Labor, industry reps sign communiqué to work together

By Cher Jimenez
Published on the November 29, 2006 issue of the BusinessMirror

LABOR and industry representatives hope to turn globalization from a problem to an opportunity for increased productivity and competitiveness as they sign a joint social communiqué Tuesday that, first and foremost, intends to end the traditional animosity between them.

The joint statement entitled “Social Partnership on Decent Work, Productivity and Competitiveness,” was launched Tuesday at the Club Filipino in San Juan, an effort that was initiated by the Fair Trade Alliance (FTA) and the Federation of Philippine Industries (FPI).

Signatories to the agreement that include various private employers and labor unions agree to address the “root causes and the multifaceted dimensions of the nation’s eroding agro-industrial base and its negative impact on employment and social stability.”

In putting into practice what they had agreed upon since initial discussions in 2003, labor and employers agree to adopt the principle of “social partnering.”

Former Sen. Wigberto Tañada, FTA lead convenor, said it is about time that labor and employers work together to save the country’s weakening local industries.

“Their social partnering could not have come at a more opportune time. In fact, in truth, this has been long overdue for we have been in deep economic crisis for such a long time. With our weak economic performance over the last 30 years under the neo-liberal economic program of accelerated, nonconsultative, one-sided liberalization, our agro-industrial base has been eroded and continues to be eroded.

Thus, our dream of industrialization remains a dream,” Tañada noted.

“With the signing of this social communiqué, labor and employers have agreed to overcome and transcend their traditional industrial enmities, discord and hostility. Not only that, they have also agreed to build a new productive win-win industrial relationship based on mutual trust and confidence,” he added.

Jesus Arranza, FPI president, expressed hope that with this new partnership the “government will set in not as a referee but as a nurturer.”

Meneleo Carlos Jr., FPI’s chairman of the board, explained that “globalization could turn from a problem to an opportunity” as productivity and competitiveness result from industrial peace.

One major issue that is killing the domestic industry, according to Jose Umali Jr., national secretary-general of the Union Network International-Philippine Liaison Council, is smuggling.

Tañada said the illegal entry of goods despite low tariff has been “killing the domestic industry” and is depriving the government of billions of pesos in revenues.

According to him, estimated losses due to smuggling have reached P175 billion a year and have been a major reason why manufacturing plants close down.

The FPI’s involvement in the endeavor, said the former senator, clearly shows its strong effect on local employers.

By next month, labor and employer representatives are scheduled to meet again “to put flesh in the framework” with academe headed by the University of the Philippines School of Labor and Industrial Relations (UP SOLAIR) acting as third party.

Asked if this agreement would mean an end to labor strikes, the participants say it may lessen labor disputes, but that is just a concern secondary to increasing productivity and competitiveness

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