Saturday, September 24, 2016

NAGKAISA Condemns Killings of Labor and Community Organizers

NAGKAISA (SOLIDARITY), the coalition of 47 labor federations and workers organizations, which is the largest labor formation in the Philippines, strongly condemned the recent spate of murders of labor union and community organizers with seven incidents happening only this month. NAGKAISA expressed grave concern that this may just presage the start of more violence directed towards grassroots labor organizing.

Yesterday, 64-year old Edilberto Miralles, former union president of R&E Taxi transport service, was gunned down by unknown assailants right in front of the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) in Quezon City. He was scheduled to attend a labor hearing that day.

On September 17, union organizer Orlando Abangan, 35 years old, was shot by unidentified gunmen on the way to his home in Barangay Maghaway, Talisay City, Cebu.

Abangan was a full-time organizer for Partido Manggagawa (PM) in the province since 2001. During the last elections, he built an organization in Talisay that campaigned for social protection and social services for persons with disabilities. He was also engaged by the labor center Sentro as organizer for the informal sector workers.

Earlier this month, four farmers were shot dead by unidentified men in a farm located inside Fort Magsaysay in Laur, Nueva Ecija. The armed men involved in the brutal slay were reportedly dropped from a helicopter seen hovering over the military reservation camp. The victims were Emerenciana Mercado-de la Cruz, Violeta Mercado-de Leon, Eligio Barbado and Gaudencio Bagalay.

They were all members of the Alyansa ng mga Mamamayang Nagkakaisa, tilling part of the disputed 3,100 hectares of land inside Fort Magsaysay. Several others were wounded.

On September 7, farmworker leader Ariel Diaz was shot to death by three men in his Villa Pereda farm in Delfin Albano town, Isabela. Diaz is the chairperson of the Danggayan Dagiti Mannalon ti Isabela and was the head of the provincial chapter of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas in Isabela.

Union and community organizers are the quintessential vital cogs of our still nascent and highly vulnerable grassroots democracy. Their collective struggle is key in helping realize inclusive growth and preventing "the race-to-the-bottom" particularly for the majority poor and their families in a Philippines where the gap between the poor and the rich are growing wider and deeper every day.

The wide ranging implications of their deaths further underscores the need for the government to ensure protection to ordinary citizens let alone labor leaders and community organizers. The killings, again, put into question the bragging rights of employers and government that we have stable industrial peace.

NAGKAISA expressed sympathy with the relatives of those killed, and also demanded swift justice for the victims.

NAGKAISA called upon Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello to immediately convene the high-level labor-government-employer Tripartite Industry Peace Council (TIPC) that would not only draw up long-lasting measures to contain and prevent anything of this sort from happening again but place a spotlight into any attempt to short-circuit the Constitutional right of workers to organize, bargain collectively or engage in legitimate concerted action. NAGKAISA also, called on Secretary Emmanuel Sueno of the Department of Interior and Local Government and PNP Chief Ronald dela Rosa to reconvene, with labor, business and civic organization membership, the National Peace and Order Council, and its regional, provincial, and municipal chapter counterparts to send a clear signal of the primacy of the law .

Monday, September 12, 2016

Big Labor Alliance: Time to End Regionalization and Setting of Wages to Barest Minimum

File photo

It is the right of every Filipino to live a life of dignity as well as to quality standard of living. And for this national vision to be realized, the 1987 Constitution directed the State to provide labor full protection and ensure the right of workers and their families to a living wage.

Regrettably over the years since the Constitution was ratified, the workers' demand for a family living wage was never addressed as previous governments deviated towards regionalization and the containment of wages to the barest minimum. This deviation consequently created wide gaps in wage levels all over the country as wage fixing mechanism now seeks the lowest level of balance in every region where the market clearing price of labor is primarily determined on the basis of employer's capacity to pay rather than on the worker's right to a living wage. The same problem can be seen in different wage levels in the public sector despite the salary standardization program.

As a result, this minimum wage and regionalization policy created the condition of chronic poverty and deepening inequality in the country as millions of workers were consigned to an imposed reality of sustaining their families on wages that can hardly meet even half of the daily cost of living.

We, the NAGKAISA, therefore, take as delighting news the planned nationalization of the minimum wage announced recently by Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Secretary Silvestre Bello. It is because of our long-standing position that poverty knows no boundary while inequality is the despicable outcome of unfair distribution of national wealth. This deformed policy clearly needs to be rectified, now!

