October 1, 2009 / 8:24 AM / 10 years ago

ILO asks Philippines to probe trade union killings

MANILA, Oct 1 (Reuters) - The International Labour Organisation (ILO) has asked the Philippines to investigate allegations of murder and abductions of trade union leaders, the head of a visiting mission said on Thursday.

The ILO also urged the government to train and orient police officers and soldiers on the rights of workers to organise and to respect civil liberties.

"We requested the government to investigate independently these serious allegations of disappearances and killings," said Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry, director of the ILO international labour standards department and the head of the team which visited the country.

"We are concerned because these allegations would have a very long-term fundamental impact on the rights of workers in the Philippines."

Left-wing workers’ groups claim nearly 90 trade and union leaders have been either abducted or killed since 2001 when President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo came to power. Official government records show about 35 cases.

Doumbia-Henry’s team visited factories in special economic zones and met government and workers’ groups, including those from the central and southern Philippines.

She said her team was confronted with conflicting statements "concerning violence against trade unionists and the sufficiency of the efforts made by the government to ensure that workers may exercise their trade union rights in a climate free from fear".

Henry said her team will make a report to the ILO supervisory bodies, which will make an assessment and come up with findings by March 2010.

Initially, the ILO has offered to train security forces as well as judges and lawyers on international labour standards and help them understand the rights of workers, particularly to form union and enter into collective bargaining agreements. (Reporting by Manny Mogato; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

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