Sunday, May 27, 2018

Workers call on Duterte to order a national minimum wage

The militant labor group Partido Manggagawa (PM) called on President Rodrigo Duterte to implement a national minimum wage as he had previously promised. This was PM’s response to the directive of the President yesterday for the Labor Department to convene the regional wage boards to study the grant of salary increases in the face of sharp inflation.

“The order to convene the regional wage boards falls short of a firm presidential response to the inflationary crisis. For the past three decades, wage orders by the regional boards are so low that at present it cannot offset the impact of the rising cost of living brought about by the TRAIN law and profiteering by unscrupulous employers. President Duterte should amend his order to explicitly ask a substantial salary hike as a relief measure and direct the wage boards to raise minimum wages to a national level,” explained Rene Magtubo, PM national chair.

The PM leader recalled that in a dialogue with labor leaders, President Duterte declared that there is need to abolish what he termed as “provincial rates” of workers. “Now is the perfect time to turn mere words into presidential action,” Magtubo insisted.

He added that “The substantial increase can be attained only if the wage boards will decisively base the determination of minimum wages on the cost of living and the living wage criteria not on their default criterion—the capacity to pay of employers. Because of this subjective criterion, records will show that the increase in minimum wage rates granted by the regional wage boards do not exceed PhP 1,000 per month, a far cry from the additional burden of expenses incurred by low income earners to date brought about by the rising inflation.”

The group stated that the present mechanism of fixing minimum wage rates per region should be abolished for it does not satisfy the mandate of the Constitution of granting workers a living wage. “While the abolition of the regional wage boards require the repeal of the ‘Wage Rationalization Act of 1989,’ there is no rule preventing the existing boards from coordinating towards raising wages to a national minimum in response to a presidential call,” Magtubo affirmed.

He furthered that “Wage regionalization does not conform to the principle of ‘equal pay for work of equal value.” Differentiating wage rates on the geographical location where a worker works which is absurd. Why would an equally capacitated carpenter differ in minimum wage rate in a construction firm because one works in Quezon City and the other in Bulacan?”

May 27, 2018

Friday, May 25, 2018

Wage increase now!

A supervening event from the sharp inflationary impact of the TRAIN law is enough reason for the regional wage boards to conduct summary proceedings on the necessity of wage hikes even in the absence of wage petitions within their respective regions. 

Evidently, the effect of TRAIN law on inflation is fast and furious nationwide hence, the regional wage boards need not wait a year to lapse from their last issued wage orders before they can conduct public hearings on wage petitions. In fact, they can even act moto propio on this issue on the basis of a supervening event like this one. 

Workers, especially the majority of wage earners who gained nothing from TRAIN yet ending up devastatingly hit by inflation, clearly need a wage hike now.
On the other hand, we would like to point out that a wage hike in the immediate would merely mean recovery of the lost purchasing power of wages due to inflation. In the long term, this action will neither rectify the structural defects in the country’s wage fixing mechanism that keep wages low nor satisfy the worker’s right to a living wage mandated by the Constitution.

In other words, while a wage hike is an immediate concern for workers now due to the effects of TRAIN, reforming the existing wage policy has long been a necessity demanded by labor under different regimes, including the Duterte administration. As a matter of fact, aside from his unfulfilled promise to make endo history, President Duterte has yet to abolish the ‘provincial rates system’ in favor of a national minimum wage standard that he promised during the presidential campaign and previous dialogues with organized labor.

Unfortunately for now, the President only has the TRAIN law to drain our pockets, with the poor shouldering the pay-pay-pay (PPP) part of the build-build-build (BBB) program of the administration.

Mr. President, either you stop the TRAIN or let the poor bleed some more.

25 May 2018

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Cavite workers go on strike, slam harassment by PEZA

Workers of a garments factory in the Cavite ecozone went on strike yesterday morning in response to the mass termination of 16 union officers. However the picketline setup by workers was torn down by an official of the Cavite ecozone administration and the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) police.

“We condemn the harassment by Cavite industrial relations officer Mr. Lindon and the head of PEZA police, a certain Mr. dela Cruz, of the legal strike by Dong Seung workers. Just like during the strike by women workers of the electronics company Lakepower Converter last December, PEZA is actively suppressing the right of workers to peaceful concerted activities. These are gross violations of the Joint DOLE-PNP-PEZA Guidelines in the Conduct of Security Personnel During Labor Disputes,” declared Dennis Sequena, coordinator of the Cavite chapter of Partido Manggagawa (PM), which is assisting the striking workers.

The strike continues today with scores of Dong Seung workers conducting a roving picket. This morning, PEZA police once more harassed the striking workers and prohibited their use of a megaphone while conducting a protest program in front of the Dong Seung factory gate. Members of the union are also being stopped and prevented from entering the Cavite ecozone.

