Role of Government in Improving Industrial Relations

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The topic description provided by the organizers of this roundtable wishes the discussions to be “centered on how the government can assist in providing more efficient welfare for labor which will essentially reduce the possible sources of friction between labor and management.”

The “new” approach suggests to achieve industrial peace through social protection and promotion of social welfare of labor. It means that, aside from acting as the arbiter of social conflict, the government should take a proactive role in reducing social and industrial conflicts by acting on its source, that is, by improving the institutional arrangements to welfare of labor and its share in the wealth of the nation, The FFW has a list of proposals in this respect contained in its most recent Policy and Program of Action, which it offers as a basis for entering into a social dialogue with the social partners.2

Two concepts may be useful in discussing this objective. The first refers to the framework of “decent work”; the other to the principle of subsidiarity. The framework of decent work defines what should be done to promote the welfare of labor. The principle of subsidiarity shows how and what can be done by the social partners for the same purpose.

Decent Work
The concept of decent work is now adopted by the ILO as the main guiding principle of its action. According to the ILO, decent work has four main pillars. These are promoting respect core international labor standards; generating decent and productive employment; improving social protection and encouraging social dialogue. In the Philippines, the ILO in cooperation with the social partners is set 1 Paper contribution by Antonio C. Asper, Executive Assistant to the FFW President, to the Roundtable Discussion on “Furthering Workers’ Welfare Whilst Improving Labor Productivity and Increasing Firms’ Competitiveness: New Role of Government in Improving Industrial Relations”, conducted by the Angelo King Institute of the De La Salle University (AKI-DLSU), on November 22, 2001, at Traders Royal Hotel, Manila

2 See FFW Policy and Program of Action for the Period 2001 to 2006. to launch a country program that will attempt to demonstrate how to address the country’s deficit in decent work.
In Chapter 2 of the Medium Term Philippine Development Plan (MTPDP) on “Providing Full, Decent and Productive Employment”, for the first time, the MTPDP elevated employment as a chapter, ensconced decent work as a framework and defines it as a condition where “rights of work are protected, adequate income is generated, social protection is provided and democratic processes are guaranteed through tripartism and social dialogue. Decent employment also entails the continuous improvement of workers’ personal capabilities through a build-up in competitive skills and positive work ethics.”3 The elevation of employment as a chapter of the MTPDP was a product of social dialogue that was expressed during the Employment Summit in March 2001 and its preparatory meetings. More particularly, it was drawn-up during the multisectoral consultations conducted by NEDA and DOLE to finalize the MTPDP, and which will again be taken up in the forthcoming Socio-Economic Summit in December 10, 2001.

When the decent work framework in the MTPDP is taken together with the Chapter on Human Development, and the State of the Nation Address of the President last July 2001, it would seem that the welfare of labor has concretely been taken into account by government, at least at the level of policy statement. What remains to be done is to properly allocate scarce government resources to translate policies into concrete and viable plans, programs and projects with immediate impact on the workers and the poor. Often, here is where the gap lies: the policy statements are not translated in terms of budgets in the General Appropriations Act or in the guidelines and releases made by the Department of Budget Management. Politicking dominates who...
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