Monday, December 31, 2018

With fuel tax hike, workers face tough 2019

“Workers will be facing a serious challenge in 2019 because of the tax reform package 2. The government wants to call it TRABAHO but it’s a misnomer,” said Julius Cainglet, vice president of the Federation of Free Workers (FFW), the country’s oldest trade union.

MANILA, Philippines — Workers see tougher times in 2019 as the second phase of the controversial tax reform package – which takes effect today – threatens to further push up prices of fuel and basic goods and hurt employment.

“Workers will be facing a serious challenge in 2019 because of the tax reform package 2. The government wants to call it TRABAHO but it’s a misnomer,” said Julius Cainglet, vice president of the Federation of Free Workers (FFW), the country’s oldest trade union.

TRABAHO, which stands for Tax Reform for Attracting Better and Higher Quality Opportunities, is how the government wants the second round of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law to be officially called.

“For the past year, workers suffered from the high inflation rate and if the government pushes through with the implementation of additional excise tax this January, prices of goods will definitely go up again, so it will present a big problem for the workers,” Cainglet pointed out.

He also called for a serious scrutiny of infrastructure projects under the government’s Build, Build, Build program.

“We do recognize that the Build, Build, Build program will bring potential employment. But we still need to see the type of projects because it may only open vacancies for technical experts that would come from other countries,” Cainglet said.

He said infrastructure projects may also be handled by big contractors that may sub-contract workers. “Do we want just additional, but not decent, employment?”

Sonny Matula, Nagkaisa labor coalition chairman, said illegal contractualization remains rampant despite the regularization of over 400,000 casual workers in 2018.

“We do recognize that the campaign for regularization encourages employers to voluntarily regularize their workers. However, contractualization is still the norm,” Matula said.

He said the penalty provided under existing regulations entice employers to just commit labor-only contracting and continue to violate labor standards.

Moreover, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) could not inspect all commercial establishments and check on violations due to lack of labor inspectors, Matula said.

He said the government must also address potential problems that may arise from a new phenomenon called artificial intelligence.

“The government must support future of work programs in response to the artificial intelligence phenomenon promoting employment of not only workers, but robots,” Matula said.

The Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP), for its part, warned of “imminent and increasing exodus” of young, talented and skilled Filipinos with the implementation of the second tranche of the tax reform package.

In a statement, the BMP through its senatorial bet Leody de Guzman said “the best and the brightest of Filipinos have been leaving the country with the continued implementation of the neoliberal policies of deregulation, liberalization, privatization, contractualization ever since the Cory Aquino administration.”

He added the “runaway inflation induced by the oil excise taxes of the Duterte administration since last year may be the final straw to break the camel’s back.”

The increasing exodus of young adults to greener pastures abroad was also shown in a Gallup poll conducted from 2015 to 2017.

The poll revealed that 16 percent of highly educated Filipinos will likely leave the country to work or live abroad.

“Unfortunately, with the taxation shift from income to consumption, the tax burden is more felt by the poor although they did not benefit from the increased exemptions to income taxes. Worse, they are overtaxed and yet they hardly feel the social services and safety nets that were promised to be part of tax reform measures,” he maintained.

More price hikes

The New Year will usher in the second round of increase in taxes on diesel, gasoline, cooking gas and other oil products under the TRAIN law.

Starting Tuesday, the tax on diesel will go up by P2 per liter, from the current P2.50 to P4.50, while the levy on gasoline will increase also by P2 to P9 per liter.

The excise tax on cooking gas or liquefied petroleum gas will jump by P1 per kilogram to P2.

Tax on bunker oil, which is used for producing electricity, will rise from P2.50 to P4.50 per liter.

Levies on other oil products like asphalt and waxes will go up from P7 to P9 per liter or kilogram. Aviation gas tax will remain at P4 per liter.

Like the first adjustment in 2018, the second round will be higher than listed because TRAIN imposes a tax on tax: the increase will be levied on the 12-percent value added tax.

Thus, the P1 tax increment will actually be P1.12, and P2 will be P2.24.

The second round of increase is expected to cause a domino effect on prices of products and services, including transportation, fares and electricity. The steady rise in consumer prices – economists call it inflation – was largely blamed on the TRAIN law.

Marikina Rep. Romero Quimbo, who heads the Liberal Party bloc in the House, said Assistant Finance Secretary Teresa Habitan had told congressmen that the Department of Finance was projecting a P40-billion revenue loss if the 2019 fuel tax increase were suspended for the whole year.

