PH among top 10 worst countries to work in

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 8) — The Philippines ranks as one of the top ten worst countries for workers, according to the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) Global Rights Index this year.

In no particular order, the Philippines was included in the top 10 list out of 142 countries evaluated due to "intimidation and dismissals, violence, [and] repressive laws."

Also on the list were Algeria, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Colombia, Egypt, Guatemala, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey. Among the common indicators of poor working conditions in these countries are mass arrests, state repression, arrest of union leaders, and discrimination.

These indicators are only a few from a list of 97 items derived from International Labor Organization (ILO) conventions. They are designed to represent violations of workers' rights in law and practice, according to the ITUC.

Violations are recorded annually from April to March.

The ITUC Global Rights Index grades countries on a scale of 1 to 5, from "sporadic violations of rights" to "no guarantee of rights due to the breakdown of the law." The Philippines garnered a rating of 5.

The Middle East and North Africa region ranked worse on average, with a whopping score of 4.55. The Asia-Pacific region, of which the Philippines is part, came next at 3.95, followed closely by Africa at 3.91 and the Americas at 3.44. Europe had the least violations, with a regional average of 2.48.


Labor conditions in PH

The ITUC report cited the arrest of George San Mateo, a leader of the PISTON transport workers' union, who was arrested in December last year as he protested the jeepney phaseout.

The Philippine employment rate slightly improved in April, and a recent tax reform package reduced income taxes for workers.

However, the public faces a hike in inflation, along with fuel and the prices of basic goods. Regional wage boards have since been ordered to review what many consider to be outdated minimum wage rates.

The labor sector also suffers from illegal contracting practices which deprive workers of job security. President Rodrigo Duterte has since released an executive order on the issue, although workers' groups slam the order as having no teeth. The Department of Labor and Employment has since revealed the top 20 worst violators among an initial list of over 3,000 companies.

The ITUC quoted a worker identified only as Melvin, who said, "From the moment you punch in, the company owns you. By keeping us on month by month contracts, we're easier to replace if we can't work overtime."

Labor Undersecretary Jing Paras downplayed the report.

"The opinion may not be applicable to the real condition," he told CNN Philippines on Friday. "Sinisikap ng ating departamento na matugunan ang pangangailangan ng ating workers"

[Translation: Our department is striving to address the needs of our workers.]

The Philippines was also among the top ten worst countries for workers in the same survey last year.

The ranking also comes after the country dropped nine notches to 50th place in the 2018 World Competitive Rankings, despite its status as a rising economy in the region.

Democracy down, corporate greed up

In its report, the ITUC said there was a "shrinking democratic space for working people" and "unchecked corporate greed" worldwide. It noted that arbitrary arrests and detention of workers rose to a count of 59 this year, up from 44 last year. It also reported that freedom of speech was constrained in 54 countries.

"Democracy is under attack in countries that fail to guarantee people's right to organise, speak out and take action," said ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow.

"Decent work and democratic rights grew weaker in almost all countries, while inequality continued to grow," she added.

Burrow also called out the tech giant Samsung for "anti-union practices [that] deny workers freedom of association and collective bargaining rights."

She also slammed commerce company Amazon for "treating workers like robots" and "threatening to halt its expansion in Seattle over tax proposals to create affordable housing." Amazon is primarily based in Seattle, Washington.

The ITUC index also found that 65 percent of countries excluded some groups from labor laws; 87 percent violated the right to strike; and 81 percent deny some or all workers collective bargaining.