The Histadrut joins the global protest against oppression of labor leaders in the Philippines: Histadrut Chairman Arnon Bar-David sent a letter to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte last week demanding an end to acts of violence and harassment by the government against trade union activists in the country. Earlier this week (Tuesday), activists from the Youth Trade Union of the Federation of Working and Studying Youth and members of the Dror Israel movement demonstrated in front of the Philippine Embassy in Tel Aviv, protesting government persecution of labor union leaders in the Philippines. This persecution includes accusing union leaders of terrorist activity while conducting arbitrary arrests, and even shooting at activists. The protesters also demanded that the government ensure freedom for organized labor in the country. The demonstration was part of a worldwide effort decrying violations of freedom of association in the Philippines, on December 10, International Human Rights Day.
"The Histadrut, which represents 800,000 workers in Israel, strongly condemns the recent arrests and raids of union leaders in the Philippines," wrote Bar-David to Duterte.
Duterte was elected President of the Philippines in 2016, which has since displayed a consistent deterioration in its commitment to upholding human rights. According to labor organizations in the Philippines, the government and security forces are persecuting them and accusing them of terrorist activities. 43 union activists have been arrested and executed without trial. World Education, an organization that unites teachers' unions worldwide, recently posted about a series of harassment and repression attempts against the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) – its affiliate teachers union in the Philippines. Among other things, it was reported that two teachers in the organization were recently shot in their classroom, in front of their students, by masked assailants, and one was seriously injured. Police also reportedly raided several offices of the organization and at least one regional chairperson was arrested.
"For us, as part of the global labor movement, it is very important to stand alongside our colleagues around the world," said Peter Lerner, executive director of the international relations division at the Histadrut. "Solidarity is the essence of the global labor movement, and we always have to stand with and strengthen those who fight for the most basic rights, such as the right to unionize."
"Contrary to the principle of freedom of association"
In a letter to the President of the Philippines, Bar-David wrote that "the creation of state-led stigmas against labor organizations due to their ideology has been going on for too long in the Philippines, in contravention of the principle of freedom of association. Trade unions are labeled as the legal front of armed underground movements. Government officials plant weapons and ammunition to justify fabricated charges against union activists, and the activists are repeatedly arrested on charges of possession. The recent arrests and raids have exacerbated the already existing coercive atmosphere that effectively prevents workers from forming and joining workers organizations, and also prevents organizations from carrying out their legitimate activities. "
In addition, Bar-David noted, "It is the duty of every member state of the International Labor Organization to promote and ensure a climate that is free from violence, coercion and threats of any kind addressed to leaders of workers organizations and their families, as part of the upholding the rights and freedoms set forth in the organization's 87th and 98th Conferences. These include the right to freedom from arbitrary detention, and to fair and independent judicial proceedings … It is absolutely forbidden for state actions and national security forces to target trade unionists, intervene in labor relations and force people to cancel their trade unions memberships."
Bar-David demanded that the Philippine government stop the negative labeling of legitimate labor organizations and union activists in the Philippines, follow the recommendations of the International Labor Organization (ILO) standards committee of June 2019, and allow World Health Organization staff to visit the country as soon as possible. Bar-David noted that the Histadrut joins the call of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), to encourage the intervention of Silvestre Bello III, the Secretary of Labor and Employment of the Philippines, with the police and military, to discuss and investigate recent arrests and raids and the negative labeling of trade unions, and to conduct an accelerated investigation of the trade union's claim that 43 activists were executed without trial. He further called for enforcement of government directives on workers' rights. "The Histadrut stands in solidarity with our members in the Philippines and closely monitors the state of human rights in the country," concluded Bar-David.
Yotam Tirkel, a secretary of the youth trade Union at the Federation of Working and Studying Youth, spoke to Davar about the protest against the Philippine Embassy: "We faced the embassy with signs against the oppression of workers in the Philippines. During the demonstration, an employee of the embassy came out and asked to speak with us. We demanded the immediate intervention of the Philippine government. She took our letter, saying that she welcomes the fact that workers organizations and workers in Israel stand alongside the workers in the Philippines."