Tuesday, February 7, 2023

LABOR GROUP SLAMS GOV'T FOR USING SSS LAW TO ARREST ACTIVIST PROF



The biggest coalition of labor unions in the country, lambasted the recent government ill action to weaponize the Social Security System (SSS) law for the purpose of arresting a teachers'  union officer and activist professor from the University of the Philippines (UP)-Diliman. 

The professor, identified as Melania Flores, of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) was cited for allegedly failing to remit SSS contributions for her kasamabahay, in violation of Republic Act No. 8282 (now RA 11199) or the Social Security Act. This resulted in the Quezon City Police Department (QCPD) labeling her as a "most wanted person" and seeking a warrant from Judge Maria Gilda Loja-Pangilinan of Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 230 last September.

Nagkaisa Labor Coalition asserts that the government's actions are an abuse of power and an attempt to silence critical voices in society. The coalition calls for an immediate end to the misuse of the SSS law and urges the Marcos administration not to use a welfare law to silence trade union leaders and activists.

"The government's actions demonstrate a blatant disregard for basic human rights and the rule of law. Using the SSS law as a weapon to arrest individuals for political reasons is unacceptable and must be condemned in the strongest terms," said Nagkaisa Labour Coaltion.

The arrest of the trade union activist happened at the heels of the ILO High Level Tripartite Mission to the Philippines at the end of January that cited authorities for long standing cases of killings, arrest on trumped up charges, red tagging and other forms of violence against trade union leaders and organizers. 

Nagkaisa demands that  the government respect the rights and freedoms of all individuals, including trade unionists, activists and academics, and uphold its obligation to promote and protect human rights in the Philippines.
  
Assuming there was a violation of the SSS law, the coalition holds that the authorities should not have violated due process and the UP-DILG Memorandum of Agreement, which prohibits the police forces from entering the UP campus without the knowledge of the university authorities.

While the SSS has records of big employers who failed to remit millions if not billions of pesos in SSS contributions for hundreds of thousands of workers, with the companies’ officers or board of directors having pending arrest warrants, the government has not taken action against them. Instead, the authorities are focusing on a trade union activist professor who allegedly failed to remit SSS contributions for her domestic worker. Nagkaisa raises concerns about due process and equal protection under the law.

Lastly, this statement does not condone non-remittance of SSS contributions. Nagkaisa calls for all employers to remit their employers. Under Republic Act 11199, failure or refusal to comply with the provisions of the SSS law by the employer is punishable by a fine ranging from PHP 5,000.00 to PHP 20,000.00 or imprisonment for a minimum of 6 years and 1 day and a maximum of 12 years, at the discretion of the court. In case of failure to register employees or deduct and remit SSS contributions, the penalty shall be a fine of not less than PHP 5,000.00 nor more than PHP 20,000.00 and imprisonment for not less than 6 years and 1 day nor more than 12 years. In case the employer deducted the SSS contribution but failed to remit it, the imposable penalty shall be that provided under Article 315 of the Revised Penal Code on Estafa, which provides imprisonment not exceeding 20 years.

- Nagkaisa! Labor Coalition 

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Philippine Supreme Court upholds delivery riders’ services

Services performed by bike riders are integral to the businesses of their employers, the top court says




The Supreme Court in the Philippines recognized the services of motorcycle riders delivering goods as regular employees and ordered their employers to provide them with full benefits.

In a verdict on Jan. 23, the top court overturned a decision of a lower court that dismissed a petition from bike riders seeking the regularization of their jobs from their employer.

“Picking up and delivering goods from the warehouse to buyers do not call for specific expertise. It is also not shown that riders were hired due to their unique ability or competency... Lazada had control over the means and methods of the performance of the work of the petitioners, as reflected in the way they carried out their work,” the apex court said.

The court referred to a petition from five bike riders under the contracts of the business group, Lazada E-Services Philippines, who waged a legal battle to have their employment and benefits from their employer.

NAGKAISA, a labor coalition group and the Federation of Free Workers, welcomed the Supreme Court verdict.

“The Supreme Court has once again put flesh and blood to the constitutional provision of protection to labor and upholds the fundamental right of workers to a regular job,” the federation’s lawyer and president Sonny Matula told UCA News.

Matula said the ruling was a victory for workers and a “nightmare” to those who took advantage of laborers and denied benefits to them.

“This is a victory for the workers. The Court made it clear that the protection of labor and the guarantee of security of tenure are not mere embellishments in a parchment that can be ignored like wallpapers on the wall. They are fundamental rights that should be enjoyed by workers in real life,” Matula added.

In 2016, petitioners and riders Chrisden Cabrera Ditiangkin, Hendrix Masamayor Molines, Harvey Mosquito Juanio, Joselito Castro Verde, and Brian Anthony Cubacub Nabong challenged the ruling of the appellate court that they were not regular employees of a delivery company.

Their employer, Lazada E-Services Philippines, said petitioners were “independent contractors” that did not deserve the security of tenure.

“We were hired by Lazada as riders primarily tasked to pick up items from sellers and deliver them to Lazada’s warehouse with 1,200 pesos (US$24) per day as service fee for one year,” petitioner and rider Molines told UCA News.

