Labor groups under the coalition Nagkaisa! are set to welcome the first working day of 2015 with a protest against what they consider as government’s assault on workers’ living condition – the implementation of fare hikes in the MRT and LRT system.
The Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) proceeded with the implementation of the rate hike yesterday, amid oppositions from labor, commuter groups and legislators.
Based on surveys, lowly-paid workers and students make up the bulk of regular train riders.
Members of Partido Manggagawa (PM), Philippine Airlines Employees Association (PALEA) and The Federation of Free Workers (FFW) will be leading the protest at the MRT Pasay-Taft station while the Sentro ng Nagkakaisang Manggagawa (SENTRO), Public Sevices Labor Independent Confederation (PSLINK), PM and other members of Nagkaisa are taking the MRT North Avenue station. The Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP) is taking the Cubao station.
Aside from the mass action, Nagkaisa! will be distributing leaflets explaining why commuters should reject the fire hike and how they can express their protest.
In opposing the fare hike Nagkaisa! contends that:
· Fare hike is not meant for service upgrade but for debt payments to a private concessionaire;
· Most of train riders belong to lowly-paid workers;
· Government cutting MRT/LRT subsidy but hiking travel budget of public officials;
· Fare hike is a move towards privatization
The group said commuters can express their opposition in various forms including:
· Making selfies or group pics holding mini posters and posting it on their social media accounts accompanied by #MRTprotest hashtag;
· Joining online petitions addressed to the DOTC, Malacanang and Congress;
· Seeking remedy from the courts; and
· Joining scheduled mass actions
“The fare hike is the first oppressive policy of the year, the first assault by government on workers’ living condition. Workers were first to pay their taxes but they were also the first to carry the burden of budget cuts and other unjust policies by government,” said PM spokesman Wilson Fortaleza.
He added: “Sa daang matuwid, manggagawa ang tinitipid.”
On his part PALEA President Gerry Rivera, lamented that while fares in other modes of transportation, including airlines, are dropping significantly because of the sharp drop in oil prices, but fares in the MRT and LRT are rising by as much as 87%.
SENTRO Secretary General and Nagkaisa! convenor Josua Mata said, “The true logic of removing the MRT subsidy is the government shifting to the role of shameless facilitator to the transfer of public money to private hands. In this particular a case, the commuters subsidizing the guaranteed returns of private investors.”
The Nagkaisa in a series of dialogues with the President has called for a cost-effective and efficient mass transport system since the heavy traffic has been eating up a lot of productive hours of workers.
“The PNoy administration has not only failed to address the traffic mess, it is shamelessly adding a three-fold burden to workers who will have to shell out more for their own train fare and that of their children who go to school,” said Julius Cainglet of the Federation of Free Workers (FFW).
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