Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Nagkaisa celebrates Bonifacio Day in ‘Blank Paper’ protest 

A popular protest symbol against the zero covid policy and censorship in China found its way into the Philippines during the workers’ celebration of Andres Bonifacio’s 159th birthday. 

The Nagkaisa Labor Coalition said the ‘Blank Paper’ protest is the Filipino workers’ adaptation of the symbolic protest to press for a Labor Agenda that the group finds sorely lacking in the Marcos administration.

“Bonifacio Day is always a day of protest for Filipino workers, but today is the first time that most of our placards bear no slogans. It is because the blank papers themselves convey the message that a labor agenda remains blank or missing under this new administration,” said Nagkaisa Chairman and Federation of Free Workers President Sonny Matula. 

Nagkaisa staged the ‘Blank Paper’ and ‘die-in’ protest at Liwasang Bonifacio before joining the United Labor together with Kilusang Mayo Uno and Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino in a march to Mendiola.

Matula said workers want a Labor Agenda as basis for continuing engagements with the government as the lack of it implies disregard if not outright neglect of labor in the face soaring prices, deteriorating quality of jobs, and chronic unemployment problems, among others.

“Our proposed Labor Agenda embodies the workers’ most urgent concerns as well as reforms in labor policies to decisively address poverty, inequality, and injustice in the country,” stressed Matula. 

The Nagkaisa Labor Agenda includes demands for a wage hike, public employment program, labor rights and an end to contractualization, affordable and quality public services, and mechanisms for a continuing policy dialogue on structural reforms.

Reiterating their call for a P100 wage hike, Partido Manggagawa Chair Renato Magtubo, stated: “The amount is merely to recover wages lost to inflation. It’s a relief for a minimum wage that remains at starvation level but still way too far from achieving living wages and improvements in workers’ standard of living as provided under the Constitution.”

On his part, Sentro ng Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (Sentro) Secretary General Josua Mata, attributed the prevailing regime of low wages to the unresolved problems of unemployment and contractualization. 

“Contractualization, both in the private and public sector, significantly weakens the exercise of other labor rights such as freedom of association and collective bargaining, thus, keeping the life of ‘endo’ workers to the barest minimum,” explained Mata.

He added that without a robust public employment program in key sectors of the economy, including in climate and environment, the army of unemployed will just continue to crowd the market of cheap labor.  

Moreover, inadequacy and high cost of services aggravates this problem, said Public Services Labor Independent Confederation (PSLINK) leader Jillian Roque, who also warned that the Marcos administration’s massive rightsizing plan would only lead to further deterioration of public services.

In protecting labor rights, Nagkaisa demands a solid renunciation of the previous administration’s policy on extra-judicial killings, the scrapping of anti-union laws as well as the abolition of anti-union bodies involved in red-tagging like the NTF-ELCAC and the Joint Industrial Peace and Concern Office (JIPCO).

The coalition is likewise campaigning for the ratification and effective implementation of ILO Convention 190 to protect women from violence and harassment in the workplace.

Friday, November 18, 2022

Holiday economics not good for workers

MANILA, Philippines — A labor coalition said yesterday that the government’s revival of holiday economics will not benefit workers because their meager income is not enough to sustain their basic needs.

The Nagkaisa labor coalition was reacting to Proclamation No. 90 signed by President Marcos last Nov. 11, which aims to promote “spending economics at a time workers need more jobs and extra source of income to meet their families’ basic food and non-food requirements.”

“There is a need to adjust these holidays pursuant to the principle of holiday economics wherein a longer weekend will help encourage domestic travel and increase tourism expenditures in the country,” Marcos said in the proclamation.

Partido Manggagawa chairman Renato Magtubo said the latest statistics on the rise in the number of underemployed underpin workers’ need for more income to fight soaring inflation.

“The most pressing concern of the working class today is their capacity to spend above their basic needs, thus, poverty wages would prevent them from enjoying holiday economics,” Magtubo said in a statement.

He added, “If President Marcos really wanted to perk up the economy, he should join workers in asking Congress to legislate a wage hike as well as establish a robust public employment program to shore up the income of every Filipino.”

Annie Geron of the Public Services Independent Labor Confederation said: “The wage hike must also cover the tens of thousands of public sector workers under contractual and casual arrangements whose pay scales are even lower than the poverty threshold of P12,000 per month.”

The coalition also hit the inclusion of Bonifacio Day and Araw ng Kagitingan (Day of Valor) into the package, saying “it sweeps aside the historical value of the two holidays on the country’s struggle for freedom in exchange for commercial value the tourism industry would gain from such historical revision.”

Nagkaisa chairman Sonny Matula said “there are many ways to promote local tourism like increasing the government’s budget for developing green infrastructure and creating green jobs in tourism areas but revising history should never be part of this menu.”

“Like Labor Day, Araw ng Kagitingan and Bonifacio Day are significant days dear to workers, and the trade union movement is committed to commemorate the struggles on their historical dates and not on the revised commercialized dates dictated by holiday economics,” said Matula.

CHR commends gov’t aid to workers

Meanwhile, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) commended the government for the provision of financial assistance to workers harmed or killed on duty in times of calamity or disaster.

Specifically, it lauded the Employees’ Compensation Commission (ECC)’s program which is extended to government workers, private sector employees, self-employed individuals, house helpers and sea-based overseas workers.

For government workers, all compulsory members of Government Service Insurance System, including uniformed personnel, are qualified to receive financial assistance if they suffer work-related sickness, injury, or death when responding to or working during a calamity.

For those in the private sector, the companies can apply for calamity assistance on behalf of the employees through the Social Security System.

The benefit for government personnel is P200 per day while employees in the private sector can claim up to P480 per day. – Rhodina Villanueva - The Philippine Star / Elizabeth Marcelo