PHILIPPINES- Educator Profile: Jennifer Albano, Executive Director – Labour Education and Research Network (LEARN)
Jennifer Albano is the Executive Director of LEARN, a labour and political activist. She talks about workers’ education and the strategy of including informal economy associations in labour movement activity
About LEARN – is a membership based labour non-governmental organization (ngo) that focusses on workers’ education, with 14 trade unions or associations as members, including informal economy associations and worker cooperatives. We have a framework for our labour movement called Social Movement in Unison which is inclusive or all associations, not only traditional trade unions.
The history – LEARN was founded in 1986, three months after the dictator government was ousted, and at that time the union activists who formed LEARN saw the need for unity because labour movement in the Philippines was so fragmented at that time.
The context of workers and the labour movement in the Philippines: It has been a problem for us labour movement actors and unions, that the environment in the Philippines is hostile to union organising. It’s a persistent problem such that union density is as slow as five to eight percent of 40 million people. I would say we have a democratic government position party within a capitalist middle income country.
The independent unions want to participate, and we enjoyed that until about two years ago (2016), it has been shrinking after that I can describe it for me as a very slow democracy after the dictatorship, the political system the Philippines is still in an early democracy.
And it has continued to be so until very recently when the new President was elected in 2016 that’s the start when you…I don’t think it’s a debate anymore… it is an authoritarian rightest fascist government and it has it has actually weakened the opposition.
Human rights and history: For an activist like me who has been with political movements I mean more than half of my life… it is like it had come back to say twenty to thirty years ago when human rights are blatantly violated. And this is through the war on drugs programme which affects not just the workers but everyone, especially the poor it’s actually a war on the poor. All the victims of extraditional killings related to the war on drugs are poor, some of them are members of our informal workers associations.
Fighting for freedom: In May 2018 for the first time in 19 years all different worker centres joined together to commemorate May Day / Workers’ Day. For us this means that workers and social movement actors in Philippines are resisting the authoritarianism that is shrinking the democratic spaces. Even victims of families of victims of extraditional killings are coming out and talking about the human rights violation.
Workers education: As an instrument to organize workers, not just to recruit members but to strengthen workers’ organisations through leadership formation programmes – we develop leaders of unions from the enterprise level to the national centres. From study circles to forums to comprehensive skills training, and then of course we lots of workers education on basic workers’ rights.