“That could easily be offset through more efficient tax collection and through the various tax measures that the House has approved,” he said.

Among the approved measures were two bills increasing levies on alcohol and tobacco products and another bill seeking the grant of a general tax amnesty next year to thousands of delinquent taxpayers.

Rep. Michael Romero of 1-Pacman, one of the authors of the amnesty bill, said the proposed amnesty grant is among President Duterte’s legislative priorities.

“It aims to give delinquent taxpayers the opportunity to have a clean slate by paying an amnesty tax and to be fully compliant on their tax obligations moving forward,” he said.

He said based on previous amnesty grants, the government could generate tens of billions of pesos from the planned new reprieve.

“It’s a one-time grant that we hope taxpayers with delinquencies would avail themselves of,” he added.

Romero pointed out that “even if just half or one-fourth of the revenue target is collected, it would be a big boost to government resources that could fund vital services.”

He said he expects many families that have inherited properties to take advantage of the amnesty offer since the estate tax has been cut from as high as 20 percent to just six percent under the TRAIN law.

Aside from the reduced tax, the law increased the standard deduction from P1 million to P5 million and exempts a family home worth up to P10 million (the previous limit was P1 million) from the estate levy, he stressed.

The proposed amnesty would cover 2017 and prior years. An applicant would be required to file with the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) an amnesty return accompanied by a notarized statement of total assets as of Dec. 31, 2017. The applicant would pay an amnesty tax of two percent of such assets.

On estate tax liabilities, the amnesty levy is six percent.

Deputy speaker and Batangas Rep. Raneo Abu said the proposed estate tax liabilities amnesty “will promote the interest of heirs in developing inherited real properties and boost revenues of local government units.”

“It will also result in the updating of real property records and titles,” he said. – Mayen Jaymalin (The Philippine Star) with Jess Diaz, Cecille Suerte Felipe, Sheila Crisostomo

Friday, November 23, 2018

Fix wages nationwide, labor groups tell Duterte

As the P25 minimum wage increase for Metro Manila workers took effect on Thursday, labor group Federation of Free Workers (FFW) and affiliates belonging to a coalition called Nagkaisa urged President Duterte to form a presidential commission that would study the creation of a national wage fixing mechanism.

In a statement, FFW said the P25 wage increase, approved by the Regional Tripartite Wage and Productivity Board, was “latest proof of how wages fixed under the mechanism deepens inequality rather than eradicate chronic poverty.”


It said the group and other Nagkaisa affiliates believed “the meager increase simply fits into the 1989 template” created by Republic Act No. 6727, which bases wage increases on employers’ capacity to pay rather than on workers’ standard of living.

FFW said during the presidential election campaign, Duterte recognized that setting wages by regions was a failure.

“He himself announced the need to overhaul the system,” said Sonny Matula, FFW president.

“But until today, no executive action has been done so far to walk his pledge,” Matula added.

Another labor group, Associated Labor Unions-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (ALU-TUCP), said workers were unable to feel the impact of the P25 wage increase because of inflation.

Purchasing power

Alan Tanjusay, ALU-TUCP spokesperson, said the purchasing power of P25 nowadays was just P17.50.

“It has no impact,” Tanjusay said.

The government, he added, should step in and fill the gap by giving workers a monthly food voucher worth at least P500.

Tanjusay said Duterte had “neither said yes nor no to our proposal.”

“So we remain hopeful,” he added. - By: Tina G. Santos - Reporter / @santostinaINQ

Monday, November 5, 2018

Labor coalition urges Duterte to fix ‘weak’ region-based wage-setting system

LEADERS of Nagkaisa, a coalition of over 40 of the biggest labor groups in the country, called on President Duterte to finally reform “weak” region-based wage fixing system.

In a statement issued on Sunday, the coalition said the reported P25-wage hike approved by the Regional Tripatite Wages and Productivity Board-National Capital Region (RTWPB-NCR) exposed the flaws in Republic Act (RA) 6727, or the Wage Rationalization Act of 1989.

Nagkaisa said labor representatives in these boards are usually outvoted by three representatives from the government and two from employers in deciding the amount of the wage hike.

It said this usually result to a minimal wage hike for workers.

“It manifests a subdued or tamed bargaining power of labor in the RTWPB where representation is not in parity with employers and government representatives who hold the majority,” Nagkaisa said.

