Friday, October 20, 2017

Trade Union Statement on the 8th ASEAN Regional Tripartite Social Dialogue Conference in Manila, 18-19 October 2017

Trade unions across the ASEAN expressed great disappointment over ASEAN governments who refused to commit to advance workers’ rights in the sub-region.

Ironically, governments refused to heed the workers’ calls during the 8th ASEAN Tripartite Social Dialogue Conference—a forum dedicated to deepen understanding and relations between and among social partners—government, employers and workers.

At the two-day Conference, panel sessions delved on effective social dialogue mechanisms, many examples of which featured good practices of the Philippines.

On the final day of the conference, social dialogue in practice was put to a test. The final plenary session was held to come up with the conference conclusions and recommendations.

In separate interventions, workers' delegates asked that the conference document reflect the calls to ratify ILO Convention 144 on tripartism; Convention 151 on labor relations in the public sector; and core labor standards covering freedom of association and free collective bargaining; an end to forced labor; elimination of child labor; and an end to discrimination at work.

Ratifying ILO Convention 144 is important as it provides the framework for tripartism and social dialogue in ASEAN member countries. The conference did not explicitly define tripartism and provide a framework for social dialogue. ILO Convention 151 was the subject of a panel discussion where the resource persons openly called for its ratification. Meanwhile, core labor standards was a recurring theme, especially with the acknowledged decline in trade union density across ASEAN.

In the course of the dialogue, workers revised their position several times with the hope of convincing governments and employers to soften their position. Workers offered to change the language to "work towards ratification of the ILO Conventions" instead of the direct call for ratification of ASEAN member states to indicate commitment. They still objected without explaining their position. Workers then moved to just "recognize that trade unions are calling for the ratification" of the said standards. But governments led by Indonesia, Malaysia and Myanmar and employers maintained their stubborn stance.

After the discussion on the conference statement, trade unions affiliated to Building and Wood Workers International (BWI) and Public Services International (PSI) along with NAGKAISA Labor Coalition expressed their strong objection to the final Conference Joint Statement for not living up to the spirit of tripartism and social dialogue.

20 October 2017

Signed by ASEAN affiliates of:
· Building and Wood Workers International (BWI)
· Public Services International (PSI);

and, members of:
· NAGKAISA Labor Coalition, Philippines

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Nagkaisa dismayed over Duterte’s non-mention of security of tenure in SONA

Nagkaisa Labor Coalition expressed dismay over the SONA of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte for failing to address the issue of contractualization. "His silence is a great disappointment for workers as we were expecting him to announce the release of an executive order prohibiting all forms of contracualitzation," Nagkaisa said.

"For two hours, we were waiting for President Duterte to certify as urgent House Bills 4444 and 556 on Security of Tenure, but no announcement came," Nagkaisa added.

It could be recalled that during a dialogue with Nagkaisa and other labor groups on Labor Day in Davao City, President Duterte vowed to look into releasing an executive order. "That issuance would have superceded DOLE DO 174 released in late March that not only failed to prohibit all forms of contractualization, but abetted it," Nagkaisa said. He set a deadline of May 10 for labor groups to submit a draft EO.

"Nagkaisa, the National Anti-Poverty Commission, KMU and other labor groups submitted a common, unified draft two days before the deadline. Two and a half months later, we still haven't gotten any feedback," Nagkaisa said.

Nagkaisa also expressed deep concern over President Duterte's announcement of right-sizing in government.

"How can they talk about right-sizing when there are 595,000 job orders and contracts of service workers performing essential functions in government? They are the overworked and underpaid in government, many of whom are health workers and teachers," Nagkaisa said.

Nagkaisa is not pleased with the Tax Reform Package Bill in its present form, so it did not welcome President's Duterte's endorsement of it.

"Tax Reform Administration should be the first tax measure that Congress approves in order to improve tax collection and prosecute tax evaders. We also support the reduction of Personal Income Tax (PIT), but reject the lowering of Corporate Income Tax (CIT). It is the taxes on profits that should be increased," Nagkaisa added.

"Besides, adding on to the tax burden of workers at this point in time would be a double whammy as it seems our taxes will be used to fund the war in Mindanao," Nagkaisa said.

The President defended the extension of Martial Law for much of his SONA. NAGKAISA reiterates 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 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," Nagkaisa said.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

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

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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.

