Federation of Free Workers

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Federation of Free Workers (logo).png
Full nameFederation of Free Workers
Founded19 June 1950
AffiliationITUC, ITUC-Asia Pacific, BWI, EI and INDUSTRIALL
Key people
Office locationFFW Building, 1943 Taft Avenue, Malate, Manila, Philippines

The Federation of Free Workers is one of the major general trade union federations in the Philippines. It is an active and well-respected labor federation in tripartite activities and other social dialogues in the national, regional and international levels.

FFW is also considered as a national trade union center in the country considering its size and membership of eight (8) trade federations (TFs) and two (2) special sector federations. Among civil society movements, FFW is known as "the oldest trade union-social movement" in the Philippines "that is still in existence". It was founded 19 June 1950, and has 200,000 mass members in the formal and informal sectors. 80,000 members are dues-paying and covered with collective bargaining agreements.

Among the prominent affiliates of FFW with collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) are in education institutions, banks, pharmaceutical and electronics companies—Ateneo de Davao, Central Philippine University, University of the East - Ramon Magsaysay, Philippine School of Business Administration, National College of Business Administration, University of San Agustin of Iloilo, Branches of the Bank of the Philippine Islands, BPI Family Bank,Philippine Clearing, CountryBankers,Malayan Insurance the Temic Semiconductor, Temic Continental, Vishay Philippines, United Pulp and Paper, Oro Port of Cagayan de Oro, Thomas National Transport, Avis, Europe cars, Mitsubishi, San Roque Metals Mining, Philippine Mining, Lepanto Mining, Delfi, Coca-Cola, Pfizer, Boie Takeda, Smithkline Beecham, Astra Seneca, Hi-Eisai Pharmaceutical, Bayer Philippines, Johnson & Johnson, Interphil Laboratories, Globe Telecom, among others.

Affiliation with ITUC and global unions[edit]

FFW is an affiliate of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).

Other than the ITUC, the FFW is also affiliated to Building and Wood Workers International (BWI), Education International (EI),IndustriALL Global Union, ITUC-Asia Pacific and the ASEAN Trade Union Council.

FFW has actively participated in the activities of the International Labor Organization (ILO). Its President, Atty. Jose Sonny Matula, was the workers' delegate of the Philippine Delegation to the 101st, 104th and 107th International Labor Conference in Geneva, in 2012, 2015 and 2018, respectively. He had been also an adviser for a number of times of the Philippine tripartite delegation to said Conferences.

Since the 1950s, from the election of President Ramon Magsaysay, FFW has always been represented, either as workers delegate or adviser, in the Philippine delegation to the International Labor Conference.

Atty. Matula is the 4th National President of the Federation. He is on his second term as he was re-elected for another five (5)-year term on June 21, 2016.J uan C. Tan was the founding President from 1950 to 2001. Tan was succeeded by Ramon J. Jabar who headed FFW from 2001 to 2006. Jabar was succeeded by Atty. Allan S. Montano who was president from 2006 to 2011.

FFW was founded by Juan C. Tan and Fr. Walter Hogan, S.J. with the support of young activists from the Ateneo de Manila University in the 1950s. It is inspired by Catholic Social Teachings and Christian democratic principles since its foundation.

Fr. Walter Hogan and other American Jesuits where so active with the propagation of the Social Encyclicals through the Institute of Social Order (ISO)in the 1950s. They had close collaboration with the famous activist Dorothy Day of the Catholic Worker Movement in America.

A number of FFW leaders are active in the Social democratic movement; while others are with the Christian and Muslim democratic movement. Some FFW activists founded the Philippine Democratic Socialist Party (PDSP) in the 1970s and older officers led the Christian Social Movement in the 1960s. FFW officer Alex Boncayao was a martyr of the National democratic movement in the 1970s. Recently some officers are also active in the newly founded Centrist Democratic Labor Association (CDLA)and the Centrist Democratic Party (CDP).

FFW Chairs the Nagkaisa[edit]

FFW is a member of the Nagkaisa (United) Labor Coalition which includes the FFW, Sentro, TUCP and 40 other federations. It is the broadest labor coalition in the Philippines. FFW president Matula is now the chairperson of Nagkaisa.

