Taming Class Conflict? Industrial Peace Policy and Workers' Strike in the Philippines from 2001 to Present

Tuesday, 12 July 2016
Location: Hörsaal 16 (Main Building)
Distributed Paper
Jessica VILIRAN, Polytechnic University of the Philippines, Philippines
Jane SIWA, Center for Trade Union and Human Rights Manila, Philippines
The strike has been considered the workers' most potent tool against exploitation and other forms of abuses committed against them by capitalists. It is a concretization of class conflict, a cathartic moment in a seemingly covert contradiction between classes inside a capitalist firm. Over the last two decades, official government data on workers' strikes in the Philippines show that the number of incidents significantly decreased from 94 strikes in 1995 alone to as low as one strike recorded in 2013. 

The governments of both Presidents Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Benigno Aquino III have hailed this phenomenon as a reflection of industrial peace, achieved through social dialogue and the effective use of tripartite and multi-stakeholder mechanisms. Using data from documentation of independent labor groups and analysis of government policies, this paper will argue that the government’s pursuit of industrial peace is anchored very minimally, if at all, on social dialogue or effective negotiation of conflicts between capitalists and workers. Rather, it is based upon relentless, systematic, and multi-faceted suppression of independent unions and conscious value-subjects. Contrary to the principle of social dialogue, Philippine labor policies, laws and use of state power to suppress workers freedom to organize or stage collective resistance only validate the necessarily antagonistic nature of contradictions between workers and capitalists.

The paper will further cite case studies and interviews with protesting workers to demonstrate various types and new forms of workers' collective resistance not previously reflected in official data, thus rendering a clearer picture of the persistence of working class struggle and its potential future directions.