Friday, June 30, 2017

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


File photo

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." 

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

On Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Package 1

Labor coalition welcomes lower tax on personal income but rejects regressive impact of excise taxes.

Workers have long been demanding for higher tax exemptions, hence, the approval by the House of Representatives of Package 1 of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) is a welcome relief.

Under the TRAIN, income lower than P250,000 per year will be tax free while higher income brackets, except for those who earn more than P5 million, will be charged a lowered tax rate of 25% from the current high of 32%.

This is surely a welcome development. But for the labor coalition Nagkaisa, the workers' gain in Personal Income Tax (PIT) will be offset in a regressive manner by the imposition of excise taxes on fuel products and the lifting of VAT exemptions in the sale of specific goods and services.

"Everyone knows, not just workers, that it will increase prices of goods and services that would affect mostly the poor and those at the lower income brackets," said Nagkaisa spokesman Renato Magtubo.

Magtubo said the TRAIN's objective of shifting the tax burden from the poor to the rich, "Seems to be scheming if not tricky as forgone revenue on the side of the government, which is equivalent to individual savings derived from lower PIT of specific income group, shall be recovered in a universal manner through excise taxes and expanded VAT."

The group explained further that the tax base can never be expanded through exemptions in PIT and corporate income, making indirect taxation through excise taxes and VAT expansion the main strategy in generating new and more revenue. "Otherwise, nobody is going to pay for the lost revenue," added Magtubo.

Under TRAIN's package 1, a P3.00-P6.00 excise taxes will be imposed per liter on fuel and P10 for locally produced sugary products while several VAT-exempt products and services will be lifted, including cooperative income exceeding the P3 million thresholds. Likewise, sale of real estate for socialized housing will now be covered by VAT.

According to the group, even the simulations made by staffs of the finance department showed the inevitable impact of increase in VAT payments by decile group – 43% for the richest 10% and 35% for the bottom 80%. Increase for the second richest 10% is 22%.

"An increase of 43 and 22 per cent respectively may mean nothing for the richest 20% who got significant savings from PIT exemptions. But a 35% increase is surely a burden for the bottom 80% who includes the majority in the formal and informal sector, employed and unemployed, of the working class. In the same manner everyone will be paying for the direct and indirect impact of excise taxes on fuel," explained Magtubo.

The labor leader added that those living in SPUG areas which rely on diesel as their single source of power will be absorbing a "minimal" impact, according to DOF. But that would mean additional P84 for those who consume 100 kWh per month and P106 for those who consume 300 kWh.

"These are the immediate impact that will hit everyone while the poor wait for the promised transfers contained in the proposed expenditure programs of the government," said Magtubo.

The group said it will intervene in the continuing deliberation of the tax package in Congress especially on the proposed lowering of income taxes for corporations from 30% to 25%.

"Our main question for this is why a tax rate on corporate income, which is supposed to be a tax on profit, is being lowered down to the same level of personal income which is a tax on labor? A uniform rate on business and personal income can never be considered progressive taxation," concludes Magtubo."

13 June 2017

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Labor group urges Duterte to reject DOLE order on ‘endo’

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The Associated Labor Unions-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (ALU-TUCP) on Saturday urged President Rodrigo Duterte to reject Department of Labor and Employment's (DOLE) Order 174, as it defies his promise to end short-term and agency-hired work arrangement.

DO 107, issued last Thursday, prohibits the repeated hiring of employees by contractors under an employment contract of short duration that falls short of the mandated six months to qualify for regularization.

"We urge the President to reject DO 174 because it is a loss-loss situation for workers and a win-win formula in favor of employers and manpower service providers and cooperatives," Alan Tanjusay, spokesperson of ALU-TUCP, said in a statement.
The labor group had said it was not satisified with the new order as it still allows contracting and subcontracting or outsourcing of manpower by a principal to an agency.

"It will perpetuate and further proliferate the existing unperturbed race to the bottom for millions of contractualized workers once it becomes operative two weeks from now," Tanjusay said.

He added that while the DO bans labor-only job contracting, hiring for less than six months and repeated hiring of employees by employers, manpower service providers, cooperatives as well as in-house supply of workers; the order still spawns modern-day labor slavery and "race to the bottom."

