Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Martial law extension or expansion will be a very expensive, unproductive experiment

Photo from Inquirer

The battle of Marawi has already entered its 9th week.  And it won’t be over until everything gets back to normal.  In fact, it is the normalization and rehabilitation part of this conflict which is a bigger war to win since failure in this aspect, we believe, will only create more conflict in this highly stratified region of the country.
We anticipate, though, that Marawi will ultimately fall back into the hands of our government forces.  War ultimately ends even without a victor. What it leaves, definitely, are the enormous humanitarian costs that will be very difficult to measure.  The Marawi war has already claimed at least 500 lives and created more than 200,000 bakwits.  Thousands of livelihoods were also lost as the city was razed into the ground by aerial bombings and fierce ground battles. Furthermore, the declaration of martial law has endangered civilians’ free exercise of human rights in the entire island of Mindanao.
The Supreme Court has already ruled on the legality of the declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao but the 60-day duration of Proclamation 216 is set to expire on July 22, 2017.  Hence, the President, Congress and the entire nation now face a bothering question on whether the Martial Law in Mindanao should be extended or be expanded to cover the entire Philippines.  The House leadership, when asked, is even willing to extend and expand Martial Law for the entire term of the President or until 2022.
NAGKAISA labor coalition declares its opposition to the extension or expansion of Martial Law based on the following grounds: 
1.     It is not necessary;
2.     It will be very expensive; 
3.     It is unproductive and is a disincentive to economic progress;
4.     It weakens our democratic institutions; and
5.     It strengthens the hands of the totalitarians.
We find no compelling reason to warrant its extension or expansion at this point in time.  We believe that lawlessness in many forms can be addressed by a highly professional and effective military/police leadership. Ensuring professionalism and quality armed services is where Presidential powers are best exercised. 
Furthermore, extending this kind of war for a much longer time and carried out on a nationwide scale will become a very expensive experiment for a country whose development is highly dependent on loans and regressive taxes. It is therefore unacceptable to see the proposed expansion of VAT and imposition of excise taxes on oil, automobiles and sugar drinks funding not a social program but infrastructure for war.
Lastly, it will be very unproductive for the President to spend his remaining years in office for this costly war.  War is both destruction and political distraction.  It neither creates nor equally redistributes social wealth that is now concentrated in the hands of oligarchs.
The President, in other words, has a better war to wage and win against contractualization, low wages, and high prices of basic goods and services.  If you want peace, Mr. President, build social justice and economic inclusion first.
Dito ka namin gustong maramdaman

Nagkaisa Labor Coalition
19 July 2017

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

PRESS CONFERENCE: Nagkaisa Statement on Martial Law


18 July 2017

Contact: Rene Magtubo: 0917.8532905
            Julius Cainglet: 0917.8553279


PRESS CONFERENCE: Nagkaisa Statement on Martial Law

19 July 2017    |    10:00 AM
TUCP-PGEA AVR, Elliptical Road cor. Maharlika Street, Quezon City

At the press conference, Nagkaisa, the broadest labor coalition in the country, will release its statement on proposed extension of Martial Law in Mindanao and its expansion to other parts of the country; and the need to address the bigger war on labor contractualization.

Thank you very much!


Thursday, July 13, 2017

Stop union busting at a supplier to big electronics firms

Photo by Rappler

The management of a Taiwanese-owned factory located in the biggest export zone in the Philippines is trying to bust the newly-formed union of workers. Lakepower Converter Inc. in the Cavite Economic Zone makes electronic transformers for computers, appliances and even airplanes, and is a supplier to multinational firms like Recom Power of Germany, Arrow Electronics of US and Asus of Taiwan.

Lakepower management individually interrogated workers who were suspected of being active in the union. In a mediation meeting in the Labor Department, Lakepower promised to respect freedom of association. But even after the mediation, managers harassed union leaders who attended the Labor Department meeting. Workers are being told that the factory will close because of the union. The union believes the rumor is fake news meant to intimidate workers. In fact, the factory is operating at full production thus contractual workers are being regularized and employees are working for seven days a week without a day off.

A majority of the 200 hundred workers of Lakepower joined a union in a bid to improve working conditions. Another hundred more workers are contractual. In the Labor Department mediation, the union presented a list of more than a dozen workplace grievances. Among those issues included disciplining a pregnant worker by putting her in the hottest work area in the factory; airconditioners at the shopfloor kept shut and turned on only for visitors like Labor Department officials; and keeping the women’s restroom door permanently open.

None of the workplace grievances has yet been resolved by Lakepower. Almost all of the Lakepower workers are women.

Mercy Tanginan, union president and a worker for some seven years, is calling on Lakepower to uphold its promise to respect freedom of association and negotiate with the union in good faith to improve working conditions. She also called on Lakepower customers like Recom Power, Arrow Electronics and Asus to remediate the violations by Lakepower.

Lakepower is 100% Taiwanese-owned according to the records of the Philippine Economic Zone Authority and exports all of its production to Coil Technology Corporation that is based in Kaohsiung City, Taiwan. Coil Technology Corp. calls itself a “service provider for technology and supply-chain management in power electronics.”

