Philippines: 25,000 Workers March to Mendiola on Labor Day
Chiding President Aquino's pronouncement that Labor Day should be celebratory with both labor and capitalists greeting each other for "doing a good job" for the past year, workers renewed the call for government to create "not just jobs" but "more regular jobs with living wage."
'Good Job' means a Regular Job with Good Pay
Some 25,000 workers under NAGKAISA labor coalition marched from UST to Chino Roces bridge in Manila.
They were joined by senatorial candidates Risa Hontiveros, Ricardo Penson, Allan Peter Cayetano, and Eddie Villanueva, who also signed a pact with the workers vowing to fight for security of tenure, adoption of a living wage, cheaper electric rates, promotion of labor rights in the public sector.
Other candidates have also expressed their willingness to fight for the cause, but have not confirmed for the march are Loren Legarda, Grace Poe - Llamanzares, Jamby Madrigal and JV Ejercito.
Edwin Bustillos, deputy secretary-general of the Alliance of Progressive Labor and co-convenor of NAGKAISA: "Yes, the President listened to our grievances yesterday," referring to Pres Aquino's dialogue with labor leaders in Malacanang, "but his mind was set on turning down most of our demands."
The President has said that he can't push for the passage of the Security of Tenure bill now pending in Congress because it would negatively affect more workers.
"(Pres Aquino) must be thinking that most Filipino workers are happy with their condition in the workplace — they are not. Most employees are under short term contracts, they are considered casuals or contractuals, whose jobs can be terminated at the whim of their employers and not given any benefits," says Renato Magtubo, chairperson of Partido Manggagawa coalition.
Vic Balais, President of the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines - PTGWO and co-convenor of NAGKAISA: "We call on all Filipino workers to begin the push of expanding the number of regular workers. The labor code has been bastardized by capitalists to the detriment of the workers, by promoting casualization and contractualization."
The 250,000-strong NAGKAISA, is the largest nation-wide coalition of various labor organizations in the Philippines.
NAGKAISA encompasses the widest spectrum of colors and persuasions — from the leftist Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL), Partido Manggagawa (PM), Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP), Manggagawa para sa Kalayaan ng Bayan (Makabayan) to the moderate Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) and Federation of Filipino Workers (FFW), the labor centers National Confederation of Labor (NCL) and SENTRO, to the public sector unions Caucus of Independent Unions (CIU), Philippine Government Employees Association (PGEA), Public Services Labor Independent Confederation (PSLINK), ang many other federations.
Even as President Aquino thumbs down security of tenure bill, Akbayan Party remains resolute, will push for its passage
By Akbayan (Citizens Action Party)
Even as President Aquino thumbs down pleas from labor groups to certify as urgent a bill on security of tenure, Akbayan partylist vowed to push for its passage in the 16th Congress.
"We can't deny the fact that we are saddened by President Aquino's position on this important proposed measure. However, we have no illusion that we will see the President eye to eye on all issues. While we are disappointed, this will not discourage us from pushing for the passage of the bill and from convincing the government including the President of the necessity of this legislative measure," Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello said.
Bello, who is the principal author of House Bill No. 4853 popularly known as the Security of Tenure Bill, admitted that President Aquino's support could have contributed significantly in pushing for the passage of the measure. However, he said his party is not unfamiliar with challenges. The Akbayan stalwart expressed optimism that they will be able to push the bill in Congress.
"We passed the RH and CARPER laws despite the strong opposition from the church hierarchy and landlords. With the support of the Filipino working class, I am confident that we can pass this bill to secure regular jobs for our workers," Bello said.
Bello said the Aquino government should seriously look into the employers' sub-contracting practice.
"The periodic termination of employment leaves workers and their families with very little to prevent their fall to poverty. It also has little impact on the administration's anti-poverty efforts," Bello said.
Bello stressed that the government must remain on the side of the Filipino workers by regulating, even minimizing to negligible level the employers' sub-contracting practices.
"It is important to ensure that employers will not make radical cuts in employment to maintain profit margins, and ensure that workers are provided with permanent employment and the corresponding benefits, as stipulated in the labor code. We hope the Aquino administration will continue to be an ally of the Filipino workers," Bello said.
Akbayan also called on the Aquino administration to institute "booster" programs to "institutionally curb" poverty in the country.
