Ever saw avians flocking?

Flocking, a phenomenon simulated by birds, helps them identify themselves and keep them safe from predators. This mechanism is also present in our nature as humans. We tend to associate ourselves with groups and organizations to which we belong. Driven by a group's specific goals or vision or by the members themselves, who make us feel like we belong, are safe, and are protected.

With millions of workers in different fields across the country, our workers are also involving themselves in groups that are related to their background of work. This creates a bond and a space where they can share their concerns and raise issues with their respective employers, whether they are government agencies or private corporations.

Filipino workers are one of the lifelines of our economy. Without their skills and competence, our industry will be unstable. With all the work they render for their employer, the company, and clients, it would not be too much for them to have the right to express their disappointment and concerns with the company they're working with, and what governs them when they feel like they're no longer valued, hence, they need to be heard.

With that circumstance, some workers are motivated to partake in groups with the collective goal of making them heard, highlighting their rights as an employee and as a Filipino in this very nation.

If birds flock for protection, travel, and some sort of foraging, workers and employees form groups for collective bargaining.

What makes a labor union?

Guaranteed by the constitution and stipulated in Section 8 of Article III of the Bill of Rights, Filipinos employed in the private or public sector are given the right to join, organize, or form unions or groups.

This fundamental right is strengthened through the Labor Code of the Philippines, a legal code that governs labor practices, stating sets of conditions that ensure employees' and employers' rights to reasonable benefits and protection from undesirable intrusions and exploitation in the nature of their work.

With that being said, however, one cannot be recognized as a legitimate labor organization and enjoy the rights given if one does not register and comply with the necessary requirements specified by a department order of Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and the implementing rules found in Book V, Labor Relations, of the labor code of the Philippines.

The registration of labor organizations that will be processed and a certificate of registration issued by DOLE as mandated by the above-mentioned legal code, as amended, is important to acquiring legal personality and to enjoying the rights granted, thus making a registered and newly established union or organization a legitimate one to operate.

Who joins unions?

Employees commonly employed in different industries, sectors, private or public (e.g., rural agricultural sectors), learning institutions, and more can join or organize for a labor organization or workers' association.

There are two types of organizations or unions in the Philippines: the public sector union, or public employee organization, composed basically of government employees organized for a shared interest or motivation; and the private sector union, a union of employees working in the private sector with a similar mission for collective negotiations for their rights.

A specific number of workers is not a prerequisite to filing for the establishment of a recognized union, as long as twenty percent of the membership of the bargaining unit is achieved as stated in the said legal code.

What do labor unions aspire for?

To serve as a certified representative of the employees is one of the rights given to legitimate labor organizations that can perform collective bargaining. Unions serve as a driver, the bargaining representative to this process, collective bargaining, which, simply put, is a process in which they negotiate terms, contracts, talk about some labor issues, and address grievances raised by the employees towards their employers, or even the company; an example would be wage concerns.

Collective bargaining, just like how a labor group attains a certificate for legitimization of its organization, needs to follow a procedure of making it realized. A party (union) shall send a written notice towards the other party (employer) stating what it intends, and the other one should respond in the span not exceeding 10 days from receiving the notice.

When everything is negotiated, an agreement known as the Collection Bargaining Agreement (CBA), a serious undertaking, entailing the results that are agreed upon during the negotiations with respect to employee's concerns such as salary, protection in the workplace, and the like, amendments of some sort to previous work terms and conditions, and other labor-related improvements agreed upon by the parties involved is handed over and executed, and shall not be terminated or modified.

Being recognized as a legitimate union is a privilege because a duly recognized one can own property, real or personal, that can be of benefit to the member employees and the organization itself. Moreover, it is also right for the unions to engage themselves in other activities for the continuous growth and benefit of the members such as cooperative, housing and the like, abiding by the laws.

Unions strike

Groups and organizations have the right to make deals with corporations, organize protests, take a stand, give public opinions, and care for the welfare of their coworkers. Moreover, members can talk about how the government or private sector can listen to their concerns and take proper action against corrupt leadership.

In times when workers' rights are forgotten and their demands for something better will not be negotiated well, unions express their sentiments, and dissatisfactions to the administration, and some unions, to a later extent, use its last legal option, which is to organize a strike.

Strikes as defined in Book V of the Labor Code of the Philippines is the temporary stoppage of work by the concerted action of employees as a result of an industrial or labor dispute, such as wage and benefit dispute between the sector that the employees are working, and them.

Recently, the government has pushed for the modernization of our traditional jeepneys. In the memorandum circular issued by the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB), operators are required to consolidate their vehicles by June. The LTFRB then extended the deadline to December 1, but it is still not enough to meet the demands of our jeepney drivers and worker unions.

This led to transport groups such as Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operators Nationwide (PISTON) and Manibela, together with thousands of drivers, to conduct a weeklong strike to show how the lack of support for them would affect our economy.

The supposed weeklong strike ended late Tuesday night after transport groups PISTON and Manibela had a dialogue with Malacañang. There will be no phase out for the Filipinos’ traditional vehicle, but jeepney modernization will still be pursued.

Most drivers are not against the desired change by the government. In fact, they are aware that this transition would allow our transportation services to become more comfortable and eco-friendly. However, they were given a short time to prepare, and the financial support that the administration will be providing is not enough for them to purchase the required unit. Lots of workers might be left behind because they might lose their jobs.

Unions cannot instantly organize a strike. As stated in Title VIII, Book V of the Labor Code of the Philippines, no labor organization can declare a strike without initiating first-hand collective bargaining in accordance with Title VII, Collective Bargaining and Administration of Agreement, of the same book.

Every event done by labor organizations is lawfully processed. If one organization does not follow the rules and regulations set by the legal code and the law in every activity it has, then this organization may be subjected to cancellation or stoppage of its operation.

To know more about the Labor Code of the Philippines, please refer to https://blr.dole.gov.ph/2014/12/11/labor-code-of-the-philippines/

The strike, protests, and other ways where unions can address their concerns can have an impact on everyone. It can affect different sectors of the country such as the education and production industry. However, we should also ask ourselves, "What are they fighting for?"

Labor groups and unions represent our workers. Establishing such kinds of groups helps not only themselves but also the communities, for economic equality, and protecting our sense of democracy. Protesting without purpose is like sailing without a destination, which is why it is important that we understand the driving force behind every labor strike.

Our workers, like how they resemble birds, attract more attention when they join together. They grouped for greater bargaining power, to feel a sense of safety and security from the employer's unequal labor practices, and to courageously uphold one's ability for self-expression, in which they can be heard. Workers' collective voice produces pressure on management to give them due consideration on things they clamor for.

Let them flock for their cause!

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