THE Embassy of Sweden in Manila and Swedish companies operating locally recently promoted the inclusion of labor rights as a crucial part of furthering socioeconomic development in the country.
At the “Sustainability Talks: The Right To Decent Work” forum, Atlas Copco, IKEA, Swedish Match and Transcom presented their current labor practices in the Philippines. The Department of Labor and Employment and the International Labour Organization (ILO) highlighted the importance of upskilling Filipino workers.
Georg Platzer, head of IKEA Phils. which inaugurated its largest department store in the world in Manila in December 2021, attributes their success to the Swedish value of treating everyone with equal importance, and by treating coworkers with dignity and respect.
IKEA Phils. has given regular contracts and paid leaves to retail employees since the store’s opening. It also provides parental leaves: four months for mothers, and four weeks for fathers. Decent treatment of workers also extends to their supply chain, ensuring that factory workers have safe working conditions and fair wages.
Platzer emphasized that the retail industry relies on their employees being “competent and confident” about the brand and products they are selling. The practice of contractualization, he said, hinders workers from developing these, since retail workers are often transferred to a different store or brand before they could have specialized knowledge in their product category.
Meanwhile, Swedish Match has a factory in Laguna Technopark, which is one of their largest factories in the world and employs more than 300 workers. They belong to labor unions, and are able to negotiate for better compensation, health care and insurance. Through these consultations, the employees understand that Swedish Match provides the best benefits that the company can afford.
Transcom, a business-process outsourcing and customer-service company, employs over 14,000 staff in Metro Manila, Iloilo, Bacolod and Davao. The firm supports its employees’ professional growth and personal development through career pathing, mentoring, and skills-enhancement programs. These are anchored on company values and malasakit (empathy and responding to one’s needs).
It also champions gender equality and diversity by partnering with local government and nongovernment organizations for diversity and inclusion initiatives, and via on-site facilities like a daycare for single parents, and gender-neutral facilities.
Atlas Copco is an industrial company and a global leader in sustainable productivity solutions, present in 70 countries and has been operating in the Philippines since 1967. The embassy shared that it prioritizes the morale and livelihoods of their workers during the pandemic. Specifically, by shifting to cloud computing early on, avoiding company retrenchment and instead cutting back on noncompulsory allowances enabled it to keep all its workers employed. This has led to the achievement of the company mission of consistently supplying innovative solutions benefiting their clients.
Investing in Pinoy work force
ILO’S Country Office Director Khalid Hassan mentioned that the pandemic revealed underlying labor issues in the Philippines: technological and demographic challenges, unemployment, gender disparity and climate change.
Hassan maintained that due to challenges in developing and improving the manufacturing and agriculture industries, the country—as a service-oriented labor market—misses its potential to create good and productive jobs in those areas.
According to him, the climate crisis will lead to workers’ displacement and result in nearly 6 million jobs lost, but will be offset with 24 million newly created ones. However, those jobs will require a higher level of education and training, thus workers and employers should prepare for such via lifelong learning and skills development.
“The future of work is shaped by developing work institutions and infrastructure focused on human-centered policy, decent work, and sustainability,” Hassan said. “If skills in these areas are taught to the workers, the Philippines can be developed and competitive, and move forward in terms of socioeconomic development.”
Ambassador Annika Thunborg mentioned that strong labor movements, as well as collective agreements between the employers and workers, have been crucial in achieving successful socioeconomic development not only in Sweden, but in other countries in Europe and the Nordic region.
“Collective agreements have created decent working conditions and stable labor markets without strikes and unrest, which have been beneficial to employers, to employees, to companies, and to society,” explained Thunborg.
Sweden is a leader in corporate social responsibility and sustainable business. Its embassy said that Swedish firms are trusted to act in a sustainable and responsible manner by working for labor rights, the environment, and anticorruption initiatives.