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Work hazards

The annual report of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) placed the Philippines among the 10 worst countries for workers in the world after finding that abuses by government and companies against workers’ rights – such as the right to strike, organize a union and free speech – were at an all-time high since the organization started documenting the abuses eight years ago.

“Workers are under attack, like never before,” Sharan Burrow, ITUC general secretary said in a statement after the release of the 2021 Global Rights Index last weekend.

“Governments and employers exploited the pandemic to exploit the people the world depends on by increasing surveillance, breaking agreements, laying off workers, blocking and intimidating unions and resorting to violence and murder,” she added.

Accordingly, the eighth edition of the ITUC Global Rights Index ranks 149 countries based on the degree of respect for workers’ rights, and the 10 worst countries for working people in 2021 were Bangladesh, Belarus, Brazil, Colombia, Egypt, Honduras, Myanmar, the Philippines, Turkey, and Zimbabwe.

Philippine labor group, Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa, said the annual ITUC report had consistently identified the Philippines as among the most unsafe countries for workers.

It added that under the Duterte government, many trade unionists have been murdered across the country. It noted that the report listed seven murdered leaders and 28 arrested unionists from March 2020 to April 2021.

A country does not consistently rank among the worst in the world for workers by accident or neglect. The way the pandemic was taken advantage of to tip the scales in favor of the oppressors and exploiters only makes matters worse and added more challenges if conditions are to improve in the near future.

The government and employers who have led us to where we are now have to come face to face with this failure before any decision to reverse the trend can be made. Only then can begin the monumental effort required to make the Philippines a better country for the millions of workers it needs to fuel recovery and progress.*

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