Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Labor groups lambast power oligarchs in second day of protest against high power rates

Labor groups belonging to the biggest labor coalition Nagkaisa! vented their ire in their second day of protest against high power rates on the country’s power oligarchs whose business empires are shored up by super profits taken out from the pockets of millions of captive electricity consumers.

In a rally held outside the main office of Meralco in Pasig City, Nagkaisa! leaders took turns in lambasting the big names in the power industry whom they refer to as the Voltage 5 for raking in billions of profits while consumers suffer the burden of paying one of the most expensive electricity rates in the world.

The Voltage 5 includes the Pangilinan group, the Lopez group, the Aboitiz group, the San Miguel group of Danding Cojuangco, and the group of Henry Sy of the National Grid Corporation.

Nagkaisa! convenor Leody de Guzman, said Meralco in 2011 alone earned a net profit of P14.9-B or 22% higher than what they had in 2010. Aboitiz Power netted P25-B in 2010 or 343% higher than what they earned in 2009. Likewise, profits of the Lopez group jumped to P24.8-B in 2010 or an increase of 186% from 2009. The San Miguel group on the other hand earned P16.7-B in 2011 or 31% higher from 2010.

“That’s P81-B of combined profits which is higher than the combined annual incomes of half a million wage earners in NCR and at least a million minimum wage earners in each regions of the country,” stated De Guzman.

De Guzman describes the situation as disgustingly unfair as he assailed the government for making it sure that power oligarchs reap the benefits of power privatization while workers shoulder the pain of unjust rates.

Prior to the Meralco rally today, Nagkaisa! also held a picket at the offices of the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) the other day asking the body to defer the planned implementation of retail competition and open access this coming December. Nagkaisa! warns that the implementation of open access would lead to another round of increases in power rates.

The rally at Meralco participated by the Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL), Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP), Partido ng Manggagawa (PM), Philippine Airlines’ Employees Association (PALEA) and Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) is part of NAGKAISA’s “Season of Protest Against Bad Economics”, which the coalition launched early this week.

Another World is Possible! Reject the Policies of Neoliberalism! Protect the Economy, Protect the Working Class!

Together with 800 delegates of the World Social Forum on Migrant Labor, the Nagkaisa broad labor coalition would march on November 30 to call on the Aquino administration to reject neoliberal policies and to pursue the policy of labor and economic protectionism.

In two decades, Philippine governments have swallowed hook, line and sinker the policies endorsed by foreign institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank and the Asian Development Bank (ADB). Now, it must be said again, the Filipino people are not better off with the policies of liberalization, deregulation, privatization, and flexibilization of labor. Workers are fed up and we demand immediate action.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating. The Filipino workers took the bitter pills of neoliberal policies. But instead of recuperating from crippling poverty, they suffer even more from the following conditions:

Low Wages and Cheap Labor Policy. The minimum wage is not even half the “cost of living” – the necessary costs for a decent life for a working class family. Workers are forced to go on overtime because of starvation wages. Even with the Philippine putting up a “baratilyo” or “bargain sale” of its workers, foreign direct investments have not picked up as fast as it did in our neighbors in the Southeast Asian region.

Outsourcing and Contractualization. To promote cheap and docile workers, employers have restricted the regularization of its workers even for those who perform usually necessary and desirable work for six months. The scourge of contractualization ravaged not only our security of tenure but also our rights to self-organization and bargain collectively.

Lack of regular employment and cheap labor policy force our kababayans to migrate and seek greener pastures overseas; hence, its by-product, the tacit policy of labor migration, which have made our economy dependent on dollar remittances from overseas Filipino workers.

High Power Rates and Privatization of the Power Industry. With the passage of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act or EPIRA on June 2001, power rates in the country have gone up. The cost of doing business in the Philippines is among the highest in Asia due to the high cost of electricity.

