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Social Dialogue

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic brought about adverse impacts to all sectors of the Philippine economy, including unions. This research focused on the impact of the pandemic on collective bargaining. It provides a descriptive analysis of how collective bargaining was used to improve economic benefits or assistance for employees, as well as to preserve their jobs and to protect job security, in 20 collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) registered with the DOLE in 2020 and 2021.

The study finds that all 20 CBAs generally follow the structure and content of CBAs in the Philippines, which typically contain political, economic, non-economic, administrative, and waiver clauses and effectivity and duration provisions. The study focused on the provisions that are considered critical in responding to the pandemic, particularly management prerogative vis-à-vis job security, economic provisions such as wage and monetary benefits, and welfare provisions such as medical and hospitalization benefits. The study finds that limitations on management prerogative and additional safeguards on job security that provide more protection to security of tenure than what the Labor Code provides exist in only three (3) CBAs, and only in relation to termination for authorized causes. Further, based on specific CBA provisions, the study finds that the sampled CBAs fall under two (2) categories – a continuity and stability scenario and a survival scenario. The first scenario shows the parties continuing to use collective bargaining for its main purpose of improving terms and conditions of employment, including employees' economic benefits. Existing CBAs continued to be implemented, while new CBAs improved on previous ones. On the other hand, the survival scenario shows collective bargaining being used as a coping mechanism to devise measures to help businesses survive and protect jobs through the moderation, substitution, or even deferment of improvements in economic benefits. The study further finds that except for CBAs in hospitals and enterprises with longer bargaining histories, hospitalization and medical benefits are given relatively less attention in the bargaining process. The study finds that collective bargaining at the enterprise level continues to serve its main function of regulating the employment relationship and adapting to enterprise-level problems. However, its use as an adaptive mechanism to a public health issue such as a pandemic is limited. In this regard, the study recommends consideration of measures to enable collective bargaining at the sectoral and industry levels as well as the development of a clear policy and action agenda on social protection through tripartite and social dialogue mechanisms.

KEYWORDS: collective bargaining agreements (CBAs), COVID-19 pandemic, stability and continuity, survival, tripartite and social dialogue mechanisms

RESEARCHERS: Marion Denise V. Bitonio

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