Youth week—the future of the trade union movement: Philippines

By Natacha David, ICFTU OnLine…, 236/981105/ND, 5 November 1998

October 30 has been declared the world day of action for young workers. The ICFTU and the International Union of Socialist Youth (IUSY) are marking the day with a series of initiatives to be carried out in over 100 countries, aimed at promoting the rights of young people at the workplace. ICFTU OnLine, the ICFTU's dispatch service, will distribute articles throughout the week on the situation of young workers. To join the campaign, see the new Youth page on this site.

Brussels, November 05, 1998 (ICFTU OnLine): Employers are using the crisis to dismiss workers at will. It is a pretext that allows them to restructure at little cost. There are many cases of employers who make workers on a regular contract redundant and replace them, shortly afterwards, with workers on temporary contracts. Obviously this costs them a lot less because they only have to pay their wages, with no social security contributions. In the Philippines, temporary workers don't have the right to social security, nor do they have the right to join a union. When they sack workers, employers apply the ‘last in, first out' rule. With the result that it is the young workers who are the first to go, explains Alex Aguilar, TUCP spokesperson and youth secretary. Alex joined the TUCP after his first experience of work, which affected him deeply, in the cleaning sector, a very tough world, with wages below the legal minimum and no job security, where people expect a lot from their union.

From a national viewpoint, the TUCP negotiates with employers to try to limit the number of dismissals. It has also asked the government to allocate financial resources for youth training, because there is a big gap between the education provided in schools and the needs of industry. Recently, the youth committee launched a letter campaign to ask the IMF and the World Bank to release funds specifically allocated to young people, particularly young women. We are also asking the government to launch job creating programmes on the basis of labour intensive activities to absorb some of the young jobless.

In the export processing zones, like elsewhere, the last to be hired are usually the first to be fired, with no social security to help them. Young women (18-25 years old) represent 90 per cent of the workforce in the export processing zones. The employers prefer them because they are very dextrous and because they are considered more passive and less likely to fight for better wages and social benefits. The TUCP has set up a team, composed mainly of young women, specialised in organising in the export processing zones. It is quite an original strategy in the sense that they do not organise at the workplace, instead they contact the young women in their homes. After work, they go door to door. It is more difficult, but we have no choice, we have to adapt our strategies to the situation on the ground, and change the way we operate. And it works, because despite the huge number of restrictions on trade union organising in the export processing zones, we have succeeded in two years in creating 27 trade unions where there were none before.