Spiraling oil prices. Government insists on the oil deregulation law despite the indisputable fact of unabated oil price hikes and incessant protests from civil society groups including workers’ organizations. The Noynoy Aquino regime put up a review committee on this issue. But instead of drafting proposal to reverse deregulation, it became a mere mouthpiece of the oil oligarchs.

Neoliberal economics is pro-foreign capital and anti-labor. It not only serves the interest of foreign monopoly capital, in the persona of transnational companies. It is a recolonization of the Philippines by foreign powers.

On November 30, the Nagkaisa broad coalition is in unity with regional and global movements against corporate greed. People before profit! Another World is Possible. We call on Noynoy Aquino to adhere to the Constitutional provisions on “full protection to labor” and the “national economy”.

Economic struggle at the factory and shopfloor level must extend to the political arena. The labor movement must transcend traditional localized unionism to lead the discourse on policies and laws that affect the Filipino masses. We challenge the contending parties in the 2013 elections – especially the Liberal Party Coalition (LPC) and United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) to present concrete proposals on how to alleviate poverty and resolve the everyday problems of the masses.

Coke Workers Pressed FEMSA to Stop Coke’s War Against Regular Jobs

“Hey Coke, how many regular jobs have you killed today?”

This is the chant of hundreds of workers belonging to the Alliance of Coca-Cola Unions in the Philippines (ACCUP) and their supporters from the Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL-Sentro) and NAGKAISA during a rally today in front of the Coca-Cola headquarters in Makati. The workers demanded the owners-to-be of Coca-Cola – FEMSA – to immediately cease the company’s unrelenting war against regular jobs.

Coca-Cola Philippines is up for sale by The Coca-Cola Company (TCCC). For months now, Coca-Cola FEMSA from Mexico has been conducting due diligence and has sent a team to the Philippines to look at the company’s assets.

“To ensure a smooth transition, FEMSA should demonstrate its good faith by declaring its commitment to fully respect workers’ rights,” Fred Marañon, spokesperson of Alliance of Coca-Cola Unions in the Philippines (ACCUP) and president of Coca-Cola San Fernando Rank and File Union, said. “FEMSA should call on Coca-Cola management to stop ramming down on our throats its anti-worker policy called P3,” he added.

P3, or Performance, Participation and Presence, is an evaluation program that lacks any consideration of fairness and equity in determining wage increases. It also removes workers’ hard-won protection against arbitrary and unfair punishment or dismissal as well as protection against discrimination. More importantly, it precludes the use of grievance procedures in questioning the penalties that are imposed to those who ‘fails’ the performance appraisals.

“P3 has started claiming its victims in Coca-Cola plants where management has succeeded in imposing the program through various ruses,” Marañon said. “The worst part is, workers who fail their P3 evaluation continue to live in fear even after they are fired,” he added.

The campaign to enforce P3 is backed by the Coca-Cola Philippines’ head of security, an ex-US Special Forces officer who specializes in the “demolition” of opposing groups and using fear, intimidation and blackmail to suppress dissent. Under this situation, few have dared to speak out.

ACCUP is now pushing for a Congressional inquiry on Coke’s practice of employing security officers from abroad without legal employment status.

“We will sustain and even escalate our campaign unless FEMSA stops the imposition of P3 in all Coca-Cola plants,” Marañon declared.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Nagkaisa! opposes passage of Abad bill

The country’s biggest labor coalition Nagkaisa! warned the members of electric cooperatives (EC) of the dangers posed by the Abad bill or House Bill 6214 that passed the second reading yesterday. The bill, principally authored by energy committee Chair Dina Abad, seeks extra powers for the National Electrification Administration (NEA).

Wilson Fortaleza, spokesperson of Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) and one of the convenors of Nagkaisa! said, the Abad bill is truly a bad and dangerous bill since it gives NEA ‘step-in rights’ or extra powers to impose its will against a particular EC. In essence, HB 6214 provides NEA the dictatorial powers to:

(1) take-over the management and operation of the EC;

(2) appoint or assign third persons to the Board, or;

(3) create a management team whose members possess the qualifications and experience suited for the job

Fortaleza explained that the bill also expands and strengthens NEA’s power to fire general managers, directors, and even employees of both the NEA and CDA-registered electric cooperatives — rights that were already provided under PD269 and PD1645.