However, we always consider as mere government propaganda a major pronouncement that is left without form at the policy level. That, certainly, is what happened to the living wage principle that lay lifeless in the Constitution during the last three decades. But since the new administration has made a pledge to rectify the errors of the previous administrations, stopping the plague of contractualization and realizing the living wage were core issues that NAGKAISA and the government can work together in achieving a common goal.

At this particular juncture, the NAGKAISA labor coalition gladly presumes that the Duterte administration remains committed to the principle of living wage and that its planned nationalization of minimum wage will lead towards the ultimate realization of this social objective. Workers, in the first place, deserve not a minimum wage but a fair share in the product of their labor.

Hence, in line with the pronouncement of Secretary Bello, the NAGKAISA is looking forward soon to an Order, or something to that effect, going to be issued by Malacanang. We are looking forward to an instruction to all regional wage boards to issue a uniform wage order that is based on Metro Manila rate. And we are, at the same time, looking forward to a Palace-endorsed or certified bill in Congress seeking the same and eventually the repeal of the existing Wage Rationalization Act.

The NAGKAISA also strongly believe on the principle of equal pay for equal work and work of equal value not just on private sector workers but for those government employees who are in the same bind. In the same breath, the NAGKAISA call on the government for the uniform application and implementation of Salary Standardization Law to all local government units (LGUs).

It is high time to stop the spiral race to the bottom by ending the regionalization and setting of wages to the barest minimum now. The NAGKAISA believes this can be done especially when government will treat the labor movement as main partner to this enormous reform tasks.

Therefore, we urge the government to instruct all regional wage boards to issue a uniform wage order the rate of which is based on Metro Manila. We call on government to certify a bill in Congress seeking the same and, eventually, the repeal of the existing Wage Rationalization Act. The NAGKAISA, likewise, call on the government for the uniform application and implementation of Salary Standardization Law to all local government units (LGUs).


Issue-based NAGKAISA labor coalition is composed of 47 labor federations, workers organizations in public and private sectors and various urban and peasants groups. The group came together in April 2012 to advocate for workers' living wage, promote security of tenure, to lower the cost and ensure reliable supply of power, and for public sector workers to be allowed to form unions and collectively bargain.

The members of the NAGKAISA are: Alliance of Free Workers (AFW) , All Filipino Workers Confederation (AFWC), Automobile Industry Workers Alliance (AIWA), Alab Katipunan, Association of Genuine Labor Organizations (AGLO), Associated Labor Unions (ALU), Associated Labor Unions- Association of Professional Supervisory Officers Technical Employees Union (ALU-APSOTEU), ALU-Metal, Associated Labor Unions-Philippine Seafarers'Union (ALU-PSU), ALU-Textile, ALU-Transport, Associated Labor Unions-Visayas Mindanao Confederation of Trade Unions (ALU-VIMCOMTU), Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL), Association of Trade Unions (ATU), Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP), Confederation of Independent Unions (CIU), Confederation of Labor and Allied Social Services (CLASS), Construction Workers Solidarity (CWS), Federation of Coca-Cola Unions (FCCU), Federation of Free Workers (FFW), Kapisanan ng Maralitang Obrero (KAMAO), Katipunan, Pambansang Kilusan sa Paggawa (KILUSAN), Kapisanan ng mga Kawani sa Koreo sa Pilipinas (KKKP), Labor education and Research Network (LEARN), League of Independent Bank Organizations (LIBO), MARINO, National Association of Broadcast Unions (NABU), National Federation of Labor Unions (NAFLU), National Mines and Allied Workers Union (NAMAWU), National Association of Trade Unions (NATU), National Confederation of Labor (NCL), National Confederation of Transport Union (NCTU), National Union of Portworkers in the Philippines (NUPP), National Union of Workers in Hotel, Restaurant and Allied Industries (NUWHRAIN), Philippine Airlines Employees Association (PALEA), Pepsi Cola Employees Union of the Philippines (PEUP), Philippine Government Employees Association (PGEA), Pinag-isang Tinig at Lakas ng Anakpawis (PIGLAS), Philippine Integrated Industries Labor Union (PILLU), Philippine Independent Public Sector Employees Association (PIPSEA), Partido Manggagawa (PM), Philippine Metalworkers Alliance (PMA), Public Services Labor Independent Confederation (PSLINK), Philippine Transport and General Workers Organization (PTGWO), Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP), Workers Solidarity Network (WSN).