Senator Joel Villanueva lauded the recent concurrence of the Senate to ratify the International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention 151, an international treaty that will finally give adequate protection to the country’s 2.3 million civil servants, specifically, against acts of anti-union discrimination in respect of their employment.
Villanueva, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources Development, co-sponsored and endorsed the Senate concurrence on the ratification of the said treaty.
The senator said that the approval of ILO Convention 151 serves as a fitting recognition to the dedication of our country’s public servants and to the people they dutifully serve.
Prior to the ILO Convention 151, the Philippine government has ratified several ILO treaties in the past such as the ILO Convention 87 on “Freedom of Association”, ILO Convention 98 on the “Right to Organize and Collectively Bargain” and ILO Convention 144 concerning “Tripartite Consultation”. It likewise complements Executive Order 180, serving as a model in improving labor relations in government.
The Philippines has also recently made history as it becomes the first country in the Asia-Pacific to concur in the ratification of ILO Convention 151.
“We thank our colleagues in the Senate for their overwhelming support to ratify this important treaty for the benefit of our civil servants who have selflessly devoted their career in public service,” Villanueva said.
"No country has ever developed without a strong, professional, and modern government bureaucracy. We need them now, more than ever, as we wish to transition to an upper middle-income economy,” Villanueva stressed.
Villanueva further underscored the importance of the said treaty in enabling the public servants to be effective partners in development. Through the convention, civil servants are now armed with rights to collective bargaining and negotiation which they hardly had before compared to their counterparts in the private sector.
As of January 2015, data from the Civil Service indicate that of the 1,944 registered unions in the public sector, only 992 or less than half have achieved accreditation status, while only 813 have collective negotiation agreements.
“This situation deprives many civil servants of rights enjoyed by their private sector counterparts. The main reason for this is that union registration and accreditation has been subjected to various policy changes over the years, thereby making some employees unable to meet the requirements to establish unions. We know that like some workers, civil servants can also experience unfair working conditions and practices by management.”
Adding to the said problem is the confusion between workers and management’s understanding of “management prerogative.” One example is in the Public Sector Labor Management Council (PSLMC) wherein workers are mere observers with no right to vote on cases lodged in the body, and more recently, they are relegated to the technical working group level participation.
Union activities are also stifled given the lack of definitive mechanisms on conciliation and mediation and dispute resolution in the public sector, leading to demoralization and unresolved issues between management and workers.
“Our concurrence to ILO Convention 151 is not an end in itself. It is merely continuing our avowed commitment to strengthen and protect our workers which include the civil servants. A vibrant collective bargaining in the public sector encourages workers to design their standards and codes of conduct.”
Aside from the safeguards the ILO Convention 151 will afford to the right of the civil servants, Villanueva also believes that the treaty’s ratification will help prevent the abuse of contractualization or ‘endo’ in the public sector.