Nagkaisa! maintains the position that the logical end to NEA’s mission since it was mandated 40 years ago to pursue the total electrification the country is to leave a legacy of being able to empower and democratize the ownership and control of the country’s 119 electric cooperatives.

“Unfortunately HB6214 is a push toward the opposite direction. It will create a Super NEA that is eventually more powerful than the EC’s highest policy making body, the general assembly,” said Fortaleza.

Louie Corral of the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) likewise argued that NEA already has too much power as the registration agency, the bank, and the implementor of coop projects.

“NEA is basically the SEC, the Land Bank, and the DPWH rolled into one for all coops. This over-concentration of powers is a formula for conflict of interest and abuse of powers. The bill adds to these powers by introducing the concept of ‘step-in rights’ that practically would lead to the total emasculation of the coop’s general assembly and the marginalization of the unions in these coops,” explained Corral who is also a Nagkaisa! convenor.

The clear intent of the bill, he added, “Is for NEA to displace the role of the true owners of the coop – the 9 million consumer households — and to supplant them with corporatization and eventual takeover of the coops by the Voltage 5 which is allowed under EPIRA.”

Labor groups under Nagkaisa! such as the Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL), Associated Labor Unions (ALU) and Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) have affiliate unions in electric cooperatives. All these groups are working for the democratization of control and ownership of electric cooperatives.

Another Nagkaisa! convenor Josua Mata, the Secretary General of APL, called on consumers to reject the bill, warning that once enacted, EPIRA’s privatization agenda “freely steps into the doors of the consumer-owned electric cooperatives.”

He asserted that there are other ways in solving the problems of distressed ECs outside of the EPIRA frame as shown by the coop-to-coop cooperation model successfully worked out by the union and the consumers of the Albay Electric Cooperative (ALECO).

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Labor groups open season of protests with action against high electricity rates

‘Tis not the season of hope for the workers amidst the Christmas trimmings and the media’s’ announcement of the release of workers’ Christmas bonuses, as labor groups denounce the escalating power rate that continues to hound the nation.

Labor groups belonging to the country’s biggest labor coalition Nagkaisa! said they are getting impatient over the failure of Malacañang to address the problems of increasing power rates, seven months after the group raised this concern at a breakfast meeting with President Aquino last Labor Day.

The group said the problem of high power rates, now the highest in Asia and one of the most expensive in the world, “is a burden that workers refuse to endure forever.”

In a press conference held in Quezon City this morning, leaders of Nagkaisa! decried as unjust the government’s deliberate move to leave this problem to market rules which leaves the people suffering from private power companies’ unmoderated greed that is allowed under the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA). They also denounced the government’s plan to implement the Open Access Scheme on December 26, 2012 without the benefit of a consumer impact assessment and without any regard to the consumers who will be affected by the increase of electricity rates.

“We ask President Aquino to address this problem immediately. We want his Cabinet to present a road map, a decisive battle plan to reduce this unjust power rates in the country,” Eva Arcos, Nagkaisa! spokesperson, said.

The labor coalition asked the government to raise the workers’ daily minimum wage by at least P90 and to reduce the rates of electricity rates, among others, on May 1, 2012. Malacañang officials assured the labor leaders that the P-Noy administration shall respond to their demands to stop the indexation of natural gas and geothermal energy to the international price of oil and coal and to defer the implementation of open-access.

The group indicated this action will open the season of protest against the government’s bad economics and showed a bare Christmas tree representing ‘Krisis-mas’. They also announced their plan to join the national day of protest in different parts of the country against high power rates organized by the Freedom from Debt Coalition and other groups on November 22.

