MANILA—The Philippines and its Asean partners have agreed to work together in the implementation of industrial relations practices as embodied in the Asean Industrial Relation Guidelines adopted during the 21st Asean Labor Ministers Meeting in Hanoi, Vietnam last May 2010.

In his closing remarks at the 3rd Regional Seminar on Industrial Relations (Asean-ILO/Japan Industrial Relations Project) last week, Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) Undersecretary Hans Leo Cacdac said Asean member states have agreed “to make their labour laws clear, reasonable, practical, and effectively and evenly implemented.”

“We have also identified tripartism and social dialogue as the necessary platform to tackle problems and work on complex challenges and issues,” he said.

Cacdac, one of the leading members of the Philippine delegation to the seminar, had presented points of interest for the participants to further reflect on and consider moving forward for their next steps. Some of these are the following;

* The tripartite partners are putting more value on policies and practices toward skills enhancement which will impact employability and productivity;

* Many of the social partners are realizing the need to put more emphasis on linking wages within the context of productivity among workers and employers;

* In terms of machinery, it appears that most social partners in the Asean and in Japan are learning the lessons of how costly, lengthy, and counterproductive labour court proceedings could be;

* A scan of the indicators as well as of the interventions have shown that the benefit of conciliation and mediation services, or those machineries that rely on face-to-face dispute settlements, could actually serve the best interest of both parties; and

* Asean member states are at varying levels of attaining freedom of association, and in making use of tripartism and using social dialogues as means of getting our sectors’ concerns across.

“Some of us have very strong tripartite presence even at the highest policymaking and law-making levels. Some of us are building our tripartite industry partnerships. But this one is true: we have been able to put to good use the tripartite machineries and processes that we have built in our respective countries; and that such machineries are also influencing policies that could reshape the way we engage each other in the future,” Cacdac observed.

The DoLE undersecretary said that given these inputs, and the output of the contemplated special session on social safety nets during the 15th Asian Regional Meeting in Kyoto, Japan in February next year, he would hazard to “propose the development of a technical cooperation program with the International Labour Organization (ILO) and Japan on (1) tripartite technical visits or exchange visits among Asean on good industrial relations practices, and (2) capability-building.”

“Our two-day sharing of experiences on legal framework and practices on labor dispute and settlement have afforded us two things: one, the opportunity to re-examine our respective legal framework and dispute settlement mechanisms guided by the insights shared by our Asean neighbors’ laws and practices; and two, realization of the commonality of our issues and concerns, foremost of which are on increasing non-regular employment or the precariousness of employment, and the efficiency and effectiveness of dispute settlement systems as they impact on our respective thrusts to improve productivity and competitiveness,” he said.

He further observed that the discussions made seminar participants appreciate more the urgent need to cooperate further on what they could do together as members of the region.

“Which way to take would vary depending on our respective country’s cultures and peculiarities. There is no sure-fire formula for all of us, but there are common principles to guide us—all embedded in the ILO core labor standards and adopted in the Asean Guidelines on Good Industrial Relations Practices, which was the product of the 1st Regional Seminar under this project,” Cacdac said.

In her address to the seminar participants on the first day, Labor and Employment Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz thanked the Asean-ILO/Japan Industrial Relations Project for choosing the Philippines as host of the 3rd Regional Seminar on Industrial Relations.

“With our DoLE-initiated reforms of de-judicializing” the labor dispute settlement system through alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, like the mandatory conciliation-mediation using Single Entry Approach, we will highlight these initiatives in the seminar through the active participation of the tripartite Philippine delegation,” Baldoz emphasized. –