Sunday, January 31, 2021

Dialogue on Trade Union Repression and Human Rights with Secretary Bello Slated

The Office of the Labor Secretary has positively replied to the request of the trade union leaders belonging to the Council of Global Unions (CGU)-Pilipinas for a dialogue with Secretary Sylvestre Bello III on February 3 at 2:00pn. 

The dialogue will be done a day after the Supreme Court hears the oral arguments on the constitutionality of the Anti-Terror Act which the NAGKAISA Labor Coalition and most trade unions assailed as repugnant to the Bill of Rights of the Philippine Constitution and our international commitments with the United Nations.

The workers’ group earlier brought to the attention of Secretary Bello the rise of trade union and human rights violations in the country. CGU-Pilipinas will raise the issues of red-tagging of trade unionists and the acceptance of an ILO Tripartite High Level Mission which was recommended by the Committee of the Application of Standards in the June 2019 International Labor Conference due to the killings of 43 trade union leaders at the time, since the assumption to office of President. 

The issue of wage hike is also being proposed by the NAGKAISA to be discussed in the said meeting. 

Lately, workers have been invited to PNP camps for “verification”, but then were forced to admit against their will as members of New People’s Army (NPA) and surrender as rebels. To cite examples, ordinary workers in Coca Cola Plants in Sta Rosa, Laguna, and recently in Paranaque, were herded to Camp Vicente Lim and Camp Bagong Diwa on separate occasions. They were paraded as NPA surrenderees.

It was an "invitation" that one cannot refuse because of fear is a serious problem -- this is like a repeat of military invitations during Marcos’ martial law. This act of "invitation" is highly questionable and reprehensible.

Last December in Metro Manila, the CGU-Pilipinas strongly deplored the simultaneous raids of residences and the consecutive arrests of seven trade union leaders including  Dennise Velasco of Defend Jobs, which happened on Human Rights day.

On Bonifacio day,  NAGKAISA condemned the arrest of five trade unionists in Cebu. Dennis Derige of Partido Manggawa (PM)  and three organizers from SENTRO as well as a trade union leader were detained while leading workers  on their way to a picket line to protest the termination of union members at the Mactan Export Processing Zone. 

Government employees were not spared from the government’s violation of trade union rights. Among the glaring examples: the refusal to negotiate, threats and pressure by PNP Supervisors on their employees in PNP Region 8 to withdraw membership from PNP NUPAI, and red-tagging Public Sector Labor Independent Network (PSLINK), despite intelligence reports that it has no derogatory records; and union busting in Quezon City University by reassigning principal leaders --President Edlyn Manicat, Board Memebr Dr. Noel Lansang and Annie E. Geron--outside the University.

With the Anti-Terror Law in effect, it has been an open season for arrests of activists. It comes as no surprise that these trade union leaders and  organizers are being labelled as communist-terrorists. It has become government policy for trade union activists to be criminalized, illegally arrested and detained, as the government’s way of preventing them from organizing workers into unions and associations, and depriving them their freedom of thought and expression as translated into their activities among the workers.  

The intensified crackdown is precisely aimed at stifling dissent and organized action among the people. Killings of  activists and rights defenders, as a way of instilling fear and silencing the people, have not ceased.

The Council of Global Unions (CGU) in the Philippines includes the affiliates of the International Trade Union Confederation (FFW-NAGKAISA, KMU, SENTRO-NAGKAISA and TUCP-NAGKAISA), Building and Woodworkers International (BWI), Education International (EI), IndustriALL, International Transport Federation,  International Union of Food (IUF), Public Service Internation (PSI) and UNI Global Union.

Friday, January 22, 2021

Nagkaisa calls for public employment, wage recovery amid massive job loss and escalating prices

The recent spike in mass layoffs points to what Nagkaisa has been saying for several months now - when economic recovery is nowhere in sight, government needs to step in as an employer of last resort.

As such, rather than waste its time on charter change and witchunting, NAGKAISA is calling on Congress and the Executive to rectify their errors when they failed to incorporate a robust public employment program in the budget for 2021, by passing Bayanihan 3. The insufficient stimulus package is now proving fatal to our MSMEs and to their workers.

In its proposal for an Unemployment Support and Work Assistance Guarantee (USWAG), NAGKAISA calls for income guarantees for those who lost income due to “no work, no pay” policy, as well as several programs for those unemployed including job guarantees (an enhanced TUPAD that provides for a minimum of 3 months of employment), paid trainings under TESDA and the filling up as well as expansion of the public sector to upgrade our public health system and other social services like housing for the poor and to implement climate adaptation and mitigation programs. To finance this program, NAGKAISA is calling for wealth tax. 

Aside from the public employment program, Nagkaisa is also calling for wage recovery amidst the escalating prices of food and other necessities. The current real minimum wage of P434, as shown in the wage table of the National Wages and Productivity Commission (NWPC), clearly indicates that the P537 minimum wage has already been eroded. 

For this reason, workers are now asking for P100 to recover their lost purchasing power during the pandemic and to improve their standard of living as part of building back better.

However, the government must also ensure adequate supply of commodities especially food, otherwise, we will only be trapped in wage-price spiral. Food and transport prices are the main sources of inflation according to the December 2020 CPI report of BSP. The government must identify and address bottlenecks in supply chain. Importing food will certainly help stabilize prices, however, this must be coupled by extending adequate support to local meat production, which suffered massive losses due to ASF. The government must view support to domestic food production as part of economic and employment recovery. 

NAGKAISA strongly believes that a massive public employment program, support to key sectors of the economy, and wage recovery would be keys to economic recovery. 

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Biggest Labor Coalition Abhors DND's Abrogation of DND-UP Accord, Calls for Withdrawal of Unilateral Decision

NAGKAISA abhors the unilateral decision of the Department of National Defense (DND) and calls on Secretary Delfin Lorenza to withdraw the decision. Otherwise, he better resign.

It seems Secretary Lorenzana has forgotten Joe Almonte's reminder that, "insurgencies are war of ideas just as they are killing competitions."

The incumbent Defense establishment, it seems, is losing ideas. Its act is a militaristic one with no Madisonian constitutional anchor. Like a thief in the night and without even a perfunctory consultation with a co-equal signatory institution,  the Secretary is hastily  abrogating a time-honored protocol with UP since the signing of the Sotto-Enrile accord in 1982 and renewed in DND-UP accord in 1989.

 Without offering an iota of evidence and ignoring respect to plurality of ideas in an academic institution,  the Secretary resorted to red-tagging, using indirect  threats and psychological  intimidation. 

Instead of creating sympathy to the cause of the Defense Department, it seems the Defense Secretary is shooting his own foot by creating confusion and hostility between UP and the Defense establishment. 

The unilateral act -- done without minimum reflection and which probably ignored solid intelligence work--creates unnecessary enemies. It induces, not only further public distrust as regards the defense establishment, but also agitates dissention among members of the academic community. Trust is not imposed. It is earned, not only through words, and definitely not through attacks on academic freedom, but through action  that illustrates respect for students', teachers' and people's rights.

Furthermore, it appears that the Duterte Administration is really bent on doing a Marcos all over again, even outdoing him in this regard. The Defense Chief is withdrawing from an agreement with UP that was reached during the time of Marcos.