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EO establishing an interagency panel to investigate labor disputes signed.

Executive Order (EO) No. 23, which shows an inter-agency body to improve coordination and speed up the resolution of labor disputes across the Philippines, has been authorized by President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.

The Executive Order (EO) 23 of April 30, 2023, signed by Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin, strengthens and defends workers’ freedom of association and collective bargaining rights.

The EO took note of concerns from several groups regarding the Philippines’ implementation of ILO Convention No. 87 “in light of reported incidents of acts of violence, extrajudicial killings, harassment, suppression of trade union rights, and red-tagging allegedly perpetrated by State agents, targeting in particular, certain trade unions and workers’ organizations.”

“At the 108th session of the International Labor Conference (ILC) in June 2019, a high-level tripartite mission (HLTM) was established to look into the aforementioned reported incidents to support the Philippine government in acting swiftly and effectively on the following specific areas: (i) measures to prevent violence in relation to the exercise of legitimate activities by workers’ organizations; (ii) investigation of allegations of violence against members of workers’ organizations with a view of establishing the facts, determining culpability and punishing the perpetrators; (iii) operationalization of monitoring bodies; and (iv) measures to ensure that all workers, without distinction, can form and join organizations of their choosing, in accordance to ILO Convention No. 87,” the EO states.

According to the EO, the Executive Secretary will chair the Inter-Agency Committee for the Protection of the Freedom of Association and the Right to Organize Workers. The Department of Labor and Employment Secretary will serve as the committee’s vice chair.

The inter-agency panel will comprise the Departments of Justice, Interior and Local Government, National Defense, Trade and Industry, National Security Council, and Philippine National Police.

The EO said that the Inter-Agency Committee “may, as appropriate, request the attendance or participation of other relevant agencies, such as the Civil Service Commission and the Commission of Human Rights.”

The Inter-Agency Committee’s duties include compiling and evaluating all comprehensive reports, which contain findings and recommendations from concerned agencies to be submitted to the President; creating a roadmap that outlines priority areas for action, concrete deliverables, distinct roles, and suitable timelines that are in line with the HLTM’s recommendations.

The EO said the roadmap “shall be subject to regular review and should take into account the consolidated reports and recommendations from the concerned agencies and inputs from other relevant stakeholders.”

Additionally, according to the EO, “each of the concerned agencies shall designate a focal unit or office within the agency, to be headed by an official with a rank not below that of an Undersecretary, which shall monitor, evaluate, and report on the implementation and progress of agency action plans, initiatives relating to freedom of association and rights to organize and to collective bargaining.”

To address the concerns voiced by labor groups, responsible agencies are expected to make a joint effort, according to Labor Secretary Bienvenido Laguesma.

“The purpose of this is to take initiatives and solve the complaints stated in the report of” the ILO High-Level Tripartite Mission, Laguesma said in a media interview during the 121st Labor Day celebration at the SMX Convention Center in Pasay City.

Additionally, Laguesma mentions how the Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board is facilitating the review of petitions for wage increases.

‘Ang proseso po ay gumugulong, umiikot po ‘yan ngayon at umuusad ang atin po – at pinapabilis ng atin pong mga salary,” the speaker said.

The process is currently ongoing and progressing, and our wage boards are accelerating their deliberations so that the petitions that have been filed can be addressed, according to Laguesma. “Ang proseso po ay gumugulong, umiikot po ‘yan ngayon at umuusad ang atin po – at pinapabilis ng atin pong mga wage boards,” she said.

He highlighted that while the Board can adjust the prevailing minimum wage, it cannot take such action.

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