24th National Convention[edit]

The Federation of Free Workers (FFW) held its 24th National Convention slated on June 19 to 22, 2016 in Baguio City. It last national Convention was held in 2011 in the same City with a strong resolve to "scale up social movement unionism through green jobs and decent work." Its Convention, held once every five years, gathered in the city of flowers some 200 delegates from FFW member trade unions and sectoral organizations across the country.

Incumbent elected leaders[edit]

In 2016, the FFW National Convention also elected and formed its incumbent officers.

The incumbent National President is Atty. Jose Sonny Matula was re-elected for another term of five years (2016-2021). Matula was an organizer and education officer of FFW and the Institute of Social Order (ISO) before he became a lawyer. He is also a law lecturer at the Manuel L. Quezon University - School of Law, University of Manila - College of Law and University of Perpetual Help - College of Law. He once served as executive director of the Presidential Anti-Graft Commission and commissioner, representing the workers' group, of the Social Security System (SSS) of the Philippines.

Elected President of the FFW Women's Network was Ma. Victoria Bellosillo, also Vice President of the Central Philippines Rank and File Employees Union-FFW.

Elected FFW National Vice Presidents were Jomel General and Oliver Mondigo, all local presidents of the PSBA Employees Union and Temic Continental Employees Union, respectively. Elected National Treasurer was Alfredo Dimaraan (Interphil Laboratories Employees Union); Vice President for Luzon was Bonifacio Frelis (BPI Family Bank Employees Union); Vice President for Visayas was Amalia Campos (Central Philippine University); and Vice President for Mindanao was Aida Brillante (San Pedro Hospital of Davao).

Together with the newly elected Board Members-at-Large and Trade Federation Presidents, the new set of FFW officers will serve a term of five years, from 2016 to 2021.

Organize into Trade Federations[edit]

The FFW federates its local trade unions into industry groupings called trade federations as follows:

- Trade Federation 1: Food, Agriculture and Beverage - Trade Federation 2: Textile, Garments and Plastics - Trade Federation 3: Chemicals, Petrochems, Pharmaceuticals - Trade Federation 4: Metals, Semiconductors - Trade Federation 5: Wood, Pulp and Paper and Forestry Products - Trade Federation 6: Commercial, Financial Services - Trade Federation 7: Communication, Transportation and Port Services - Trade Federation 8: Other Services such as education, health, etc.

As a trade union-social movement, one of its main strategies to deter the ill effects of globalization, it has also established sectoral federations to cater to the interest of all types of workers. These sectoral organizations are: - FFW Women’s Network for women workers and community women - Young Free Workers for the Youth, the umbrella organization of youth groups which include the Youth Organizations Against Child Labor (YO! Child) - National Employment and Enterprise Development Association for informal workers - Farmers - Cooperatives

Advocacies for decent work

The FFW is a member of wide-ranging networks, both at the local and international levels, in furtherance of its advocacies for decent work and the implementation of core labor standards. Among others, it is a member of the National Child Labor Committee as a labor sector representative, while it chairs the Child Labor Knowledge Sharing Sub-committee of the same.

The FFW has already collaborated with the ILO-IPEC on several initiatives. Among others, it has worked on the action program for children in mining in Mt. Diwata Compostela Valley in 2006-2007. At present, the FFW as an active member of the National Child Labor Committee indirectly partners with the ILO-IPEC on DOLE programs that they open for joint implementation with its tripartite constituents.

The FFW chairs the Child Labor Knowledge Sharing Subcommittee, the NCLC committee that manages, supervises and administers the Child Labor Knowledge Sharing System (CLKSS) as the knowledge sharing platform of the child labor movement in the Philippines. This portal was funded by the ILO-IPEC.

FFW Supports ILO Convention for Domestic Workers

FFW actively lobbying the adoption of the ILO Convention on decent work for domestic workers. Atty Matula, who was a Philippine workers' representative to the ILC in 2010, believed that the adoption of said convention in 2011 is a historic development.

“For me, it is historic that the committee on domestic workers has decided for these standards to be adopted as a convention rather than a recommendation. A convention is legally binding while a recommendation is not obligatory, it’s just mere guidelines,” Matula said.

International Labour Standards are legal instruments drawn up by the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) constituents (governments, employers and workers) setting out basic principles and rights at work. The instruments are either conventions that are legally binding international treaties that may be ratified by member states, or recommendations that serve as non-binding guidelines.

The instruments go through a “double discussion” or must be tackled at 2 succeeding conferences to give conference participants time to examine the instrument and make comments on it.

