Wednesday, September 29, 2004

RP labor head promises to discourage unions

In order to clear investors' worries on labor disputes in the Philippines, the country's labor head visited Taiwan yesterday and promised to solve the problem in favor of employers.

"I will try everything legally and morally to protect the employers' interests in labor disputes, and in order to safeguard better communications between employers and labors an officer from the central government will station full time in the Subic Bay," said Patricia Sto. Tomas, Secretary of Philippines' Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).

For the past six months the Philippine government has been sending friendly messages to lure more Taiwan investors.

The new government led by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo outlined a more liberated, incentive-driven Subic-Clark corridor for foreign manufacturers. However, in a labor-dominated country like the Philippines, organizing unions is a constitutional right. Thus, the underling threats of strikes and sabotage had frightened those who intended to launch production lines there.

Hoping to voice many Taiwan investors' concerns on the issue, Chinese National Association of Industry and Commerce Chairman Theodore Huang visited Philippines' labor officials several times and finally received a clear endorsement.

Because most of the foreign investors cluster in the Subic Bay, Tomas said she would travel more frequently from Manila to monitor the situation there.

With respect to the fact that the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) lacks sufficient power to tackle disputes, and that cases sent back to the central government cost time and money, Tomas also promised the dispute case could stay in the Subic Bay.

"The SBMA will be given broader authority to hear the case, and the central government will not interfere if the disputed parties wish so," she said.

Tomas stressed that only five percent of Philippine workers had joined unions. "There's no way that unions will definitely lead to strikes or sabotage."

"In many cases, Philippine workers prefer not to join the union because they have to pay monthly dues. DOLE will continue working on creative and positive ways for a win-win situation," she said

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