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Martial law legality is more impunity – labor group

Photo from Rappler
The decision is extremely disappointing but not surprising. This is how the labor group Partido Manggagawa (PM) reacted to the Supreme Court verdict rendering legalities to the imposition of martial law in Mindanao. “There seems to be an established judicial pattern here. The majority justices who didn’t share the agonies of martial law victims have only seen the legality of the Marcos burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani in the absence of an express law prohibiting it. In the same manner, these justices may have only seen the exclamation point in Marawi to support the President in suppressing a pocket rebellion through martial law,” stated PM Chair Renato Magtubo. The group reiterated its concern that placing the entire Mindanao under martial law may result in more human rights violations, massive dislocation of communities, and further destruction to properties and social infrastructure due to violence and prolonged military actions until the entire island is cleared of state enemies. It also warned the palace not to utilize martial law as a tool to suppress civil liberties. “Legally martial law does not suspend the free exercise of human rights, except for those who would be directly charged with the crime of rebellion or invasion. But if a culture of impunity can reign today even without martial law, how far can it go under an emboldened commander-in-chief and the police leadership who mocks and vilifies human rights to the max?,” asked PM. The death toll in Marawi is still on the rise while the destructions due to war have created a humanitarian crisis comparable to the previous wars in Mindanao. “If the picture of Marawi and the tens of thousands of bakwits who fled away from it will become the generalized condition under martial law in different parts of Mindanao, then the policy can neither be just nor beneficial to both the Muslims, Lumads and Christians in the long run,” added PM. The group, however, clarified that it is for the ultimate reign of peace and prosperity in Mindanao and that these can only be achieved through social development and political settlement of different conflicts. “The military solution was the dating daan that failed Mindanao and the entire country. It should not be repeated. It should not be extended. A repeat and extension of it will only benefit the terrorists who also crave for blood and violence to fill our land,” concluded Magtubo.

04 July 2017

Friday, June 30, 2017

Isang Bigong Taon: A failed one year for Digong – labor groups

Contractualization did not stop; wages remained low and regionalized; the unemployment and underemployment problems continue to weigh down on a large number of Filipino workers.  “In sum, it was “Isang B(D)igong Taon” on the labor front for President Duterte’s first year in office,” stated various labor groups in their one year assessment of the President’s performance.

It can be recalled that the President made a campaign pledge that contractualization will stop the moment he becomes the President.  He also vowed to raise wages and abolish the system of provincial rates.

“We tried to rate the President’s performance as objective as we can, but the outcomes for labor over his first 365 days have been generally wanting, have given us false expectations and given us many unfulfilled promises,” said the workers groups in a joint statement distributed to media during a demonstration held at the Boy Scout Circle in Timog Quezon City, Friday.

The mass action was organized by the Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (Sentro), Partido Manggagawa (PM), Federation of Free Workers (FFW), National Federation of Labor Unions (Naflu) and the Philippine Airlines Employees Association (Palea).  Members of the World March of Women and Ateneo University’s Union of Students for the Advancement of Democracy (USAD) also joined the rally.

No end yet to endo

In a meeting on Labor Day, President Duterte asked labor groups to draft an Executive Order that would use prohibition of all forms of contractualization as a framework.  This was after the unanimous rejection of labor groups of Department Order 174 issued by Labor and Employment Sec. Silvestre Bello III sometime in March.  He also instructed the labor department to resolve with dispatch the years of dispute between PAL and PALEA on the issue of contractualization.

In response the labor groups submitted a unified draft together with the formal labor sector of the National Anti-Poverty Commission. But almost two months from its submission, the President has done no executive action to address the rampant contractualization.

“We have always advocated for a prohibition of all forms of contractualization and a stop to the abusive operations of manpower agencies and manpower cooperatives. The President himself at his assumption to power and in his first meeting with labor groups early this year openly expressed disgust over these as they ‘abused workers,’ using his words,” said the groups.

According to labor groups, DO 174 continues to permit contractualization and allows manpower agencies and manpower cooperatives to take a cut from workers’ salaries each payday.

There was also no certification issued by the President on pending anti-endo bills filed before the Congress. The PAL-PALEA dispute is not yet resolved.

The only token victory they got on this respect, the groups said, is the planned deputization of trade unionists as labor inspectors, the first batch of which are now undergoing training at the labor department.  

Freedom of Association is also one of the areas where the President has a failing mark from the groups as organizing remains extremely difficult particularly in Economic Zones as workers get harassed and get fired for trying to organize unions.

Wages, power, employment, OFW fees, new taxes

With the regional wage setting mechanism still in place, discrimination in terms of wages still persists across the country. The President said he was for a national minimum wage, but such policy pronouncement has not translated even to a working paper from DOLE that they can discuss with workers.

“In the meantime the real value of wages continues to drop, power rates and prices of basic goods and services continue to climb, making it more burdensome for the working class. Meanwhile, the collection of exorbitant placement and other fees for OFW have not been addressed sufficiently if at all,” added the group.

In addition, the planned imposition of excise taxes on oil and the expansion of VAT coverage on goods and services under the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN), the group feared, will lead to further erosion of workers purchasing power especially those earning the minimum wage and below.
ILO Convention 151 ratification, the saving grace

The President, however, got a passing mark for being the first chief executive to endorse for Senate concurrence International Labor Convention 151 on Labor Relations in the Public Sector. The treaty, once ratified by the Senate, would guarantee the right to organize of public sector workers and allow them to bargain for better working conditions, among others.

Wrong war

Asked why the President failed to satisfy workers’ clamor for change during the last 365 days, the labor groups said, “It is expected when a leader quickly descends into a wrong war that only resulted to thousands of unsolved killings.  While surveys have consistently showed that inflation, wages, and employment remain the top concerns of every Filipino.”

30 June 2013