The proposal for a convention supplemented by a recommendation concerning decent work for domestic workers, having made it through the first round of discussions, has been included in the agenda of the 100th ILC in 2011 for second discussion and adoption. A two-thirds majority vote of the ILO’s constituents is required for a standard to be adopted.

If the convention is adopted, ILO member-states will have to present this to their national competent authority for the enactment of relevant legislation or other action, including ratification.

After ratifying the convention, a country will be legally obliged to ensure compliance. The new convention would set out employment rights of domestic workers. It would recognize that domestic work is "work," not informal labor, and that domestic workers deserve the same employment rights as any other worker.

FFW under the Duterte Administration

FFW’s experience of the newly elected Rodrigo Duterte had been largely positive when he was mayor of Davao City. FFW President Sonny Matula said, “we had a good experience with him in Davao many years ago when we had a strike at the Ateneo de Davao University. The FFW was helping employees who were negotiating on wages, benefits and the illegal termination of the union president Virginia Camus."

“Then a mayor of Davao, Duterte successfully mediated our labour dispute and both parties agreed to end the strike and sign a collective bargaining agreement through his mediation,” said Matula.

However, FFW with other labor groups has a hard time lobbying for the endorsement of the President prioritizing the bills strengthening the right to security of tenure and in the fight against "contractualization" and other precarious work arrangements.

Adopt Unemployment Insurance in SSS

FFW, likewise, urged the Aquino administration to initiate the adoption of an unemployment insurance program as part of the country’s Social Security System (SSS), amidst of the emergency repatriation of OFWs as a result of the heightened civil strife in Libya.

“The displacement of workers in Libya is a clarion call for the government to build up funding for unemployment insurance and be more prepared for contingency of massive unavoidable workers’ displacement due to economic crises, calamities, war or other emergencies—like what is now happening in Libya.”

Unemployment insurance is not yet instituted in the nine pillars of the SSS.

Based on the joint reports of DFA and DOLE, approximately 13,000Ws are still staying in the North African country.

According to DOLE secretary Baldoz, there are 2,523 of more 12,000 returning OFWs from Libya have been evacuated from this strife-torn African nation and obtained their assistance amounting to Php10,000 each.

Baldoz said more OFWs applying for the one-time assistance being processed by the Philippine Trade Training Center (PTTC) are anticipated received the given one-time financial assistance for these Filipino workers over the next few days.

“Had there been a viable unemployment insurance program already in place, our returning OFWs from Libya would have gotten more assistance, over a longer period of time,” FFW added.

FFW concluded. “It would have provided more security and given them better preparation for their next job or an alternative career as entrepreneurs.”

Trade unions support on Yolanda victims

The international trade union movement has contributed to the relief and rebuilding efforts for Typhoon Yolanda victims, particularly workers in the Philippines and their families.

“Trade unions around the world are asking their members to donate generously to the relief efforts, and our Philippines partners are right now evaluating how best the global trade union community can help,” said Sharan Burrow, secretary general of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).

"Our hearts go out to the families who have lost loved ones, and had their houses and livelihoods destroyed,” added Burrow who heads the Belgium-based ITUC that represents 176 million workers in 156 countries and territories and has 325 national affiliates.

The Federation of Free Workers (FFW), an affiliate of the ITUC in Philippines, warmly welcomed the support from fellow unionists and workers all over the world.

“We are grateful to receive your solidarity and touching concern for our workers in the Philippines,” said Atty. Sonny Matula, national president of the FFW.

The FFW is providing assistance to its members who are victims of Yolanda with its national Headquarters in Manila, regional branches in Visayas and Luzon and local unions accepting donations of cash, food, soap, medicine and used clothes from members and friends.

Closer to home, The ITUC-Asia Pacific based in Singapore also called on its affiliates to support the relief and rehabilitation efforts of trade unions in the Philippines. “We appeal to you to contribute to the ITUC-AP Natural Disaster Fund,” said Noriyuki Suzuki, secretary general ITUC-AP. The Japanese Union, JTUC-Rengo is sending around US$5,000.00.

Unionists in Canada through the Steelworkers Humanity Fund have also contributed around US$30,000 to relief efforts. “Steelworkers are among the thousands of Canadians responding to the urgent appeals for emergency assistance in the wake of the destruction of Haiyan,” said Ken Neumann, National Director for Canada of the United Steelworkers. Their contribution will be sent through Oxfam Canada. The government of Canada will match the workers’ contributions for relief efforts until 9 December.