Nagkaisa Chairman and Federation of Free Workers (FFW) President Jose Sonny G. Matula urged Duterte to fulfill his campaign promise of restoring the national minimum wage mechanism.

“There is a need to revise our law on minimum wage [fixing], which was placed under [the jurisdiction] of the regional wage boards in 1989,” Matula said.

Prior to RA 6727, it were lawmakers who decided on the minimum wage of workers nationwide.

Matula also appealed to include a provision of “industry-bargaining” approach in deciding minimum-wage rates.

Under the said scheme, minimum-wage rates will differ depending on industry rather than geographical location.

Nagkaisa expressed disappointment over the said P25-wage hike in NCR since it was way below the P334-wage hike being proposed by the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP), which it also supports.

Last week Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III denied the P25-pay hike is already final. He said he will be announcing the official new amount of the minimum-wage increase in NCR in the morning of November 5.

TUCP Vice President Louie Corral warned a P25-wage hike in NCR will lead to a widespread industrial unrest. - By Samuel P. Medenilla

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Dismissing Usec Maglunsod is a great loss to the DOLE; he’s no NPA

Usec Maglungsod performs his mandate well in the DOLE. He is no NPA (non-performing asset).

In his short stint as undersecretary of labor for industrial relations, he has bridge the “gap of trust” between organized labor and the department by personally acting on complaints and facing mass actions of workers at the DOLE office in Intramuros. He has also pain stakingly conduct dialogues between employers and organized labor relaying to them the department’s effort on enforcing laws and regulations pertaining to labor contracting with the end in view of respecting the rights of both the workers and employers.

USec Joemag, as many in organized labor fondly called him, is a great loss to the department.

President Duterte has made a major mistake in dismissing the services of Usec Joemag at the DOLE only to heed the advice of the military and anti-worker elements of his administration.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Labor groups say Usec. Maglunsod’s dismissal a mistake

Labor groups said President Duterte made a major mistake when he dismissed Undersecretary Joel Maglunsod.

Labor Undersecretary Joel Maglunsod (Photo courtesy of International Labour Organization via Facebook / MANILA BULLETIN)
Partido Manggagawa Chairperson Rene Magtubo said Maglunsod, who has been performing his mandate very well, is a great loss to the Department of Labor and Employment.

“In his short stint as undersecretary of labor for industrial relations, he has bridge the ‘gap of trust’ between organized labor and the department by personally acting on complaints and facing mass actions of workers at the DOLE office in Intramuros,” he said in a statement.

“He has also pain stakingly conducted dialogues between employers and organized labor relaying to them the department’s effort on enforcing laws and regulations pertaining to labor contracting with the end in view of respecting the rights of both the workers and employers,” added Magtubo.

The Associated Labor Union-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (ALU-TUCP) echoed what PM said.

“Jomag was always ready to listen and work out solutions to workers in trouble with their employers. Jomag was key DOLE official in helping move the very important security of tenure bill. He was also a key DOLE official in regularizing thousands of endo workers become regular workers,” said Alan Tanjusay, spokesperson of the ALU-TUCP.

Militant labor group Bukluran Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP), meantime, view the dismissal of Maglunsod as the administration’s way to appease Duterte’s true bosses- the foreign and local capitalists.

“It is evident that the firing of Maglunsod signifies where Duterte’s loyalty really lies,” said BMP president Luke Espirtu.

BMP said the President is mistaken if he thinks that the sudden dismissal of Maglunsod will neutralize the increasing militance of the labor movement.

Espiritu explained that not unless a major policy shift is promulgated, the workers will continue to assert what is rightfully theirs adding that labor groups are unanimous in pushing for the abolition of contractualization, living wages and scrapping of the regressive TRAIN Law.

“Ultimately, removing Maglunsod will not dampen the fighting spirit and militance of workers because the exploitative and oppressive policies remain intact,” he said.
Duterte announced the firing of Maglunsod, Tuesday.

He did not give any reason for the sacking but mentioned the “rising number” of workers strikes in the country. - By Leslie Ann Aquino

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Nagkaisa wants thorough investigation on violent dispersal of NutriAsia workers

The Nagkaisa! Labor Coalition wants a thorough investigation on the violent dispersal of the picket of NutriAsia workers and their supporters in Bulacan.

(Photo from Anakbayan UST’s Twitter page / MANILA BULLETIN)
The group even asked Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III to convene a Tripartite Monitoring Body on freedom of association that will investigate, gather evidence and analyze information to determine who is accountable for the bloody incident.

