Monday, June 28, 2010

Filipinos Mobilise British Union on Impunity in the Philippines

UK Filipinos mobilized inside one of Britains largest and most powerful trade unions last week, succeeding in getting its support for trade union rights in the Philippines and hosting a packed fringe meeting.

At the UNISON conference in Bournemouth held from June 14 - 18, Filipino workers for the first time addressed the more than 2,000 delegates, condemning the appalling human rights abuses suffered by workers in the Philippines and urging delegates to sign Motion 101.

Meanwhile, at the fringe meeting, Violation of Trade Union Rights in the Philippines, jointly hosted by Campaign for Human Rights in the Philippines (CHRP), Amnesty International UK and UNISON, speakers informed delegates of the human rights situation in the Philippines and its links with migration and economic issues, also pressing delegates to sign the later passed motion calling on the UNISON National Executive Council (NEC) to seek greater linkages between UNISON and trade union movements in the Philippines, as well as working with the Filipino diaspora in combating trade and human rights violations in the country, pressuring the UK government to take a stronger line with the Philippines government and raising awareness of the situation in the Philippines.

In the main conference hall, Filipina Josefina Paez, from Wolverhampton, highlighted the case of Edward Panganiban. She told delegates that:
Filipino workers in the Philippines, like British workers, want to improve their pay and working conditions so they can provide better education, a better future and a decent standard of living for their families.

As a migrant worker, these are also my aspirations. As a union activist in the UK, I can pursue these aspirations with the support of my union, UNISON and with the help of fellow trade unionists, without fear of being killed or harm coming to my family.

Dong Dumilag, a Filipino living in Cardiff, Wales, spoke to delegates about the case of the Morong 43, pointing out to the conference that the case was taken by friends and relatives to the United Nations' Human Rights Council in Geneva during the preceding week.



He said: We want to campaign for the new government to stop impunity in the Philippines, prosecute those responsible for the murder and disappearances of workers, and to implement a sustainable economic programme so that Filipino workers are not forced to leave their country to earn a decent living.

At the fringe meeting, a panel chaired by Amnesty International Trade Union Campaign Manager Shane Enright, joined by guest speaker Dan Borjal, Kevin OGrady of the UNISON NEC International Committee, Jam Fagta of Campaign for Human Rights in the Philippines and Amnesty International Secretariat Southeast Asia Researcher Hazel Galang spoke to a packed room of delegates before engaging in a lively question and answer session.



Mr Borjal, who flew in from Holland to address the fringe meeting, urged delegates to condemn the culture of impunity that surrounds extra-judicial killings in the Philippines, highlighting the job scarcity, privatization and union busting techniques including assassination that pervade the country. Delegates were also reminded of the massacre of more than 50 people in Maguindanao in November last year and given an overview of the current political and economic situation in the Philippines.

Both speeches and the fringe meeting had a strong impact on delegates, with the union unanimously adopting a resolution supporting a campaign against impunity in the Philippines - the first time it has adopted any policy on the Philippines.


Around 250,000 Filipinos work in the UK, more than half in the health sector and public services: it is now apparent that they are emerging as an organized force ready to mobilize on issues of social justice back home.

Notes:
  • The Campaign for Human Rights in the Philippines was set up in July 2006 in response to the increasing number of political killings and human rights abuses taking place in the Philippines. Our objectives are: To put pressure on the Philippines Government to stop the political killings and defend human rights in the Philippines; to raise awareness in the UK about political repression in the Philippines with the aim of putting pressure on the Philippines Government to respect human rights; to spotlight British investment and trade links which benefit from human rights violations in the Philippines; to make links between the issues of poverty and political oppression in the Philippines and the situation of Filipino migrants in the UK.

  • UNISON Britain and Europe's biggest public sector union with more than 1.3 million members working in the public services, for private contractors providing public services and in the essential utilities. Members include frontline staff and managers working full or part time in local authorities, the NHS, the police service, colleges and schools, the electricity, gas and water industries, transport and the voluntary sector.

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