Vince Camilon, another NAGKAISA! spokesperson, said seven months have passed but none of their demands on the power issue were met while only a third or PhP30 only of TUCP’s demand for PhP90 daily wage hike was granted by the regional wage board in the National Capital Region.

“Why does the government act very strong in regulating wages to the barest minimum but so weak and powerless in reducing unjust electricity rates? Bakit iba ang trato sa manggagawa at iba sa Voltage 5 na sina Manny Pangilinan, Aboitiz, Lopez, Henry Sy at Danding? Ito ba ang tuwid na daan?”, Camilon said.

The group said the power rates doubled since the privatization of the power industry from PhP5 in 2001 to PhP12 per kWh in 2012. Diesel prices have increased by at least 196% since the deregulation of the oil industry, from PhP13/liter in 2001 to P41/liter in 2012. The same goes for water rates that went up by at least 665% in the west zone and 891% in the east zone after privatization.

“However, the daily nominal wage of workers in Metro Manila increased by only 82% from PhP 250 in 2001 to the current wage at PhP456,” Arcos, said.

Friday, November 16, 2012


Building solidarity and strengthening our struggles to address the economic and climate crisis in the fight to change the system

Last September 17, 2012, in an inspiring expression of solidarity from the South to the North, more than 35 social movements and civil society organizations from Asia together with regional networks, international organizations and social movements, sent a letter to our brothers and sisters in Occupy Wall Street on the occasion of the first anniversary of their struggle.

This was a direct result of the social movements meeting held in Bangkok, Thailand last August 31. Called by La Via Campesina together with several social movements from around Asia, the open meeting which was attended by over 60 representatives of social movements and civil society organizations, aimed to collectively assess, analyze and strategize on how to regain our momentum in the fight against climate change, build solidarity and connect our struggles to change the system. The open meeting was very successful in achieving its stated objectives and agreed to hold a follow up assembly in Manila, Philippines during the World Social Forum on Migrations.

Confronting the reconfiguration of capitalism that deepens the environmental and economic crisis

For us in Asia, we are no strangers to the financial and economic crises plaguing the world now. The Asian financial crisis of the late 90’s witnessed the crash of several Asian economies and their currencies with the Indonesian rupiah losing as much as 80 percent of its value. Today, as the financial and economic crises hit the centers of capitalism in the US and EU, the reverberations can be felt across the world, including Asia. In this highly globalized neoliberal capitalist system, there will be no escape from the crisis.

Given the lessons though of the Asian financial crisis and the somber assessment of the 2008 global financial crisis, it is clear that bankers and financial speculators that have run amuck and the governments who allowed them to do so, are to blame. Yet, despite all the evidence, banks and financial institutions were bailed out and people made to pay. Finance capital has been allowed to grow instead of being disciplined. The numbers do not lie. In 2011 alone, the speculative economy reached a staggering 1,500 trillion US dollars leaving behind the real economy value of 64 trillion US dollars.

But it does not stop there. Capitalists, under the new Green Economy, will be able to put a price on nature and its functions and bring these into the market. Following the example of carbon markets where polluters can trade their polluting rights, under the green economy, parts of nature and biodiversity will be priced, exploited, traded and offset.

This concept of endless growth, on a planet that has clearly reached its limits, can no longer continue. Already, we feel the impacts of climate change with extreme weather events. Droughts, floods, heat, cold – all in extremes – have wreaked havoc on crops, food and water supplies, livelihoods, exacerbating hunger and generating a new set of climate migrants.

The world is standing at a precipice. It is clear that if we are to have real change then we will need to take action.

In this context, at our last meeting in Bangkok on the 31st of August 2012, we came to the understanding that in order to address this new offensive from capital it is necessary to link the social and environmental struggles at local, regional and global levels – to connect the urgent demands of the people for food, water, health, energy, employment, rights and access with the struggles against climate change, financial speculation, land grabbing, neoliberal free trade and investment agreements, impunity of transnational corporations, criminalization of migrants and refugees, austerity measures and social security cuts.