“The protest action is a direct result of attacks against trade union rights and freedom of association and thus, merits the creation of the tripartite monitoring body through the Regional Tripartite Industrial Peace Council in Central Luzon,” Atty. Sonny Matula, chairperson of Nagkaisa, said in a statement.

“Its about time we review the Joint Memorandum of Agreement and Guidelines of the DOLE, Department of Justice, Department of the Interior and Local Government, Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines, which outlines the proper conduct of men in uniform when it comes to mass actions related to labor disputes,” he added.

Due to the incident, Matula, who is also the president of the Federation of Free Workers, then stressed the need to certify as urgent the Security of Tenure Bill.

“This only emphasizes the need to certify as urgent the Security of Tenure Bill at the Senate. We hope you act swiftly on this since no less than President Duterte, gave you and the Senate marching orders on the need for this law,” he said.

“We believe that had you been firm in implementing the DOLE decision on the regularization of NutriAsia workers with its principal, it would not have come to this violent end with workers at the receiving end,” Matula added.

Based on workers’ accounts, some 100 security forces, including 30 police officers violently dispersed the picket line outside the Marilao plant as protesters were holding a religious ecumenical service, Monday.

The dispersal left scores injured and led to the unjust detention of a number of individuals. - By Leslie Ann Aquino

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Nagkaisa! condemns violence against workers across the country

Nagkaisa! Labor Coalition is deeply concerned over the spate of violence that befell workers in separate incidents across the country.

“We condemn in the strongest terms possible, the attempted murder of a trade union leader in Cebu City and the violent dispersal of striking workers of food giant NutriAsia and their supporters, in Marilao, Bulacan," Atty. Sonny Matula, chairperson of Nagkaisa! said.

The display of violence happened a few hours apart yesterday.

“There was an apparent attempt on the life of Jessielou Cadungog, labor leader of ALU-TUCP, vice chairman of the Oriental Port and Allied Services Corporation (OPASCOR) and it involved the police," Matula said.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) in Cebu are owning up to the incident as a legitimate police operation.

Meanwhile, in Marilao, Bulacan, the picket of protesting workers and their supporters was violently dispersed by operatives of PNP Bulacan and security personnel of giant food manufacturer NutriAsia.

“A peaceful concerted action demanding the recognition of rights of workers such as what was being done by workers of NutriAsia, should never ever merit any and all kinds of violence, especially those perpetrated by the police and private security personnel," Matula said.

Based on workers' accounts, some 100 security forces, including 30 police officers violently dispersed the picket line as protesters were holding a religious ecumenical service.

At least 19 were arrested and scores arrested as many of the protesters scrambled for safety amid the chaos.

Back in Cebu, the gunman who was killed in the encounter by Cadungog's aide was identified as PO2 Eugene Alcain Calumba. The accomplice who was taken into custody by the PNP was Michael Banua.

“Now, the PNP is trying to portray the assassination attempt on Mr. Cadungog as a legitimate police operation identifying him as a 'person-of-interest' involved in shabu," Michael Mendoza, president of ALU-TUCP, a Nagkaisa member said.

“We stand by Mr. Cadungog and condemn this sordid attempt to justify and cover-up for what is clear police involvement," said Mendoza.

Meanwhile, police in Bulacan are claiming that some of the arrested protesters had guns and drugs with them.

“It is becoming a sad refrain. The campaign against drugs is being used by the police as a flimsy excuse to either justify the use of violence or use it as an escape goat, when harassing workers and citizens who are exercising their legitimate trade union and human rights," Matula said.

“We are calling on the authorities to conduct a thorough and objective investigation of the twin incidents of violence against workers that occurred yesterday. The police officers and their superiors who will be proven to have done wrongdoing should be made accountable. The culture of impunity must stop," Matula said.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Labor group expects “good” SONA

Nagkaisa Labor Coalition, the largest coalition of worker’s organization in the country expects a “good” SONA from President Duterte.

“It should be a SONA that would squarely address economic woes and political issues besetting the country today”, said Nagkaisa spokesperson Ka Rene Magtubo.