Last April 27, Dong Seung workers and their supporters trooped to the Cavite ecozone main gate to protest the union busting and call for respect for freedom of association. The rally followed a forum in which Cavite ecozone workers aired their grievances about low pay, insecure jobs, verbal harassment and excessive work quotas.

The Dong Seung union officers were served notices of termination in their houses by an HR officer of the company last April 12. They were supposed to back to work on April 13 as part of the agreement. An earlier strike notice was precipitated by the one-month suspension of the 16 union officers.

“The firing of all 16 union officers, including the union president, was the latest in a series of union busting moves by management. Moreover it is a maneuver done in bad faith as the union just withdrew a notice of strike earlier filed. The retraction of the strike was part of an agreement mediated by the Labor Department wherein workers will be accepted back to work after an investigation by management,” explained Juanito Diaz, president of the Dong Seung Workers Union-Independent.

Dong Seung Inc. is a Korean-owned apparel manufacturer inside the Cavite Economic Zone, the country’s biggest government-run export processing estate. It manufactures garments for global brands Macy’s and Ann Taylor. Dong Seung workers are asking Macy’s and Ann Taylor to remediate the code of conduct violations of its supplier.

Diaz declared that “Tama na. Sobra na. Oras na para igalang ang karapatang mag-unyon para mapabuti ang kalagayan ng mga manggagawa. Workers in the Cavite ecozone are organizing to improve their wages and working conditions but the response of companies is to bust unions and harass workers.”

The union had filed a petition for certification elections in the company last December. Immediately after, the union alleged that management started harassing officers and members. Unionists were denied loans or were forced to withdraw support for the union in return for access to loans. Union leaders were transferred to different production lines and a union officer was demoted from mechanic to sewer.

Then in the latter part of March, management suspended for 30 days all union officers on the pretext that they smeared the company by seeking action from the factory customers regarding violations of freedom of association and labor standards.

Photos of the Dong Seung workers strike and rally can be accessed at FB page of Partido Manggagawa:

May 12, 2018

Friday, May 11, 2018

Quo warranto vs Sereno was a political coup

The decision of the Supreme Court to remove Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno can never be considered as a triumph of justice. It’s purely a result of a political coup organized from both the outside and inside of the country’s deteriorating state of institutions.   

Sereno was clearly ousted not because of her missing SALNs but mainly because of her missing loyalty to the Chief Executive.  And while the quo warranto was effectively used only as a means to achieve the end of administratively ousting the Chief Justice, it’s the political side of it that’s more intimidating as far as the whole nation is concerned.  It’s not really the quo warranto proceedings, we believe, that has become a threat to the SC itself as an institution.  Rather, it’s the majority vote that is worth watching as this number has already become a political trend in itself.    

Is it the same majority that will ensure the victory of Bongbong Marcos before the Presidential Electoral Tribunal? Will the same majority vote in favor of ConAss to ensure the smooth sailing of the chacha train? Were they the same majority who voted to reverse the FASAP decision 20 years after? 

The recent decision on former CJ Sereno provides a preview of what’s going to be the next big things this ruling majority will do or undo in this increasingly becoming confused and supressed nation.

11 May 2018

Friday, May 4, 2018

Workers challenge Senate on endo

In pursuit of their respective interests, the “class conflict” between employers and workers on the issue of labor contracting has shifted to Congress, the Senate in particular, after President Duterte issued EO 51 last Labor Day. President Duterte dropped the ball on endo. Workers challenge the Senate to pick it up.

EO 51 was welcomed by employers’ groups, especially by the subcontractors, but labor groups have not wholeheartedly accepted it.

The endo fight at Congress would be long and complicated battle given that both the employers and workers would deal with 23 senators to come up with a Senate version of the bill on security of tenure, and the members of the bicameral conference committee to iron out differences on the versions of both houses.

The House of Representatives has already approved their security of tenure measure under House Bill 6908 principally authored by Rep. Ting, chairperson of the Committee on Labor and Reps. Mendoza and Villarin of TUCP and Akbayan party-lists, respectively.

It would greatly expedite the process in the Senate in particular and to the Congress as a whole if President Duterte will issue clear “directives” to his “super majorities” in the Senate and House of Representatives.  Such “directives” should express his will for the realization of his campaign promise to end contractualization of labor.

Labor solidarity displayed in the fight against the ill-effects of widespread contractualization on workers’ rights and welfare has convinced the House of Representatives and the President to act accordingly.

It would be labor solidarity again that would play a vital role on convincing the Senate. But this time, the solidarity should be broader, stronger and sharper on its action in order to win the battle.

May 4, 2018

Ka Rene Magtubo
PM Chair and Nagkaisa Labor Coalition Spokesperson