"Employers and capitalists will now seek the lowest and bid out the cheapest job contracts they can get out of the wide pool of manpower labor contractors and manpower cooperatives market with contractualized workers ending up with low and unlawful wages and benefits," Tanjusay said.

In a press conference in Quezon City, Lakas Manggagawa Labor Center vice-chairman Dave Diwa stressed that the DO 174 is worse than the controversial DO 18-A because there are no penal provisions in the new order.
DO 18-A contains the "Rules Implementing Articles 106 to 109 of the Labor Code," which allows contracting and subcontracting arrangements.

"What happens to contractors or principals who violate DO 174? Pipitikin? Wala eh, walang nakalagay na penalties," Diwa said.
For his part, Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa vice-chairman Danny Edralin criticized Labor and Employment Secretary Silvestre Bello III for saying that contractualization is allowed under the Labor Code.

"Mali 'yung premise ng sinasabi niya. Nakalagay sa Article 106 ng Labor Code na ang Labor Secretary may restrict or prohibit the contracting-out of labor. Hindi niya ginamit 'yang provision na 'yan," Edralin said.

Tanjusay said that Bello, instead, interpreted the particular provision in favor of capitalists and middlemen labor contractors.

"President Duterte, during the February 27 dinner dialogue with labor groups including Secretary Bello and top DOLE officials, has said that he will not abandon his promise to end contractualization job schemes in private and government work establishments. Mr. Duterte also expressed displeasure at agency-hired work arrangements," Tanjusay said. John Ted Cordero/MDM, GMA News

Saturday, January 7, 2017

NAGKAISA denounces misrepresentation of Ruben Torres and Usec Say on worker-DOLE consensus that contractualization cannot be prohibited

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NAGKAISA, including the legitimate TUCP President Raymond Mendoza, a co-convenor of NAGKAISA and the author of HB No.4444 which will prohibit and criminalize contractualization, denounce in clear, categorical terms the underhanded attempt of Mr. Ruben Torres and apparently, DOLE Undersecretary Say, to misrepresent to media after the dialogue with Secretary Bello last Thursday, that a consensus was reached with labor leaders that contractualization is inevitable.

That is the very opposite of what legitimate labor federations under NAGKAISA, who constituted 90% of the groups meeting Sec. Bello last Thursday manifested jointly to the Secretary: That we rely on the Presidential promise to end contractualization, and that we look towards an Executive Order to proscribe it in the meantime and towards passage of a Presidentially-certified bill (in the guise of HB No.4444) which will end contractualization).

NAGKAISA is shocked and dismayed that news reports of the Worker-DOLE dialogue on how to end and prohibit contractualization are now being presented as a trade union-government lovefest where both sides reached the same conclusion: that contractualization is here to stay.

Their action constitutes the highest form of betrayal to workers who only want a fair deal. Ruben Torres' acceptance of the continuation of contractualization for janitors, security guards and salesgirls is craven opportunism of the worst kind, sacrificing the lives of the poorest workers while invoking the name of trade unions for personal advancement. He clearly does not represent the true majority interest of labor.

Our true collective position remains firm: that contractualization is oppression of workers' rights which allows employers to avoid giving workers a living wage and to deny them a decent life. This is the very reason that we requested that Sec. Bello work out our request for an audience with the President.

Furthermore, the seemingly coordinated statements of former Labor Secretary Ruben Torres, now resurrected and posing as a labor leader of a rump-group TUCP ( the DOLE itself has ruled with finality that his purported federation is not even a part of TUCP, and by that very logic Mr. Torres IS NOT EVEN A MEMBER of TUCP) and apparent partnering of DOLE Undersecretary Say, show the moral depravity that the enemies of workers will stoop to.

We will not allow this underhanded misrepresentation of our position to remain uncorrected. Mr. Torres and his co-horts the Eric Gutierrez-backed Roland de la Cruz , last seen, after their gleeful endorsement of the Presidential bid of Mar Roxas, are now trying to make themselves relevant as apologists of the unbridled free-market, labor-flexibilization schemes which the employers prefer as their justification to abuse the Filipino working class.

Mr. Torres is no way a part of the legitimate TUCP, nor of the larger workers movement. 

