E.J. DE LARA WRITES – Unions and the media are not the place to report work related issues. At least that’s the message the Philippines ambassador to New Zealand recently delivered.

The New Zealand Scoop reported that during a meeting with Filipino migrants, the Ambassador of the Philippines, Virginia Benavidez, made a controversial statement about the relationship of migrants to unions and the media. According to several sources at the meeting,  Benavidez said, “If you have problems with your job, don’t approach the unions and media especially those posting stories in the New Zealand Herald.” Shortly after, several dismayed workers reported her statement to the First Union and Union Network of Migrants (UNEMIG) in New Zealand.

Marty de Lima, a host of the Filipino Migrants meeting, expressed that the Unions are helpful to workers, and doesn’t understand why Ambassador Benavidez would be against them. Similarly, the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines agrees that Benevidez’s anti-union statements were uncalled for and embarrassing for their government. Even the Asian Pacific Mission for Migrants believes that the Ambassador should have refrained from expressing her personal biases against unions and the media. Within a few days after the meeting, General Secretary and main spokesperson of UNEMIG prompted for the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade to demand a formal apology from the Ambassador.

According to Filipino news site GMA News, the Philippine Embassy denied all accusations of the Ambassador making anti-union statements, clarifying that the Ambassador told workers to consult with their employers before joining unions. With both New Zealand and Philippine’s media reporting different sides, the Ambassador is in the center of the media spotlight in both countries. The Philippine Embassy currently seeks to better define the Ambassador’s statement with the Union and media to resolve this issue.

Whether the comment was made or not, the issue of who ensures worker’s rights in instances of violation must be addressed.