Filipino workers band together for a stronger labor front
SENTRO vows to fight for wages, secure jobs and other long-standing issues
As the labor movement gears up for their actions towards May 1 in celebration of the International Labor Day, a new labor center was formed with membership of at least 80,000 workers covering major industries and sectors nationwide.
Sentro ng Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO) was launched today in a press conference as they declared April 16 (Monday) as a National Day of Protest with simultaneous rallies to be held in Quezon City, Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE), Welcome Rotonda and Mendiola in the National Capital Region. Regional actions will also be conducted in Cebu, Davao, General Santos City, Cotabato City, and Cagayan de Oro City.
Coming at a time when trade unions are weakened by internecine fights, contractualization and the repressive labor environment, the formation of SENTRO is a breakthrough labor center that promises to help rejuvenate the labor movement through industry and sectoral unionism and by consciously working for broader unities.
"This is the first time that a labor center is formed covering the different industry unions from the hotel and restaurant industry, beverage, metal workers, automotive industry, broadcast media network, transport, energy, postal, banking and the public sector. It also includes national sectoral groups in the informal sector and urban poor, youth and women," said Daniel L. Edralin, chair of the Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL).
According to group's Declaration of Unity, neo-liberal capitalism has died many deaths around the globe but continues to exploit the workers because the labor movement is weak and fragmented.
"We bear the brunt of the failure of this neo-liberal globalization. Trying to keep itself afloat, this flawed economic system veered towards even more virulent cruelty and blatant forms of exploitation - contractual employment, decreasing real wages and increasing costs of utilities and public services as a result of privatization and deregulation," said Frank Mero, president of the Philippine Metalworkers' Alliance (PMA).
The industry and sectoral unions vowed to reverse the "reign of blood-sucking terror of a failed system that sustains the concentration of wealth and political power amongst the elite of big business, both foreign and local, and their political henchmen."
SENTRO is deeply committed to work with other major labor groups in forming a broad labor unity that would equal the record of the great Crisanto Evangelista when he founded the Congreso Obrero de Filipinas together with Herminigildo Cruz in 1913 to unite the labor movement.
SENTRO's nationally-coordinated actions on April 16 will call for the passage of Security of Tenure bill now pending in Congress to stop contractual employment, and increase in minimum wage of workers as initiated by several groups while calling for reforms in the wage fixing mechanism under the regional wage boards.
SENTRO will collectively campaign for the removal of EVAT in oil products and power rates to help bring down prices. "Removing EVAT is only the first step, ultimately we have to scrap the Oil Deregulation Law," Ernie Cruz, president of the National Confederation of Transportworkers Unions (NCTU), said.
When the labor center marches to Mendiola on Monday, they will remind President Benigno Aquino III that it is in his power to implement practical solutions that would lower the cost of electricity: stop the indexation of the prices of natural gas to international prices of oil and pegging the prices of geothermal steam to the international prices of coal; correct the implementation of ERC's performance-based rate (PBR) methodology so power firms will not be able to increase rates in anticipation of future expansion and other capital expenditures; and, reform the ERC and insulate it against regulatory capture.
SENTRO will lead the workers' action in Davao city tomorrow (April 13) on the occasion of the Mindanao Power Summit to protest what they feel are "artificial power shortages". "The proposed solution to the rolling blackouts - the selling of the Agus-Pulangui Hydro Power Plant - would only worsen the problem," Jose Apollo Ado, president of the Workers' Solidarity Network (WSN) said.
"After ten years, it is clear that the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) has miserably failed. EPIRA should be rescinded," Fatima Cabanag, secretary general of Kapatiran ng Maralitang Obrero (KAMAO), added.
"These are staple workers' issues. With the commitment of industry and sectoral unions to build up workers' power and attack this systemic enslavement, we may have hope that the next generations, our offsprings, will not suffer a heavier, more backbreaking and dehumanizing yoke," said Joann Desiderio, secretary general of the Philippine Independent Public Sector Employees Association (PIPSEA). "We certainly deserve a better Philippines," she added.
SENTRO is composed of: Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL)- APL Youth -Automotive Industry Workers' Alliance (AIWA)-Federation of Coca-Cola Unions (FCCU) Kapatiran ng Maralitang Obrero (KAMAO)- League of Independent Bank Organizations (LIBO)- MARINO- National Alliance of Broadcast Unions (NABU)- National Confederation of Transportworkers Union (NCTU)- National Union of Workers in Hotel, Restaurant and Allied Industries (NUWHRAIN)- Philippine Independent Public Sector Employees Association (PIPSEA)- Philippine Metalworkers' Alliance (PMA)- Pinag-isang Tinig at Lakas ng Anak-Pawis (PIGLAS)- PKI Employees Welfare Union (PEWU)- Postal Employees Union of the Philippines (PEUP)-Workers' Solidarity Network (WSN)
New alliance unites Philippine labor
A new alliance of some 40 major trade unions and labor federations have united to advance trade union and workers' rights in the Philippines.
Aptly called NAGKAISA (united), the newly-established network of labor organizations vowed to fight labor contractualization, advocate for security of tenure and fight for an across-the-board increase in workers' pay.
"After a series of in-depth discussions, we, the leaders and members of major labor and trade unions and workers' organizations in the country have mutually decided to be united by embracing our diversity," said the group in a statement during a media conference in Manila today.
Philippine labor has been generally regarded as fragmented, but NAGKAISA is bent on changing that impression and ushering in a new era in Philippine labor.
"In the face of the prevalent anti-worker environment and given our diverse ideologies, methodologies and approaches, our unions have continued to champion workers' right to organize, to collectively bargain, to hold strikes and to engage government in social dialogue, but with limited success. We believe that the Filipino workers can be empowered again by, first and foremost, united action among unions and workers' organizations." NAGKAISA said.
"We are forming the coalition called NAGKAISA, which will consistently and passionately work towards restoring the right to full protection and the chance to live a decent and dignified life for all Filipino working men and womenwhether formal or informal, private or public, here or abroad," the group added.
NAGKAISA is challenging deregulation and other policies that lead to perpetual increases of oil prices and cost of food, electricity and other utilities and basic services such as education, in order to provide immediate relief to the economic burden of workers.
"Workers' struggle for decent work is being defeated by greedy employers' blatant assault on their rights. Their chances to it are being deprived by the Philippine government's labor, social and economic policies that always function in favor of local and foreign businesses," NAGKAISA said.
The group is also pressing for the ratification of ILO Convention 189 or the Decent Work for Domestic Workers Convention.
NAGKAISA, as one voice of labor, will actively engage industry and all branches of government at all levels in meaningful and progressive social dialogue to improve the plight of workers.
"If necessary, NAGKAISA will be holding decisive mass actions to bring these issues closer to and wield support from the people," the group said.
NAGKAISA will hold a rally on Labor Day in Manila, where it plans to mobilize some 40,000 workers.
AFW AIWA ALU (METAL, PSU, TEXTILE, TRANSPORT) APL APSOTEU ATU BMP CIU CLASS FCCU FFW KAMAO KILUSAN KKKP LIBO MAKABAYAN MARINO NABU NAFLU NAMAWU NCL NCTU NUPP NUWHRAIN PALEA PEUP PGEA PILLU PIPSEA PM PMA PSLINK PTGWO SENTRO TESDA-ACE VIMCOMTU WSN
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