Labor group launches Workers’ Rights Watch (WRW) on the eve of Araw ng Kagitingan

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Amidst growing concerns over labor rights violations, the Federation of Free Workers (FFW) announced the initiation of the FFW Workers’ Rights Watch (WRW) in Mindanao on the closing day of a pivotal conference attended by FFW union leaders from across the island of Mindanao.

“This initiative comes at a critical moment as trade unions and labor rights defenders face unprecedented challenges in defending the rights and dignity of workers worldwide,” said union president Elisa Roa of the Philippine Sinter Corporation Metal Workers Union-FFW based in Villanueva, Misamis Oriental.

On the Day of Valor, April 9th, FFW draws inspiration from the legendary courage of the defenders of Bataan and Corregidor, urging workers to emulate their bravery by organizing themselves into unions.

“In the face of adversity, the spirit of these historic defenders of Philippine sovereignty shines as a beacon of courage, encouraging workers—modern patriots and fighters—not to fear the pursuit of their right to organize and engage in collective bargaining with employers,” said Roa, who is also a law student at the Liceo de Cagayan – College of Law.

TROUBLING LABOR SITUATION

The past year has been particularly troubling, the FFW said. “Trade unions reported to the International Labor Organization (ILO) High-Level Tripartite Mission that in the Philippines about 68 killings of trade union leaders and organizers since 2016, alongside several hundreds of incidents of harassment and violence against trade union leaders and organizers.”

Roa added: “Trade union and human rights defenders should not suffer as a result of fighting for workers’ rights. Defending workers should not come at the expense of the defenders’ life.”

There were four more trade union killings under the Marcos administration including the death of Alex Dolorosa and Jude Fernandez. Last month, trade unions and civil society were up in arms over the abduction of workers and environmentalists Eco Dangla and Jak Tiong.

CALL FOR COLLECTIVE ACTION

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“These names and numbers not only highlight the risks associated with defending workers’ rights but also underscore the urgent need for collective action and solidarity among workers,” FFW said, adding that the “launch of the Workers’ Rights Watch aims to serve as both a shield and a rallying cry for workers.”

 “By monitoring, documenting, and acting against violations of labor rights, FFW’s WRW seeks to protect and empower workers and their unions,” union leader Roa added. “We want to be proactive and to aggressively prevent future occurrences of killings and violence perpetrated by state authorities and private entities against workers.”

Roa further voiced out: “As we commemorate the valor of those who fought for our freedoms, FFW calls on all workers to stand united in the fight for their rights. The courage of those who defended Bataan and Corregidor remains a powerful inspiration for us all, reminding us of the strength found in unity and the importance of defending our rights against all odds. The FFW’s Workers’ Rights Watch is not just an initiative. It is a declaration of our collective resolve to ensure that the rights of workers are respected, protected, and fulfilled. We invite all stakeholders, including the government, employers, and the international community, to join us in this noble cause, for in the defense of workers’ rights lies the foundation for a just, equitable, and prosperous society,” said Roa.

The FFW intiative is supported by the Danish Trade Union Development Agency (DTDA).

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