Nagkaisa expects the President’s SONA should contain the following:

– Addressing the proliferation of illegal and abusive contracting arrangements that DO 174 and EO 51 failed to do, by way of certifying as urgent the Security of Tenure Bill pending in the Senate

– Addressing the “gap” in workers wages and the cost of living brought about by the TRAIN law, rising inflation, peso devaluation, profiteering and the spike in global prices of petroleum products by way of certifying as urgent wage bills pending in the House of Representatives;

– Providing more assistance to women workers by enacting into law the Expanded Maternity Leave Bill pending in the House of Representatives;

– Addressing the prevalence of poverty despite positive economic growth in terms of programs and services that would directly benefit the poor people by way of increasing budget in affordable housing, universal healthcare and pension for the elderly among others;

– Addressing the continuing problem of unemployment and underemployment by way of policies and programs that would provide more local employment opportunities to the labor force by way of a clear industrialization policy, continuing land reform, and development of agriculture; and

– Clear government policy of defending the country’s sovereignty and patrimony on its rightful claims in the West Philippine Sea.

“These are the real issues that matter most to the working people that government should prioritize and not charter change. Absent these issues, the speech will be “business as usual” as in the previous SONAs”, Magtubo added.

Majority of the members of the coalition will be joining the United Peoples’ SONA to voice out workers issues and concerns.

Nagkaisa Labor Coalition
Press Release

Friday, July 20, 2018

Labor groups: ‘No end to ENDO. Run over by TRAIN’

Days before President Duterte delivers his State of the Nation Address, the Nagkaisa! Labor Coalition (Nagkaisa) and the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) lamented the failure of the former to fulfill his promise to workers.

“No end to ENDO. Run over by TRAIN. Waiting in vain for a significant wage increase. Labor rights violated. These, in a nutshell, is how sorry the state of workers are for the past two years,” said the Nagkaisa and KMU in a statement.

“The cycle of unfulfilled promises–old and new–continue to hound workers,” they added.

The labor groups said Duterte’s foremost promise to end “endo” or contractualization has not yet been fulfilled as many remain as contractual workers.

This, as “endo”-practicing employers continue to refuse to heed the call of the government despite the issuance by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and Duterte of Department Order No. 174 and Executive Order No. 51, respectively, both of which bars companies from firing contractual employees covered by the guidelines.

“Endo-lords refused to implement the DOLE regularization order and instead laid-off over 12,000 of its workers,” Nagkaisa! and KMU said.

“Without the President’s decisive action, contractualization will persist,” they added.

The labor sector also lamented the meager wage rates of workers amid the unabated price hikes.

“These increases would not even bring our wages any closer to the P40,000 monthly cost of living,” they said.

“Unabated price hikes have been the norm. Filipino workers are feeling the brunt of rising costs of basic goods and services, including food, transport, electricity, and water as direct result of TRAIN,” said Nagkaisa and KMU.

Duterte is set to deliver his third SONA on July 23. - By Leslie Ann Aquino

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Militant groups hold protest move in Mendiola

Thousands of protesters gathered on Tuesday to call for an increase of minimum wage of workers and end contractualization.

Labor groups such as Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), Nagkaisa and Sentro held a huge protest at Mendiola Peace Arch for the annual Labor Day rally.

“Kontrakwalisayon, wakasan! Wakasan! EO Pinirmahan, kontra manggagawa, walang silbi! Walang silbi!” the groups said.

As the rally was ongoing, President Rodrigo Duterte has signed the Executive Order (EO) concerning issues on contractualization.

The signing of EO was announced during the President’s speech in Cebu City. /jpv

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Workers unite for Labor Day rally vs ‘endo’

Members of the labor coalition Nagkakaisa hold up fists with construction nails to symbolize the government’s ‘pangakong napako’ or unfulfilled promise of issuing an order ending contractualization.
Edd Gumban
MANILA, Philippines — Fired up after being left out in the cold by President Duterte, labor organizations previously at odds have bonded together to prepare for a major indignation rally on May 1.

In a joint press conference yesterday, Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) chairman Elmer Labog said the workers are “angry” over Duterte’s failure to sign an executive order that would end job contractualization.

“The growing frustration, disappointment and disenchantment of workers over President Duterte’s failure to fulfill his promise have only bonded workers. We will march as one on Labor Day in a historic first for the Philippine labor movement,” Labog said.

He said the workers will turn the Labor Day celebration into an indignation rally to show their solidarity against contractualization.

Labor groups are up in arms after Duterte’s refusal to sign an EO that will end the practice of contractualization by employers.

Instead of an EO, the President will certify as priority the Security of Tenure bill pending in Congress.

Nagkakaisa labor coalition chairman Michael Mendoza said Duterte gave them false hope that workers would finally be liberated from inhumane employment practices.