Media coverage would have it appear through their interviews that the meeting last Thursday at the DOLE between workers and top DOLE officials led by Secretary Bello was a veritable lovefest. What happened was the DOLE announced that they would have to go to the drawing board to do a new Department Order on contractualization NAGKAISA only reminded the DOLE that what they will craft, and the bill which we should ask be certified, live up to President Duterte's promise: END IT! STOP IT!

Friday, January 6, 2017

Workers’ vigilance, protests stopped issuance of ‘win-win’ rules on endo

Vigilance and mass actions even during the holiday season seem to have paid off as workers were able to spoil the premature celebrations of employers and contractors over reports that a new DOLE Department Order 168 was issued over the New Year which the NAGKAISA labor coalition deem was the triumph of the "win-win" solution proposed by DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez.
In a dialogue with convenors of the NAGKAISA labor coalition last Thursday, DOLE senior officials led by Secretary Silvestre Bello announced to the group that no new Department Order was issued before the end of the year.
Said Order should have been issued as planned last December 28, according to Labor Undersecretary Dominador Say in a separate media interview Thursday.
NAGKAISA had launched mass actions and made appeals to President Duterte to reject the draft department orders circulated last month which apparently would allow an army of non-regular, contractor-deployed "seasonal" and "project" workers to supplant the despised "endo" system of contractualization.
President Duterte had made a campaign commitment to end contractualization within few weeks upon assumption to office.  He reiterated this commitment during a year-ender interview with media. NAGKAISA warned that the supposed DO would perpetuate the contractualization policy that the President promised would be stopped. 
Bello said he was willing to listen to the workers comments in crafting a fresh DO. The Secretary directed all his Undersecretaries to come out with separate drafts which will be consolidated by the DOLE into a new version on January 13.   Said version will then be referred to the National Tripartite Industrial Peace Council (NTIPC) for consultations and will be issued as DO 1, series of 2017 when approved.
However, despite the suspended status of the new rules, NAGKAISA said workers face the same question on whether endo will be finally ended or the promise to ending endo is dead-ended by strong capitalist lobby or held hostage by economic managers.
During the dialogue NAGKAISA formally requested Sec. Bello to set up an audience with President Duterte where workers can air their appeal for the passage of an Executive Order that will serve as a stop-gap measure to proscribe contractualization until a new law amending the Labor Code is passed.
NAGKAISA further requested that the President certify as an urgent Administration measure House Bill No. 4444 (Rep. Raymond Mendoza, TUCP Partylist). HB 4444 seeks to prohibit all forms of short term employment contracts and the criminalization of such offense.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Nagkaisa statement on Dialogue with DOLE

The NAGKAISA labor coalition spoiled the premature celebrations of employers and contractors over reports that a new DOLE Department Order 168 was issued over the New Year which NAGKAISA feels essentially was a product of the proposed "win-win" solution proposed by DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez.

 NAGKAISA had launched mass actions and an appeal to President Duterte, to signal opposition to draft department  orders circulating which apparently would allow an army of non-regular, contractor deployed "seasonal" & "project" workers to supplant the despised "endo" system of contractualization. President Duterte had made a campaign commitment to end contractualization which he reiterated in his year-end interview with media. NAGKAISA warned that the supposed DO would perpetuate the contractualization policy that the President promised would be stopped

Today DOLE senior officials led by Sec. Silvestre Bello announced to the convenors of the NAGKAISA that there is no Department Order. Bello said that he was willing to listen to the workers comments to craft a fresh DO. Bello directed all his Undersecretaries to come out with separate drafts and that this would then be consolidated by the DOLE to a version on January 13, which will be referred to the NATIONAL TRIPARTITE INDUSTRIAL PEACE COUNCIL. This will be subjected to Tripartite consultations and will be issued as DO 1, series of 2017 when approved.

NAGKAISA formally requested Sec. Bello to set up an audience with President Duterte where workers will appeal for passage of an Executive Order which will serve as a stop-gap measure to proscribe contractualization until a new law amending the Labor Code is passed. NAGKAISA further requested that the President certify as an urgent Administration measure House Bill no. 4444 "WORKERS BILL STRENGTHENING SECURITY OF TENURE" (Rep. Raymond Mendoza, TUCP Partylist). HB 4444 will prohibit all forms of short term employment contracts and criminalize it.