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“Law is only a word on a piece of paper unless it is made to work,” said Mr. John Michael Honney, International Labour Organization (ILO) Chief Technical Adviser, during the 5-day Trainers’ Training on International Labour Standards, Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining held on 21-25 January 2013 at the Sunrise Holiday Mansion, Alfonso, Cavite.

Consistent with the platform and policy pronouncements of the present administration in promoting the constitutionally protected rights of workers and aligning our country’s labor policies with international treaties and conventions, the ILO and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) through the Bureau of Labor Relations (BLR), jointly conducted the said capacity-building which involved 23 participants – 18 from DOLE and 5 from the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA). DOLE participants were from the DOLE Regional and Field Offices, Bureau of Labor Relations (BLR), and Bureau of Working Conditions (BWC).

The primary objectives of the trainers’ training are to inculcate common understanding and interpretation among DOLE implementers on the international labour standards, specifically on ILO Convention Nos. 87 and 98 on Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining, respectively, and to develop modules which shall be used by DOLE implementers in the conduct of further trainings to stakeholders.

Joining the training in addition to Mr. Honney and assumed primary roles were ILO Consultants Mr. David Tagjman, who led the conduct of the training using modules designed specifically on international labour standards and the principles of freedom of association and collective bargaining, and Atty. Benedicto Ernesto Bitonio, Jr., who grounded the international concepts to local legislations, cases and experiences.

“Instead of concentrating on explaining what conventions are, focus on explaining why we have such conventions – who decided and why”, Mr. Tajgman emphasized.

In addition to the main modules on ILS, freedom of association and collective bargaining, Mr. Tajgman also appended a module on Tripartite Declaration of Principles concerning Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy, stressing therein the significance of corporate social responsibility.

Mr. Tajgman described corporate social responsibility as “doing better than the minimum requirements of the law” and advised the participants on the importance of looking into the human rights dimensions of international labour standards, conventions and tripartite declarations as these are the essence of these laws.

During the training’s culmination, proposals were raised concerning the institutionalization of the modules as part of the labor and employment education program.

“There must be an intermediate process where inputs could be incorporated for the finalization of the modules and for the conduct of succeeding trainings where the national consultants could cascade their learnings to their colleagues”, said Atty. Bitonio. It was assured by Mr. Honney that the ILO shall be coordinating closely with the BLR to come up with a resolution on this matter and finalize the follow-through trainings of the program.

In closing, Mr. Honney emphasized that “international labor standards, in many ways, involve three important R’s – rights, respect and responsibility”.

The ILO adviser said that rights must be respected but people should also understand that there are responsibilities as well in pursuing those rights in order to achieve a win-win situation for all stakeholders, thus stressing the significance of being prime movers in translating law into practice.

This joint undertaking underscored everyone’s duty, especially of DOLE and ILO, to help employers and workers understand and ingrain these standards into their system to eventually reinforce the environment for mutual respect and inclusive growth.

Through the conduct of the aforesaid training which will be followed by further capacity-building initiatives strengthening the ranks of DOLE implementers, and the development of institutionalized training modules on ILS, it is believed that vital mechanisms for reform are judiciously being established and concretized.