Tuesday, March 30, 2021

February labor data indicates worsening employment problems – Nagkaisa!

It is not only the rate of COVID-19 infection that is rising but also the unemployment and underemployment rate. The February employment figures released by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) this morning indicate a worsening trend, with the easing January unemployment and underemployment of 8.7% and 16% respectively, reversed by the 8.8% and 18.2% rates this February. 

The only positive note for the February data is the labor force participation rate bouncing back from 60.5% to 63.5%. But the re-imposition of ECQ-Series 2 in the NCR Plus bubble may simply reverse this gain in the next quarter. Likewise, the expected influx of graduates sometime this May or June would provide new entrants to the labor force with no immediate jobs to grab.

These latest employment numbers, therefore, demand serious attention and actual resolution as the government’s health and economic response can only be made effective and sustainable with the full participation of the greatest number of employed and healthy workforce. 

Hindi na maaring magpatuloy ang kapalpakan. The economy needs a bigger stimulus; thus, the proposed Bayanihan 3 in Congress should not be blocked by the Palace. Workers need jobs and basic income, hence, workers’ demand for full employment through a public employment program that provides income and employment guarantees must be incorporated into Bayanihan 3. This should be passed as a urgent measure by the government.

Itigil ang kapalpakan. Designated czars should be replaced by people of known competence in their respective fields. Repeated and prolonged lockdowns may reduce the rate of virus infection, but not the incidence of hunger and the deteriorating labor and human rights condition in the country. 

It is insanity to do the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results, to borrow Albert Einstein's words. 

Friday, March 26, 2021

Workers support criminalization of red-tagging

The Nagkaisa! Labor Coalition welcomes Senate Bill 2121 that would criminalize “red-tagging” of labor leaders, labor organizations and other activists and people’s organizations. 

Authored by Senator Franklin Drilon, the Anti-Red Tagging Bill would penalize law enforcers, military and paramilitary personnel who label, vilify, brand, name, accuse, harass, persecute, stereotype or caricature individuals, groups or organizations as state enemies, left-leaning, subversives, communists or terrorists as part of a counter-insurgency or anti-terrorism program or strategy, with ten years imprisonment and perpetual disqualification to hold public office. 

“We laud this proposed legislation as it would add protection to the Constitutionally guaranteed rights of workers and activists to freedom of speech, of expression and the right to peaceably assemble to redress government for grievances,” Atty. Sonny Matula, chairperson of Nagkaisa! said. 

“Workers themselves, including members of Nagkaisa! have been red-tagged, harassed, given death threats via text message, ‘visited’ in the privacy of their own homes, and have received ‘invitations’ to police camps,” explained Matula. 

Many unscrupulous employers are using the current climate of impunity to bust the unions through red-tagging.

“It would certainly correct some of the major deficiencies of the Anti-Terrorism Act that has already made lives of rights defenders miserable, and even resulted in the death of a number of them, most notably, on ‘Bloody Sunday’ on March 7,” added Matula.  

Senator Drilon filed the bill two days ago. 

“We are of course still pursuing the repeal of RA 11479 or the Anti-Terror Act that has made the police and military officials bolder in unfounded red-tagging and blatant violation of human rights,” said Matula. 

“The police have red-tagged and labeled as terroristic acts legitimate trade union action such as organizing, collective bargaining, strikes, protest actions and calls for dialogue with government, especially during this pandemic,” Matula explained. 

The Anti-Terror Act has repealed the Human Security Act that used to penalize law enforcers with 10-12 years imprisonment for detaining suspected terrorists for three days without filing charges. The accused who would be proven innocent would have also received 500,000 pesos per day of unlawful detention under the old Human Security Act. 

Monday, March 15, 2021

Nagkaisa slams red-tagging, union-busting in the public sector

A labor coalition of private and public sector unions and labor organizations denounces the latest red-tagging move by the government, through the Department of Interior and Local Governments (DILG), which designated in writing legitimate public sector unions as communist terrorist groups (CTG).

The DILG, on March 10, 2021, ordered its regional directors as well as the regional secretary of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao to list names of government employees who are proven to be members of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) and the Confederation for Unity, Recognition, and Advancement of Government Employees (COURAGE). 

Nagkaisa explained that although ACT and COURAGE are not affiliated with the broad coalition, the duty of defending the integrity and independence of trade unions, more so the life and security of their members, is a bottom-line principle that the trade union movement around the world will hold on for life. 