“The problem is the President did not even ask for our opinion. We gave five versions of the EO but he did not even talk to us. We were made to wait for two years for nothing,” he said.

The KMU and the Nagkakaisa, which represent the broadest labor coalition since 1980s, have called on workers “of all shapes and sizes” to join the rally.

Sentro secretary-general Joshua Mata reminded Duterte that the working class voted for him in the 2016 presidential race because of his promise to stop contractualization.
“On Labor Day, Malacañang will feel the backlash of the workers. We will show our anger over what happened. Our hope became an empty promise,” he said.

Mata said aside from the need to contend with contractualization practices, workers now also have to endure inadequate wages and the rising prices of commodities and services because of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law initiated by the Duterte administration.

Meanwhile, an opposition lawmaker urged President Duterte yesterday to shelve his Charter change (Cha-cha) initiative and instead work on creating more jobs and fighting inflation or the increase in consumer prices.

Rep. Tom Villarin of party-list group Akbayan made the appeal in the wake of the first quarter Pulse Asia survey showing people were more concerned with jobs and inflation than with Cha-cha or the effort to revise the Constitution to shift the nation to the federal system.

“The Duterte administration should put Cha-cha in the back burner and focus on people’s needs and wants, not its own power agenda,” he said.

He said the people’s concerns as expressed in the survey should prompt the President “to fulfill his promise to end endo (end of contract).”

“While the ABC crowd sees the administration’s anti-crime campaign as a priority, the vast majority of the poor D and E classes don’t see it as such,” he said.

He added that the President and his congressional allies should genuinely work to help people cope with rising prices and to have jobs and decent wages.

While jobs, wages and inflation were the top issues in people’s minds in the Pulse Asia survey, issues that included Cha-cha were the least of their concerns.

The monthly increases in consumer prices were blamed largely on the tax reform law, officially labeled as TRAIN.

According to Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate, the price hikes were caused by new and higher taxes the law has imposed starting in January. – Sheila Crisostomo (The Philippine Star) - April 26, 2018

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Labor group wary of RTWPB-XI motu proprio wage review

The labor coalition NAGKAISA-Davao cautions workers on the Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board-Region XI’s initiative to review and possibly raise the region’s minimum wage. “As in the past wage orders, the RTWPB-XI’s evaluation is most likely to end up giving loose change to workers,” said Sofriano “Ka Ondo” Mataro, spokesperson of Nagkaisa-Davao and regional head of ALU-TUCP.

TUCP has petitioned the regional wage board for a P104.00 across-the-board increase but the latter said that it has already initiated a motu proprio review of the existing minimum wage in the region in its meeting on January 17, 2018.

“We doubt that the wage review of RTWPB-XI is not prompted by DOLE Secretary Bello, who seems to be working in cahoots with the employers on the issue of contractualization. If not with TUCP’s petition in late March, we would not know that the regional wage board has taken the initiative to take a look at workers’ wages since January”, stated Joel Bañas, spokesperson and Chairperson of SENTRO Davao.

He further explained, “It’s already three months now and no labor group have been consulted and no public hearings were called to discuss the matter. If the regional wage board is talking to some groups, it is not the workers but the employers. Is the right of workers to be heard doesn’t matter nowadays?”

“Agravante said that the wage board has undertaken studies on the region’s economic conditions including the effects of the TRAIN Law, where are the results of these much-vaunted studies? What are its findings?” asks Remy Torres, spokesperson of Partido ng Manggagawa (PM).

Remy Torres is referring to Raymundo Agravante, chairperson of RTWPB-XI and the regional director of the Department of Labor and Employment-Region XI.

“We need to raise workmen’s wages. The P104.00 petition of TUCP is not even enough to recover the lost purchasing power of the regional wage which is P132.70”, asserted Ka Ondo, spokesperson of the group and a convenor of Nagkaisa-Davao.

According to the website of NWPC (National Wages and Productivity Commission), the real value of the region’s minmum wage of P340.00 is a measly P207.30. ” And these figures are as of February 9, 2018. The impact of the excise and value-added taxes under the TRAIN Law is still not factored in”, he added.

The labor coalition alleged that workers are staggering from the effects of the TRAIN Law which inflated prices of basic commodities. The Philippine Statistics Authority confirmed this in an announcement recently that inflation in March 2018 surged to 4.3%.

