HomeAsia-Pacific Social Science Reviewvol. 17 no. 3 (2018)

Between Representation and Regulation: Union Strategies on Non-Standard Employment in Selected Industries in the Philippines

Melisa R. Serrano



As elsewhere, the incidence of non-standard employment is increasing in the Philippines amidst declining union density rates for the last 15 years. This twin phenomenon has posed challenges to trade unions’ structures and their understanding of representation. Based on the author’s survey of union strategies on non-standard employment adopted by 93 Metro Manila-based enterprise unions and 13 national federations in four industries—manufacturing, banking and finance, hotels and restaurants, and private education—the article identifies and examines the variety of ways trade unions, both at the enterprise and at the national level, attempt to represent non-standard workers and regulate employers’ use of non-standard forms of employment, and the factors that influence both union actions. The analysis demonstrates the unions’ preference of regulation over representation, and that this can be explained by the higher difficulties and constraints that unions face in pursuing the latter. Nevertheless, this article has established the emergence of a “bricolage of organizational forms” and a plurality of innovative union initiatives aimed at protecting non-standard workers and arresting the spread of precarious non-standard employment