Union density is low in the Philippines at 7.7 per cent (in 2014). Numerous factors such as difficulty in gaining legal recognition, intervention of employers and local governments, state repression, as well as the power of global corporations, make it more difficult than ever to organize.
“I recall that during the 80s, union organizing was easy and workers even used to walk into our office asking to be organized. Today it is so different as organizers must take innovative approaches to reach out and communicate to workers, as most of them, especially those in the ecozones, are being transported from plant to drop off points far from the organizers,” said Racquel Clavillas field organizer from Associated Labor Unions for 30 years.
With the growing power of multinational corporations, unions must think of better ways to deal with those companies, making sure workers can exercise their legitimate rights and negotiate for better working conditions. Domestic firms are mostly linked to big corporations as a supplier, agent or buyer through global supply chains.
Participants addressed the knowledge and skills gap in organizing in supply chains of multinational corporations and looked at how international tools, such as global framework agreements and trade union networks, can reinforce field organizing efforts.
Unions agreed to create two new networks: a sectoral network on textile and garment and a company-specific network for Essilor, a French-based international ophthalmic optics company, which has two operations in the Philippines.
“We learned a lot of new things in this workshop. Because most global corporations are consolidating, unions also need to consolidate and use our collective power. We need to build global solidarity to counter the power of global capital,” said Manuel Mallonga, local union president of Essilor in Bataan.
“Organizing unions and solidarity at every level is an important lesson. We are committed to building a network among Essilor unions in the Philippines, in our neighboring countries in South-East Asia, and even at the global level,” he added.
All the participants agreed and signed a declaration on building network and solidarity that defines basic principles and areas of cooperation in organizing where they can work together, as well as continuing communication and joint actions.
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