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A Manager’s Viewpoint

ILO and jobcontracting

JUNE IS the month where 187 member states of the ILO convene in Geneva, Switzerland, for the annual ILO conference, or ILC for short. ILO is the highest decision-making UN-affiliated body on labor and social policy issues. It adopts Conventions, Recommendations, Resolutions and Conclusions. A Convention when ratified by our Philippine Senate forms part of the law of the land.

The Philippine delegation, was headed by outgoing DOLE Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz, with four from the employers’ sector and four from labor. 14 observers each were allowed from both labor and employers. The observers, of course, paid for their fares, hotel and other related expenses.

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ILO was created in 1919, after the first world war, premised on the belief that “universal and lasting peace can only be accomplished if it is based on social justice” against the background of exploitation of workers in the industrializing nations at that time. ILO takes seriously any charge of violation of labor’s rights and social protection.

When a complaint, for instance, is lodged against any member state, ILO sends a Committee of Experts to investigate it. 36 cases of labor-related violence, killings, or disappearance were lodged against the Philippines in the past mostly by the KMU. 11 were so far verified to be true.

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The point is, ILO, has always been viewed with utmost respect by its members. This year’s 108 IlC session which began May 30 and ended June 11 treated on four principal agenda. Our employer’s delegation head, Atty. Ancheta Tan assigned me to the most contentious one under the innocuous-sounding title of “Decent Work in the Global Supply Chain.”

The text used as basis for discussions are in three (3) major languages: English, French and Spanish. In all fora, however, whether Sectoral (Government, Workers or Employers), Tripartite Committee, or Plenary, discussions are automatically translated into 6 major languages, English, French, Spanish, Russian, Chinese and Arabic. Other languages like Portuguese, Japanese or Korean, maybe provided upon previous request to the secretariat.

The nuances of each language can sometimes create funny instances. In our Committee, for example, several years ago, the Spanish delegate objected to the English words “disaggregated gender” because the gender in Spanish means “it” and he did not like the word “it” because it means a thing rather than a man or woman. So the word “gender” was changed to “sex.” The amended English text “disaggregated sex” drew a lot of guffaws from the non-Spanish participants.

Amendments to the original text are almost endless. Oftentimes, one could hear the presiding officer saying, “there is a sub-sub amendment to the sub-amendment to the amendment of the first sentence in par. 3.” “Let’s first resolve the sub-sub amendment.” Deadlocks are sometimes resolved by the show of hands, i. e., through voting. Almost always, the government group breaks the deadlock by voting in favor of the labor’s stand.

Discussions are sometimes a battle of semantics. Our Committee, for example, had to work till 1:00 AM on the penultimate day just to arrive at a consensus and came out with the final agreed Resolution.

It is interesting to note that the finally-approved Resolution and Conclusions on “Decent Work in Global Supply Chains,” does not propose the abolition of job contracting, sub-contracting, outsourcing or ‘contractualization’ as some pejoratively calls it.

On the contrary, the 14-page ILO document admits in its first par. that the global supply chains “have contributed to economic growth, job creation, poverty reduction and entrepreneurship and can contribute to a transition from the informal to the formal economy. They can be an engine of development by promoting technology transfer, adopting new production practices and moving into higher valued-added activities, which would enhance skills development, productivity and competitiveness.”

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The second paragraph talks of the positive impact of global supply chains in that it “increases their (workers) chances of getting a foothold in the world of formal work, doing well for themselves and their families and succeeding in life.”

Of course, this historic ILO document admits of “work deficits for working conditions such as in the areas of occupational safety and health, wages, working time, and which impact on the employment relationships and the protections it can offer. Such failures have also contributed to the undermining of labor rights, particularly freedom of association and collective bargaining.”

Precisely, D.O. 18-A more than allays the fears expressed in this ILO instrument. It is in this context that we fervently hope the incoming administration will look dispassionately at the issue of contractualization, our country being a compliant member state of the ILO and, keeping in mind its benefit to our economy and country as a whole.

(The author is Chairman of Change Management International, Inc., a management consultancy firm. He is past president of PMAP, past president of Society of Fellows in Personnel Management. He is currently Vice-President of ECOP and Vice-President of ECOP Institute of Productivity and Competitiveness. He is a member of the Tripartite Industrial Peace Council (TIPC), Tripartite Executive Committee (TEC), representing the employer sector. He is a Commissioner of the Tripartite Voluntary Arbitration Advisory Council (TVAAC). He is co-author of the revised book of the late Perfecto Sison now entitled: “Personnel Management in the 21st Century” and author of the book, “Human Resources Management – From the Practitioner’s Point of View.” His email address is: [email protected])

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