"While the conditional cash transfer program has been invaluable in containing poverty, we need a more potent solution to complement the CCT. The CCT should have an employment component for household heads. The government must transition from poverty containment to poverty eradication," Bello added.
The anti-poverty "booster programs" Akbayan is pushing include increased social spending on education and healthcare, creation of regular jobs, wage increase coupled with non-wage benefits and development and revitalization of the rural economy, among others.
"This recipe of programs and legislation are necessary to empower millions of poor Filipino families to breach the poverty line. If we want to see a decrease in poverty, we have to ensure that economic growth will directly benefit the poor," according to Bello.
Protest not celebration in response to Aquino's rebuff
Labor Party - Philippines
Protest not celebration is the theme of the Labor Day commemoration today. Workers groups are dismayed over President Benigno Aquino III's (PNoy) rebuff of their demands in a dialogue yesterday.
"Insults instead of non-wage benefits were announced by PNoy in the dialogue. Workers still have received nothing significant from PNoy after three Labor Days. Sa ikatlong Mayo Uno ni PNoy, bokya pa rin ang mga manggagawa," declared Renato Magtubo, Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) chair.
Hours after the dialogue, more than a hundred PM members staged a vigil at Mendiola in response to President Aquino's rejection of labor concerns. Today several thousand PM members are joining the 25-strong mobilization of the labor coalition Nagkaisa. The rallyists will assemble across the length of Espana from Welcome Rotonda to Ramon Magsaysay and then proceed to Mendiola for the Labor Day program that will last up to noon.
PM members will push the slogan "Manggagawa Naman" as they demand that workers' issues be a priority in the national agenda. In particular PM is advancing its "Apat na Dapat" set of concerns which are regular jobs with living wages; housing, education and health care services for all; cheaper prices of food and utilities; and equal rights and opportunity for women.
"We want the mandates of the Constitution—living wages and full employment—to be implemented by the State," Magtubo argued. PM criticized the non-wage benefits as "scraps meant for slaves" and insisted that workers are "not children that can be pacified with candy." The group also slammed the job fairs slated today as a "farce."
The Labor Day protests are nationwide in scope. In Cebu, thousands of PM members will unite with the Nagkaisa contingent for a 7,000-strong rally from downtown Colon to Fuente Osmena. Meanwhile in Bacolod, PM will merge with the labor coalition GAWA for a rally at the downtown area. In Iloilo, PM will have an assembly of construction workers and then initiate a march to Plaza Letogay. In Davao, PM and Nagkaisa will have a joint protest at Orcullo Park. Finally in Iligan, PM will link up with a labor unity rally at the public park.
Several hundred members of the Philippine Airlines Employees' Association (PALEA) will also attend the Labor Day rally. Yesterday they laid wreaths at the foot of Mendiola for Bienvenido Ruiz, an outsourced Philippine Airlines worker who died of a stroke last Sunday. "The martyrdom of Bien Ruiz, Antonio Enero, Danny Hernandez, Alfredo Limana and Arturo Estrada—who all died during the pendency our struggle against outsourcing—embolden us to fight until victory so that their deaths will not be in vain," insisted Gerry Rivera, PALEA president and PM vice chair.
PLM statement on Labor Day 2013
By Party of the Laboring Masses (PLM)
Partido Lakas ng Masa (PLM) welcomes the enduring unity of the Filipino workers who will again be marching together under the banner of the broad labor coalition Nagkaisa!
While we celebrate Labor Day, we know that there is no relief in sight to our gloom and misery even under the new dispensation. The PNoy government crows about the increase in economic growth rate as the highest in Southeast Asia. Our GDP has increased by 6.6% in 2012 while Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam scored lower rates than this.
What the government doesn't say is that this growth has not been accompanied by jobs, therefore, it has not brought any relief to the poor. The growth hasn't 'trickled down' and remains in the pocket of so few, mainly the 40 Filipino billionaires who profited while rest wallow in poverty.
The poverty rates alone (27% poverty incidence) have remained unchanged since 2006. This, despite the government's Conditional Cash Transfer program, which is supposed to have alleviated poverty in the country. The CCT program, as any other program of the Aquino program, has clearly failed.
Today, the PNoy government is offering instead a 'job fair' that aims to dispense 400,000 jobs to the masses. This is clearly a joke in a country with 3 million people unemployed and 8 million still counted as underemployed!
