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At regional conference, 95 trade unions call for end to impunity

(IFJ/IFEX) - July 7, 2011 - Trade unions representing two million workers across the Asia-Pacific region, meeting in Manila, Philippines, have called on the Government of the Philippines to end impunity for the killings of media workers and to defend the rights of workers in the Philippines to organise as unions.

More than 600 participants attending the third UNI APRO Regional Conference, which was opened by President Benigno Aquino III on July 5, unanimously adopted a resolution which expressed deep concerns at the slow pace of the trials of suspects accused of the Ampatuan Town massacre, and urged the Government to take immediate action to see justice is done.

Of 58 people massacred in Maguindanao on November 23, 2009, 32 were journalists and media workers. Several were union members.

Ninety-five trade unions representing workers in the media, commerce, finance, telecom, postal and graphical and packaging sectors across 19 Asia-Pacific countries commended the courageous advocacy of colleagues and organisations in the Philippines - including IFJ affiliate the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) and UNI-MEI affiliate the National Association of Broadcast Unions (NABU) - in their struggle for justice for the families and colleagues of those killed at Ampatuan Town.

The resolution, which was proposed by the Australian Media Alliance, an affiliate of the IFJ and UNI-MEI, also draws attention to extrajudicial killings of other trade unionists, union organisers, agricultural workers, fisher folk and farmers in the Philippines.

"A culture of impunity for these crimes has prevailed in the Philippines for too long, obstructing the realisation of fundamental human rights for all, including the rights of all workers in the Philippines to conduct their work and to do so safely and without fear of violent retribution," the resolution states.

The resolution further notes that precarious working conditions, especially in provincial areas, are a significant factor contributing to risk of injury and targeted violence for journalists and other media workers.

"In the media sector and elsewhere, employers are actively seeking to marginalise legitimate union membership and the rights associated with union membership, including the right to associate freely and to bargain as a collective," the resolution adds.

The resolution follows from the first joint meeting of IFJ Asia-Pacific with UNI APRO, UNI Global Union, UNI-MEI (Media, Entertainment and Arts) and UNI Graphical & Packaging, in Bali, Indonesia, in September 2010, where IFJ and UNI affiliates urged trade unions around the world to join the quest for justice for the Ampatuan Town victims. The Bali resolution demanded that media employers in the Philippines end violations of workers' rights including efforts to prevent media workers from organising and joining unions.

The Manila resolution endorsed the Bali meeting's demand that media employers in the Philippines must abide by International Labor Organisation (ILO) conventions and the Philippines Labor Code, under which Article 280 entitles workers to regularised work contracts granting them job security.

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