The law lists ten criteria on which the wage board would base its decision in fixing wages. Among them were the rise in the cost of living, the purchasing power of the peso and workers’ demand for a raise. But Joel Bañas of SENTRO Davao claims, “Since its creation thirty years ago, the regional wage boards has only one consideration on issuing wage orders, which is the employers’ capacity to pay, forsaking the workers’ capacity to buy.”

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Labor hesitant about Palace Meeting sans knowledge of final EO version

“We are not sure if we will go to the meeting with the President as we don’t know which version of the Executive Order (EO) Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III is once again peddling,” Nagkaisa Labor Coalition said in a hastily called press conference following reports of a much delayed meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte happening in mid-April.

President Duterte, in a meeting with labor leaders on February 27, promised that he and his legal team will look into the workers’ draft EO submitted jointly by Nagkaisa and Kilusang Mayo Uno with the support of the National Anti-Poverty Commission. He promised to sign the issuance by March 15, to no avail.

“The truth is, the Secretary has been obstructing our efforts these past few years. He has been misleading the president and has been fooling the public by twisting labor’s position and making it appear we are unreasonable,” Nagkaisa said.

“The workers’ draft has moved from total prohibition of contractualization to a framework of prohibition of contractualization that would allow certain exemptions for contracting out of work, but subject to the decision of the National Tripartite Industrial Peace Council.” Nagkaisa added.

“We abhor the abuse and exploitation of workers through contractualization as it has become the convenient excuse of unscrupulous employers and manpower agencies and pseudo cooperatives to pay low wages, disregard social protection, bust unions and fire workers at will. We believed the President share these abhorrence with irresponsible employers,” Nagkaisa added.

Nagkaisa calls on government to decide where its policy on addressing contractualization stands. “Is it for more profits to employers at the expense of workers’ rights and welfare; or adhering to state guarantees of providing full protection to workers’ rights and welfare that would bring about sustainable growth to the economy?”

“Secretary Bello shamelessly foisted that labor is calling for the total prohibition of contractualization and deliberately misled the public and the President that workers are hardlining and demanding the impossible. He obstructed and derailed the democratic processing of an EO,” Nagkaisa added.

“He has acted beyond the pale and has shown to what depths he will unconscionably betray his sworn trust and the public interest. He must now disclose what this purported April 16 EO contains. It is something we have never seen,” said Nagkaisa.

Nagkaisa only learned about a supposed new round of meetings in Malacañang via news reports as no official invitations and meeting agenda have been received by any labor group.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Nagkaisa hails passage of Security of Tenure Bill

Labor Coalition Nagkaisa! is satisfied over the passage on third reading of HB 6908 on the Security of Tenure at the House of Representatives.

Nagkaisa! said that "the SOT bill is a great improvement to existing legislation as it gives more teeth to the government by providing penalties for those who will violate the security of tenure laws."

"This is the farthest a proposed law on SOT has gone for decades," said Nagkaisa! "Now, it's time to get the Senate moving on their proposed SOT measure."

"HB 6908 gives more flesh and blood to the guaranteed right to security of tenure," Nagkaisa! said. "It's not perfect or ideal, but we can live with it," said Nagkaisa!, the largest labor coalition in the country.

Fear of employers allayed

Nagkaisa! also addressed fears of employers who went on record saying that they will have a "big problem" if the proposed measure was passed. "If the big problem employers have about HB 6908 refers to the potential cutbacks in the windfall of profits a number of employers have been amassing through the massive abuse of workers via contractualization for decades, the bill intends to do just that," Nagkaisa! said. "Employers who do not abuse workers through contractualization have nothing to fear," Nagkaisa! added.

"Never in the history of employment relationship in the country has workers enjoying regular employment and implementation of strict rules in labor contracting been detrimental to the economy and job generation," Nagakaisa! said.

"Job generation is a function of the development of sectors of the economy influenced by economic policies of the government, and not by labor contracting practices," Nagkaisa explained.

A "serious problem" employers noted is that if the SOT bill becomes a law, it will be detrimental to the economy and job creation. Nagksaisa! countered the argument. "Workers with regular employment generate more income, thus, with more purchasing power contribute to increasing demand in goods and services that lead to higher income taxes and VAT for the government. These are all good for the economy," said Nagkaisa.

"The fear that the HB can lead to unemployment is only possible if they are not paying their contractual employees what the law currently demands. In other words, their argument is an admission that they are doing business at the expense of workers' rights – and they want to continue doing so," Nagkaisa! added.

The recent statement by the employers didn't specify which provisions of the bill they strongly disagree with.

