• Readers react on relevance of unions

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    IN a November 2014 column, I asked if labor unions are still relevant. I wrote about the decline if not the absence of unionism in many 21st century workplaces, for instance, in the business process outsourcing industry. And I argued about the urgent need for unions to evolve from their traditional practices in order to stay relevant.

    Online, I got very interesting and incisive replies.

    Danilo Reyes says:
    “I ask that myself. Is a labor union still relevant? There is an ambivalent feeling at least in my workplace. Our labor union gave millions of dollars to a governor and a president last election cycle. Both won largely because of union money. What did we get in return? Nothing, zip, nada, walang-wala. In our last collective bargaining agreement, the management offered six percent increase over a period of three years and agreed to pay health care insurance increase. Our union bosses refused, they wanted more. So we went on strike. After five days, because our agency is an essential government institution, the management and our union leaders went back to the table. Guess what? Our union bosses agreed to the six percent pay raise over a period of three years. They caved in. I lost three days’ worth of pay for nothing. But our union leaders declared victory. My work environment is a stress-filled one. You can lose your job easily. Any worker can be subject to an investigation any moment for failing to document a conversation with a client and although you will have a chance to defend yourself, literally policies will spring out in the investigation that you never heard or read before. Our union representative will be useless in advocating for us. We are as they say on pins and needles. So we preoccupy ourselves with covering our bases and not in providing services to our clients. Mind you we pay our union enormous amount of money to defend us but we still get suspensions or some fired for something over things we often do not have control. Our way of avoiding getting fired is, go on stress leave, medical leave, or just quit. Certainly, there is a place for union in the workplace, but they should define who they are working for. Union bosses for the most part are seduced by the stage and power, so they promise the money they collect from us to politicians who can provide them the stage and power. This is what discourages me about union. It uses my money for their self-aggrandizement.”

    Lino says:
    “Unionism is a cause of corruption. Unionism is a source of contractual concept where security tenure is sacrificed. In 1980’s contractual concept is limited to factory workers only. But today included already are the professionals who also cannot find stable jobs. Employers today hire their labor force from local agencies to avoid their employees from joining unions and to avoid payment of retirement benefits. There is no more protection now for employees.”

    Andres says:
    “Labor unions in this country are just fronts for either leftist group or a dynasty of scammers who are using poor workers’ blood and money just to enrich their own family while the poor workers are still suffering from slave wage pay and unfair treatment. A true labor union should be owned by the workers themselves and not by some scamming lawyer and his family who are just pretending to represent workers’ welfare but in fact he and his own family are just using union money as their own ATM machine. Labor unions in the US are almost irrelevant now a days because of its ties to Mafia and other big time crime syndicates. Here in the Philippines they’re still thriving, union leaders robbing their members of their union dues for nothing in return, selling their votes to politicians in exchange for favors. Labor unions are supposed to be a force of the workers to counter government and capitalist abuses against them. But now it has just become a simple money scam by some dirty lawyers with goons.”

    Amnata Pundit says:
    “You want to be relevant? Devote all your talents and energy to unionizing the BPO sector. They are today’s modern equivalent of the sweatshop, where exploitation is the driving force behind all those profits.”

    Jun Adan says:
    “Mr. Herrera since you are the president of Trade Unions of the Philippines, a labor leader and Senator, who supposedly fights for and promotes labor unions, you should answer your own question! Where are the labor unions that are supposed to protect and give job security to workers? Where is the mandatory law which compels enforced memberships to labor unions once you gain entry into the workforce. Labor unions get busted by the employer making the worker on a temporary three-month hire and then automatically terminated and rehired later. This revolving door employment is the monster that kills labor unions, which the government goes along with. The country must revive strong unionism to compel equal distribution of wealth. Currently, while there is economic growth but it only substantially benefits the capitalist/shareholders but does not trickle down to laborer/workers. The government must ban employers from contract employment for specific term but rather must compel employers to provide job security based on performance and termination for legal cause not based on term period. Mr. Herrera, having been a Senator for sometime, how did you make labor union more relevant and provide job security to encourage membership to labor unions and strengthened unionism. It seems to me that the existing labor laws are interpreted more to employer/capital benefits and the NLRC rulings are more pro-capital/employer, which weakens unionism and discourages membership to labor unions since it does not provide incentives of job security to members. What do you think, Mr. Herrera?”

    I will answer this last one in a future column. Many thanks for your valid comments and reactions.

    ernestoboyherrera@yahoo.com

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