“This is a big help for our union members who are victims of Yolanda,” said Matula.

Workers support fellow workers in flood devastated CDO, Iligan

Earlier, Federation of Free Workers (FFW) also led relief operations on December 27 to 30, 2011 for workers and their families in typhoon and flood-ravaged Cagayan De Oro and Iligan City.

“This is our way of expressing solidarity with our fellow workers who are dealing with the loss of family members, homes, property and work,” said Atty. Sonny Matula, President of the FFW, a national trade union with more than 200,000 members across the country.

Around 350 workers’ families in CDO benefited from the trade union initiative: 86 from Macajalar Labor Union-FFW; 45 from Rose Pharmacy Employees Union-FFW; 41 from Philippine Sinter Employees Union-FFW; 15 from Coca-Cola Employees Union-; FFW; 13 from Macajalar Port Workers Association-FFW; 10 from the BPI Family Savings Bank Employees Union-FFW.

In Iligan City, 100 families from National Steel Labor Union-FFW and Maranao Telephone Co. Employees Union-FFW received relief goods.

“We had help coming in from fellow trade unionists and friends of the FFW from nearby Davao City, Iloilo City, Roxas City, Sagay City, Laguna, Cavite, Quezon, Pampanga, Bulacan and Metro Manila who were more than eager to lend a helping hand to their fellow workers,” reported Matula.

Families received packages containing food, water, clothing and other important household items.

Matula and FFW Vice President for Mindanao Aida Brillante, headed the relief operations.

Help well appreciated

Felix Lopez, board member of the National Steel Labor Union-FFW could not thank the FFW enough for the timely assistance.

“Amidst the misfortune which hit us by way of flash floods that claimed all our belongings, the spirit of joy touches my heart upon receiving the relief goods given by FFW in Manila,” Lopez said. “This was unexpected. Truly I am proud to be a part of the FFW.”

Jun Villar, a trade union leader from CDO did not hide his appreciation. “Salamat sa FFW at mga partners. Tinulungan kami. Di kami kinalimutan.” (“Thanks to the FFW and its partners. They came to our aide. They remembered us.”)

Local Union Presidents of the FFW in CDO jointly expressed their gratitude for the support. They hope that the support will be sustained. “We are hoping for the extension of housing support for members whose homes were damaged and totally destroyed as a result of Sendong.”

The FFW, an exponent of Catholic social teachings established in 1950, is partnering with other labor groups, employer groups and government, through the Department of Labor and Employment to establish sustainable support for the affected workers, which would include the rebuilding of homes. The FFW is also in contact with the International Labour Organization.

Brillante, a health worker from San Pedro Hospital in Davao City will organize a medical mission in the coming days especially since it is important to prevent outbreaks in the affected areas.

“FFW will also generate support for rebuilding efforts in CDO and Iligan City—rebuilding of homes, workplaces and livelihoods, with a view of promoting green jobs as a part of a bigger climate change adaptation strategy,” added Matula.

PAL, Hoffen and SR Metals layoffs

Matula also raised the concerns of the labor sector over the lay-off of employees of the Philippine Airlines, the Hoffen company in Cavite and the San Roque Metals Mining Company in Tubay in Agusan del Norte.

He asked the government to help set up another dialogue between PAL management and the employees even if the case is already in the courts.

Matula said there should be more infrastructure especially farm-to-market roads, housing and schools.

The President, in response, said the labor department is looking into the cases in Cavite and Agusan del Norte.

He said he sympathizes with the PAL employees but “the problem with this work is that most of the time there is no perfect decision.”

Matula said his group was apprehensive that Philippine Airlines’ decision to outsource its services, which precipitated the layoff of thousands of airline employees, would further promote contractualization.

“We sympathize with thousands of PAL employees who lost their jobs after your office set aside the appeal of Palea (PAL Employees’ Association) to stop outsourcing the services of the PAL,” he said, speaking on behalf of the labor unions.

If the profit-earning PAL is allowed to lay off employees, what would stop other companies from doing the same in the name of “management prerogative?” he wondered.

Worse, union employees and members are the first to take the ax under such schemes, contrary to the spirit of the Philippine Development Plan, Matula said.


External links[edit]

  • FFW official site.