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The Department of Labor and Employment, together with the International Labour Organization, jointly conducted the National Consultative Forum on Collective Bargaining on 23 June 2014 at the OSHC, Diliman Quezon City, as part of the continuing Technical Cooperation Program arising from the ILO High Level Mission in 2009.

The event aimed at strengthening collective bargaining and social dialogue mechanisms in the country.

In his welcome remarks, Dir. Alex Avila, DOLE-NCR, stressed the importance of the event in generating inputs for the crafting of a national policy on collective bargaining. He said, “This forum gives us a meaningful exchange of ideas and experiences as we jointly contemplate the future of collective bargaining in the country as a vital social function”.

Also present in the event is Usec. Rebecca Chato who delivered a keynote message on behalf of the Secretary mentioning that it is the first time that a specific event was devoted for collective bargaining. “This forum is long overdue; we have been discussing bits and pieces of the topic informally,” Usec. Chato expressed.

Deputy Dir. Carla Henry, ILO-Country Office for the Philippines, who also delivered a message during the opening ceremonies, said that freedom of association and collective bargaining are human rights that provide employers and workers organizations to be part of a dialogue on government policies and programs that lead to sustainable and inclusive growth. “The goal of inclusive growth through decent work is crucial to ensure that growth contributes to the well being of the people and benefits the society,” she explained.

The event was attended by various members of employer organizations, labor groups, and government sector and the academe who listened to the presentation of former DOLE Undersecretary and NLRC Chairman Atty. Benedicto Ernesto Bitonio, Jr, the resource speaker of the forum. His lecture revolved on the state of Industrial Relations and Collective Bargaining in the Philippines.   

“We do not see any significant contribution of the process of collective bargaining helping people in times of crisis in the Philippines,” said Atty. Bitonio. “What we need is not a re-arrangement of furniture, but a new house, a new industrial relations system,” referring to the policies governing collective bargaining and freedom of association to become responsive to the needs of the present labor market. “If we want to move collective bargaining and freedom of association further, we need to design a new house. It is good to learn from the experiences of other countries, but we have to fit it to the local context; given the nuances of our own labor market,” Atty. Bitonio concluded.  

Members of the labor and employers sector were given the opportunity to present their thoughts on the lecture of Atty. Bitonio, including the problems they encounter in the field and recommendations for the improvement of collective bargaining. Moreover, members of the academe led by Dean Rene Ofreneo of UP-SOLAIR and Atty. Evelyn (Leo) Battad of UP-College of Law graced the event and provided their insights on the topic.

The event was concluded with the synthesis of BLR OIC Dir. Benjo Santos M. Benavidez on the recommendations given by the different stakeholders.

The forum is just the beginning of a series of meetings that aims at crafting a national policy on collective bargaining.