The government is not even considering wage increase for the workers. During the 'breakfast dialogue' with labor leaders, PNoy is set to announce a set of non-wage benefits which surely will look like another joke, just like the 'job fair'.
If the government is intent on alleviating poverty, a legislated across-the-board wage increase is necessary. And any meaningful non-wage benefit would have to include the following:
Bringing down prices of basic commodities like rice, cooking oil, LPG, milk, electricity, gas, and others by junking VAT and providing government subsidy to these basic goods.
Bringing down tuition fees for students or providing free education from elementary to college to students from poor families.
Free hospitalization and medicines for the poor, including the setting up of government clinics with attending doctors and nurses, and free medicines, to all barangays.
Moratorium on demolition of poor communities and massive public housing programs for the poor.
These would amount to an increase of the 'social wage' that will be a boon to the masses, but will not hurt the pockets of small entrepreneurs. It takes political will for the government to do this, as the increase of the 'social wage' will have to be shouldered by taxing the rich (start with the 40 Filipino billionaires) and by declaring a moratorium on foreign debts.
A genuine increase in the social wage cannot be achieved without fundamental socio-economic changes. It will require, for example, a redistribution of wealth. This is the only way poverty and hunger can be significantly reduced and ultimately eradicated. The Aquino government, however, is committed to implementing a neoliberal program, which is the primary reason for the continuing poverty and hunger in the country.
The lesson is clear: The Aquino government, like the previous regimes, has failed in providing for the basic needs of the majority of the population. And it will continue to fail, until we have established a genuine government of the masses, run by the masses, and serving the interests of the masses.
APL supports striking Hong Kong dock workers
By Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL)
Members and officers of the Progressive Labor Union (PLU) of Domestic Workers in Hong Kong and its mother organization in the Philippines, the Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL), wish to convey our unwavering and deepest solidarity with the striking workers belonging to the Union of Hong Kong Dockers (UHKD), an affiliate of the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU), the largest labor center in this territory and a close international trade union partner of APL.
APL and PLU want to link arms with the more than 400 workers - mostly crane operators and stevedores, and many are contractual or outsourced labor - who downed their tools last March 28 to demand for higher wages and better working conditions. We fully recognize that your demands for at least 20-percent pay rise and other benefits are just and reasonable to catch up with inflation after almost 20 years. Indeed, as the UHKD reveals, Hong Kong dockworkers are paid less than they earned in 1995 as they are merely paid HK$55 (US$7) an hour today or lower than the HK$60.70 they were paid 18 years ago, which was followed by a salary cut during the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) outbreak in 2003.
We strongly deplore the continued refusal of the port operator to meet and negotiate with the union and HKCTU because the workers are supposedly employed not by the port itself but by several subcontracting companies. But we in the labor movement and other social movements are more than aware that outsourcing and contractualization are both an old capitalist trick and an "upgraded" and more widespread neoliberal tactic being used to enable deceitful employers and corporations to prevent the workers from enjoying regular employment. Maintaining an army of non-regular workforce is highly profitable - since they receive cheaper wages, limited benefits, without security of tenure, and usually banned from joining unions.
We also echo the protesters' cry of "Pay up Li Ka-shing" and "Richest in Asia, meanest in the world" as we condemn the "philanthropist's duplicity" of Li Ka-shing, the wealthiest person in Hong Kong and entire Asia, and 8th richest in the world, who is worth $31 billion as of March 2013, according to Forbes. He is the majority owner of the Hong Kong International Terminals - where the striking workers toil but paid cheaply - since it is operated by Hutchison Port Holdings Trust (HPHT), whose largest shareholder is Li's Hutchison Whampoa Ltd. The latter, in turn, along with another corporate partner, controls half of the capacity of Hong Kong port, the world's third largest container port behind Shanghai and Singapore.
We could very well relate to the struggle of our dockworker comrades in Hong Kong, as we, the domestic workers, as well as many other workers in the Philippines, are facing the uncertainties of job insecurity, cheap wages and benefits, and constricted rights, including many purportedly inalienable labor and trade union rights.
Despite all these obstacles, workers and trade unionists in the Philippines, in Hong Kong and throughout the world must persevere to advance and defend our rights.
Long live the striking dockworkers in Hong Kong!
Long live UHKD-HKCTU!
Long live workers of the world!
Long live the labor movement!
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