In The Workplace

We are planning to organize a family welfare program for the spouses and children of our employees as part of our Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). It is being recommended to us by our consultant who claims that such a program is helpful in preventing unions from knocking at the door of our factory. Is he correct? – Faulty Experiment.

A man went to visit a psychiatrist. He said: “I have two problems.” The eager psychiatrist inquired, “Okay, please tell me about them.” The man began: “Well, I think I am a vending machine.” The psychiatrist sat the man right down, looked into the ceiling, and started analyzing the man’s case, but he could think of nothing to say.

Finally, exasperated, the doctor took a P50 bill out of his pocket, forced it down the man’s throat, grabbed him by the head, and shook him till he swallowed the money. Triumphantly, the doctor said: “Okay, give me a Diet Coke.”

The man replied: “I can’t, Doc. That’s my second problem. I’m out of order.”

That’s the point. The recommendation of your consultant is out of order, to say the least. He needs a psychiatrist to determine the extent of his mental illness. Your consultant’s recommendation is one of those being used by incompetent people who would use underhanded tactics to undermine labor rights in the same manner that they continue to practice “endo” hiring.

The Family Welfare Program (FWP) is a legal mandate administered by the Bureau of Workers with Special Concerns (BWSC) of companies with at least 200 employees. The objective is to improve workplace productivity and labor-management relations, among other related issues. When implementing the FWP, private organizations must consider various dimensions:

These include reproductive health, responsible parenthood, early childhood education, gender equality, spirituality, value formation, livelihood, nutrition, health care, nutrition, environmental protection, hygiene and sanitation, sports and leisure, housing and transportation.

I tried to refresh my memory by visiting the online pages of the Department of Labor and Employment’s BWSC, but I was thwarted by a notice that its website is not a secure connection.

Anyway, I don’t deny that at times, the sophisticated use of FWP may be misinterpreted by some people to be an effective deterrent against the formation of trade unions. After all, if the employees’ families are enamored with the many family-oriented programs of an organization, who would bother to rock the boat by forming a union?

Clearly, your management consultant has a malicious intent in prescribing FWP as a union deterrent. It may be considered a double-edge sword, except that he missed one important program — that of establishing a Community Relations Program (CRP) in tandem with the FWP. These two programs can become a potent tool for harmonious and dynamic employee-employer relations, but not intended to thwart union formation, which is an inherent labor right.

Go ahead and implement FWP and CRP minus the intended purpose of your consultant. Instead, consult the labor department on how you can implement those twin programs through a reasonable and legal procedure. Take note that without FWP, your company can be cited by labor inspectors for violating labor standards.

In the meantime, I suggest that your management consider the following broad rules to ensure a sound working relations with the workers and their families.

One, be fair and treat all workers equally. Avoid favoritism even with your hardest-working people. Of course, there are some people who by nature are more likeable than others, but as part of the management team you have to avoid showing your bias by treating everyone with respect and dignity, even if it appears difficult. Management sincerity, especially if done consistently by likeable line managers, can disarm the most difficult people.

Two, be flexible in dealing with employee concerns. There could be many times that you are tempted to simply dismiss an issue by telling the complaining workers that a certain policy is covered by management prerogative. Don’t even think about it. Instead of hiding under this legal protection, exercise care by patiently explaining why a certain policy must be done for the good of the majority and that of the organization.

Three, show concern for the employees and their families. Try to understand the problem from their perspective. This should help you deal with difficulties from an angle that could be used to reconcile them with management interest. If you treat people well, how can they betray your management? If you’re being portrayed as an employee champion, how can they put up a hostile position against you?

Last, display a continuing interest in your subordinates’ families. This can only be done one-on-one by line supervisors and managers. Remember at least the name and birthday of the employee’s spouse. This is easy to do when you invite their spouses to the company’s Christmas party, anniversary celebration, including events where model workers are recognized and rewarded for their milestones.

In conclusion, note that all of these can only be done with the proactive assistance of individual line executives. The CEO or any high-ranking executive cannot do this alone. As long as these executives present themselves as employee mentors, labor-management relations can go a long way, with or without a union.

After all, as a general rule, the employees’ right to organize and maintain a union also includes the right of every worker not to join a union.

ELBONOMICS: If you want to improve, you need to start with the basic rules.


Send anonymous workplace questions to or via