2023 April 14

Philippines’ Lowest Bidder Game

Despite the recent change of leadership in the country, there are currently no signs of improvement in working conditions and respect for human rights in the Philippines. Low wages and temporary work are the rule. Electronics Watch is strengthening its monitoring there from 2023.

In the Philippines, the recent change of presidency between R. Duterte and "Bongbong" F. Marcos has not yet shown whether the repression of social actors and human rights defenders will stop. During a joint mission in early March 2023, Electronics Watch/Barcelona City Council met with international (ILO, EU) and national (Commission on Human Rights) institutions. Political opponents, journalists, trade unionists and our monitoring partners are 'red-tagged': accused of terrorism and sympathy with communist ideology by the country's leaders. Many of them are harassed by para-military-police groups. Numerous assassinations have taken place. We remember Dandy Miguel, president of the Fuji Electric Union, assassinated in 2021 for having denounced the extrajudicial executions of nine trade unionists and NGO activists during the "Bloody Sunday" on 7 March 2021 in Calabarzon.

At meetings with trade union organisations, Electronics Watch discussed social dialogue in the electrical, electronic components and chips manufacturing industry. Social dialogue is still very poorly developed, with a few exceptions; the rare collective agreements merely confirm the extremely low minimum wage on which the government bases its international competitiveness vis-à-vis neighbouring countries. Depending on the region of the country, it is not uncommon to find daily rates of eight euros per day. It is difficult for trade unions to succeed in their demand for wage increases, even in times of high inflation (nine per cent this year). Unsurprisingly, workers are willing to work excessive overtime in order to increase their low incomes. The widespread use of temporary agency work in the electronics industry is also to blame. Between 10 and 50 per cent of workers are agency workers, according to the trade unions of the five companies interviewed. Efforts to organise these workers have limited effect because they are not recognised as social partners.

Electronics Watch is further developing its monitoring activities with local partners in the Philippines, as an important supply market for the automotive and electronics industry. In addition to industry, right at the beginning of the supply chain, the Philippines is a major player in mining production. The Philippines has been ranked as the fifth most mineralised country in the world, with an estimated US$1 trillion in untapped reserves of copper, nickel and zinc.