“The right of the workers to self-organization is an inherent right to human persons, as social beings.  Nobody should deprive them of this freedom to associate. Neither the government, racketeers, employers, churches or political parties or politicians are allowed to interfere in the exercise of this right. At the end of the day, only the workers - the members of unions - themselves should regulate their union - never anybody or external forces,” declared Nagkaisa Chair Sonny Matula. 

The group said it is very contemptible to see the government, being the employer of the three million public sector workers, including contractuals, subject its own rank-and-file workers to a dangerous witch hunt. 

“It reminds us of how Hitler’s anti-Semitism campaign, which started with the simple profiling of Jews across Germany and other parts of Europe, culminated into a Holocaust,” lamented Matula.

Nagkaisa likewise reminded the DILG that red-tagging and other anti-union activities are prohibited under the 2011 Guidelines on the Conduct of the DOLE, DILG, DND, DOJ AFP and PNP Relative to the Exercise of Workers’ Rights and Activities.

Annie Geron, President of the Public Services Labor Independent Confederation (PSLINK), on her part argued that this kind of red-tagging move by the DILG is tantamount to union-busting, thus, will also be interpreted by private employers as a legitimate policy and therefore harmonious with their own union-busting activities in the private sector. 

“It should be stopped because once they combine, activities of this newly-formed riding-in-tandem group will likely culminate into a holocaust of unionism in the Philippines as the supposed protector of trade union rights in the public sector has become its own tormentor,” said Geron.

She added that it is under the Duterte administration that public sector unionism is officially discouraged, if not prevented outright, citing the case of unionization efforts for the non-uniformed personnel in the Philippine National Police (PNP) being nipped in the bud by no less than the PNP Chief. 

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Hit hardest by the pandemic, women workers call for 'ayuda', jobs, and protection of labor rights

Mass layoff and income losses continue to mount despite the easing of restrictions and the initial rollout of vaccination. Needless to say, the combination of health, economic, and education crises one year under the pandemic is hitting women the hardest when they assumed added burdens as confirmed in several studies.

It is for this reason that members of the Nagkaisa labor coalition were demanding another round of ‘ayuda’ or income support, public employment program, and the protection of labor rights as the group kicks off with its celebration of the women’s month with a rally Thursday at the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).

“Isang taon na ang pandemya pero nakatanggap lamang ng dalawang buwang ayuda ang manggagawa. At dahil walang dagdag na ayuda at bagong trabaho, parami pa ng parami ang nagugutom na at ang ekonomiya ay hindi rin makabangon. Sa gitna nito ay ang walang kaparis na sakripisyo ni lady breadwinner, tita caregiver, at mama cum teacher rolled into one,” said Judy Miranda, head of the coalition’s women’s committee and also the secretary general of Partido Manggagawa (PM).

Joining the DOLE action, Miranda said, were women workers who lost their jobs from the continuing company retrenchments, and those who have pending cases before the labor department over illegal dismissals, union-busting, unpaid wages, 13th month, and separation pay, among others. 

A scheduled dialogue with the DOLE right after the rally may give workers from the export zones in Cavite, Laguna, Cebu, as well as the teaching and non-teaching personnel in private universities, a chance to seek immediate resolution of their cases and concerns pending before the department. 

And as tensions rise between workers and employers due to this lingering crisis, workplace and domestic violence become common, further victimizing women in varying degrees, thus, the workers’ demand for the immediate ratification of ILO’s Convention 190.

“At a time when misogyny is now being normalized in various ways, ILO Convention 190 is precisely what we need today,” said Nice Coronacion of the Sentro ng Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (Sentro).
Women workers were also demanding full protection of their rights as more employers resort to union-busting activities 

"Using the pandemic as an excuse, Provision Gloves Apparel closed its factory in Batangas, only to find out that their main factory remains in operation, under a different name. Management is busting our union and avoiding collective bargaining. This should stop," said Jessica Guerrero, PGA Union-FFW president said.

For her part, Annie Geron of the Public Services Labor Independent Confederation (PSLINK), argued that quality public service requires a healthy and well-protected workforce both in the frontlines and administrative functions.

“Quality evades public service when bosses at the top are also the ones who deny their workers’ right to form unions and bargain for better working conditions,” said Geron, referring to how senior government officials suppress unionization efforts of their rank-and-file members. 

Labor Coalition-Women’s Committee
04 March 2021