Nagkaisa! said it was grateful to Labor Committee Chair Rep. Randolph Ting who steered the discussions and Rep. Raymond Mendoza of TUCP Partylist and Rep. Tom Villarin of Akbayan Partylist who co-authored the SOT Bill and helped defend it together with Nagkaisa.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Nagkaisa labor coalition supports House Bill 6908

With its provisions that can be considered as marked improvement from existing laws and regulations pertaining to labor contracting, particularly Article 106 of the labor code and DO 174, rules and regulations on labor contracting promulgated by the DOLE last March 2017, Nagkaisa!, the largest labor coalition of worker's union and labor organization in the country supports HB 6908, an act strengthening workers security of tenure, which was approved on second reading by the house of representatives last January 23.

Among these provisions are:

a) Disallowing subcontracting of jobs already contracted out by principal employers;

(b) Disallowing any form of fixed-term employment;

(c) Any one of the three conditions found present on the the employment relationship between the labor contractor and employees dispatched to principal employers, such employment relationship is deemed labor-only contracting. These conditions are (1) labor contractor has no substantial capital in the form of investment and tools, (2) the labor contractor has no control over the worker's method and means in performing their function, and (3) workers recruited and dispatched perform functions which are directly related to the principal busines of the employer; and

(d) Labor contractors found violating labor-only contracting provisions of this act shall be fined Php 30, 000 for each worker engaged in labor-only contracting arrangement but the total amount of the fine shall not exceed Php 5 million.

Nagkaisa! admits that HB 6908 is not a perfect bill to prohibit all forms of labor contracting. However, the marked improvement in its provisions would surely address to a great deal widespread use of contractual labor in the country, and thus strengthening workers' security of tenure and the exercise of their right to organize and collectively bargain compared to the present laws and regulations pertaining to labor contracting.

Nagkaisa now calls on the Senate to introduce more prohibitive provisions in their version of bills pertaining to security of tenure so as to further improve what HB 6908 has achieved.

Finally, we thanked the efforts made by Rep. Randolph S. Ting, Chairperson of the Labor Committee, representatives of TUCP and Akbayan! partylists, and the rest of the co-authors of HB 6908 for successfully defending and passing it on second reading.

Security of tenure bill remains imperfect—labor coalition

THE country’s largest labor coalition on Thursday called on lawmakers to add more teeth to House Bill (HB) 6908, also known as the security of tenure bill.

In a news statement, the Nagkaisa labor coalition said the new legislation is still imperfect since it still allows some forms of contractual labor.

Nagkaisa, however, threw its support behind the legislation, which it said is already a step toward finally providing better protection to contractual workers.

“The marked improvement in its provisions would surely address to a great deal widespread use of contractual labor in the country and, thus, strengthening workers’ security of tenure and the exercise of their right to organize and collectively bargain compared to the present laws and regulations pertaining to labor contracting,” Nagkaisa said.

On Tuesday the House of Representatives approved on second reading HB 6908.

Among the salient points of the legislation is its prohibition of subcontracting of jobs already contracted out by principal employers and any form of fixed-term employment.

It will imposes a fine, ranging from P30,000 to P5 million, on labor contractors who will violate its provisions.

Nagkaisa thanked the House Committee on Labor and Employment and the representatives of the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) and Akbayan party-lists, and the coauthors of HB 6908 for supporting the bill.

The group is now urging the Lower House and the Senate to add stiffer penalties for employers who will violate the provisions of HB 6908.

“We call on the Senate to introduce more prohibitive provisions in their version of bills pertaining to security of tenure, so as to further improve what HB 6908 has achieved,” Nagkaisa said.

Almost 2 million workers are expected to benefit from HB 6908 once it takes effect.

In a text message, Federation of Free Workers, a member of Nagkaisa, said it will also hold rallies and forums in the coming weeks to gain public support for the bill.

Aside from the legislative measures, members of Nagkaisa are also set to meet with President Duterte next month to discuss the new EO, which is expected to further restrict contractualization in the country.

“Malacañang said [a] meeting is expected to take place on February 9,” Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III, for his part, said.

Associated Labor Union-TUCP, another Nagkaisa member, said they will urge the President to finally sign the new EO during the meeting.

The meeting was originally scheduled in December 2017, but was later reset due to Duterte’s busy schedule that time.

Nagkaisa is a coalition of 40 major labor groups in the country. -By Samuel P. Medenilla