We need to develop and strengthen the connections between the different alternatives that are being promoted by social movements like food sovereignty, energy democracy, human security, rights of nature, deglobalization, defense of the commons and several others to overcome the capitalist system.

We call on all social movements, people’s organizations, civil society and activists to come to Manila during the World Social Forum on Migrations and to join us in a discussion from 9am-6pm on November 28, 2012, about our proposals and strategies to build solidarity and strengthen our struggles and discuss our alternatives to address the economic and climate crisis in the fight to change the system.

Below is a proposed agenda:

1) Perspective setting: Global crises and the need for alternatives
2) Discussion on elements of alternatives to the system – Economic Justice, Political Sovereignty, Environmental and Climate Justice, and Social Justice
3) Building solidarity: discussion on supporting and linking struggles
4) Next steps

We hope that this will be a step forward in our struggle to reclaim our future.

*Please send us an email if you would like to attend this assembly: Josua Mata of Alliance of Progressive Labor and Mary Lou Malig of La Via Campesina
*The World Social Forum on Migrations is happening in Manila from November 26-30. To participate in those activities, please register at
*There will be a Forum on Fighting Corporate Power on November 24, those who are interested in attending this forum, please contact Josua Mata of the Alliance of Progressive Labor at
*For a summary report of the discussions in Bangkok, please contact Mary Lou Malig of La Via Campesina at


Alliance of Progressive Labor, Philippines
All Nepal’s Peasants’ Federation
AKAR (Alliance for People’s Sovereignty)
Aniban ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (AMA)
Anti Debt Coalition (KAU)
Associated Labor Unions (ALU-TUCP)
Assembly of the Poor, Thailand
Asia-Pacific Network on Food Sovereignty (APNFS)
Bangladesh Kishani Sabha
Bangladesh Krishok Federation
Bhartiya Kisan Union, BKU, India
Building and Woodworkers’ International (BWI)
Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP)
Confederation of Labor and Allied Social Services (CLASS-TUCP)
Coalition Against Trafficking in Women – Asia Pacific
Confederation of Independent Unions in the Public Sector (CIU)
EU-ASEAN FTA Peoples’ Campaign Network
Federation of Filipino Workers (FFW)
Focus on the Global South
Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC)
Global Network – Asia Pacific
Indonesian Association for Political Economy (AEPI)
International Domestic Workers Network (IDWN)
Jubilee South-Asia Pacific Movement on Debt and Development
Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha, India
KIARA (The Peoples’ Coalition for Fisheries Justice) -Indonesia
Kilusang Maralita sa Kanayunan (KILOS KA)
La Via Campesina
Lembaga Pengembangan Pendidikan dan Komunikasi Popular (Organization for Education Development and Popular Communication)
Mindanao Peoples’ Peace Movement (MPPM)
Migrant Forum in Asia
MONLAR, Sri Lanka
National Confederation of Transportworkers’ Union (NCTU)
National Union of Workers’ in Hotel Restaurant and Allied Industries (NUWHRAIN)
Partido ng Manggagawa (PM)
Philippine Independent Public Sector Employees Association (PIPSEA)
Pinag-isang Tinig at Lakas ng Anakpawis (PIGLAS)
Public Services Labor Independent Confederation (PSLINK)
Pusat Kajian dan Solidaritas Timur Tengah (Center for Study and Solidarity for the Middle East
Serikat Petani Indonesia (Indonesian Peasant Union)
Serikat Becak Merdeka (SBM, Independent Pedicab Organization)
Serikat Rakyat Pekerja (SRP, Working People’s Union)
Serikat Pekerja Mandiri (SPM, Independent Labour Union)
Sintesa Foundation, Indonesia
Solidarity Workshop, Bangladesh
South Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movements (SICCFM)
Transnational Institute
Transnational Migrant Platform
Workers’ Solidarity Network (WSN)
World March of Women – Pilipinas
Yayasan Alam Tani

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