiliaries, the Philippine National Police, including its Supervisory Office for Security and Investigation Agency, the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, and other agents or third persons acting either on their behalf or under their orders, such as, but not limited to, Local Chief Executives, Economic Zone Police, PEZA security personnel/guards, company/private security personnel/guards, Barangay Tanod, among others, should: 

  • not vilify, label, brand, red-tag, name or accuse workers' organizations or unions, labor leaders, members or organizers as subversives or terrorists on the basis of mere membership or affiliation to a labor organization, union or federation;
  • not dissuade workers from exercising their right to organize a union or participate  in any legitimate and lawful activity of the organization or union, such as but not limited to holding anti-union seminars, and other anti­ union information drive, whether within the company premises or not, including industrial or special economic zones;
  • not interfere during the conduct of certification election, such as, but not limited to encouraging or discouraging workers to vote or support a specific individual or organization or union;
  • not harass or forcibly interrogate workers, organizers, or union officials on their alleged links or support to certain armed group/s on the basis of mere membership or affiliation with labor organizations or unions;
  • protect, respect and advance workers' rights and civil liberties at all times
  • not collect personal data of workers, labor organizers. or union officials such as name, home address, and contact details, which can be used for harassment and profiling.

The Department of Labor and Employment will verify and act on claims of trade union rights violations. 

Those who will be found in violation of the measure will be fined at least P100,000 or imprisoned for one to two years, or both, at the discretion of the court.

If the offender is a public official, the court may impose additional penalties, including disqualification from any elective or appointive position and forfeiture of all benefits.

"This is a victory for the workers and labor organizations, especially those subjected to harassment, profiling, surveillance, enforced disappearance, red-tagging, and terror tagging not only by companies but also by government agencies like the NTF-ELCAC," Manuel said at a press conference.

"Nasa ating Saligang Batas na karapatan ng mga manggagawa na magtayo at sumali sa mga unyon," he added.

(The Constitution provides that workers have the right to establish and join unions.)  — VBL, GMA Integrated News