Molines and fellow riders lost the case in the labor commission and the appellate court. They moved the Supreme Court for a final appeal.

In overruling the appellate court’s decision, the Supreme Court said that riders cannot be considered independent contractors because they did not perform any specific skill or talent.

The Supreme Court also said that the services performed by petitioners are integral to the business of their employer, with the delivery of items integrated with the services offered, thus rendering regular services to the company.

Another delivery rider Josh Perano said the new ruling would give his family peace of mind, especially because as a regular employee, he now enjoys the security of tenure.

“Now my delivery company could not just fire me, and I don’t need to worry if I will still have a job after three months or a year. Even if I earn less than 1,000 pesos [US$20] a day, I have a secured job,” Perano told UCA News.

In 2021, the Philippines had more than 4 million registered motorbikes, and about 10,000 bikers were engaged in delivery services, according to the Philippine Land Transportation Office.

“The number has doubled during the pandemic when Filipino households decided not to go to malls and restaurants to avoid contamination from Covid-19,” rider Mike Guzman told UCA News.

The Catholic Bishops Conference said the Social Action Commission has organized a committee to oversee the rights and needs of bike riders- a booming labor sector in the country.

“We have already formed a Commission to make sure that the rights of workers are protected especially those who engage in this kind of work are really the poor Filipinos,” the commission secretary Father James Oredain told UCA News.  

“More than their rights, of course, we bring them closer to Christ through spiritual formation,” the priest added. - By UCA News reporter


Monday, January 23, 2023

Labor groups report PHL govt’s rights violations vs workers to ILO mission



PHILIPPINE TRADE unions submitted a joint report on Monday to the International Labor Organization (ILO) on recent human rights violations and cases of harassment against workers and union organizers.  

In the 155-page report, the groups highlighted what they called the consistent failure of the Philippine government to comply with ILO conventions on freedom of association and the right to organize.  

“These institutional failures are punctuated by periodic surges of extreme forms of trade union repression including killings, violent harassment and intimidations inflicted upon trade unionists,” the labor groups said. 

The report detailed incidents such as the killing of labor union leader Emmanuel Asuncion, who was shot to death during police raids in 2021; cases of harassment and tagging labor activists as violent communists; and trumped-up charges filed against labor activists. 

Last week, the Philippine Justice department cleared 17 police officers accused of involvement in Mr. Asuncion’s death as government prosecutors did not find probable cause to charge the cops with the crime.  

Federation of Free Workers (FFW) President Jose “Sonny” G. Matula earlier said government agents did not do enough to ensure the prosecution of the officers involved in the labor leader’s murder.  

FFW and Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) were among the labor groups that provided information on rights violations for the report.   

ILO representatives Thomas Mikael Janson (Government), Felix Mark Anthony (Workers) and Scott Barklamb (Employers) will hold dialogues with labor groups and employers from Jan. 23 to 26.  

Following its mission, the team of officials will propose recommendations on improving the conditions of Filipino workers to the Philippine government.  

Labor groups on Monday said the ILO’s mission should lead to new policies that would uphold the basic rights of workers and stop instances of violence against them.

“What we want is the protection of our Constitutional right to freedom of association — this includes putting an end to the killings and resolving ongoing cases of rights violations,” KMU Chairperson Elmer C. Labog said in a statement on Monday.  

“This requires policy changes from the government, which is why we also urge the ILO to call the attention of the Marcos Jr. administration on these violations.” 

The Nagkaisa labor coalition said in a separate statement that the ILO officials will meet with 52 trade union officials, while government officials and representatives from the employer sector would also meet with the team separately.  

“The mission, organized by the International Labor Organization, is a crucial opportunity for the Philippines to show its dedication to promoting freedom of association, decent work, and better working conditions for its citizens,” Nagkaisa said. - By John Victor D. OrdoƱez, Reporter 

Saturday, January 7, 2023

Labor coalition rejects outright privatization of NAIA and Edsa Busway



The NAGKAISA Labor Coalition expressed opposition to customized proposals to privatize everything like the Ninoy Aquino International Airport and the EDSA busway carousel.

“We believe that privatization is not a panacea or an all-out solution to our public transportation problems, and we don’t subscribe to the idea that a privatized transport system is a global standard,” emphasized Nagkaisa Chair Atty. Sonny Matula, saying the state of mass transport systems even in advanced economies remain publicly run and efficiently managed. 

The labor leader said workers won’t simply accept the template of outright privatization as cure to mismanagement, corruption, and bad governance by those in power, and to belie reports that DOTR’s proposal to privatize the Edsa Busway has the support of both business groups and trade unions.

The government, he stressed, must retain control of our international airports, and may opt to consider other models like cooperatives for the operation of the EDSA busway carousel. 

“There are many examples of successful public transportation systems and airports around the world that are owned and controlled by the state, such as those in Japan, Switzerland, Germany, Singapore, and Canada. Even the US hasn’t embraced privatization for running its 5,000 public airports, while our neighbor Hong Kong maintains the world’s best in mass transport system. These systems and airports provide affordable and efficient transportation options for the public, while also serving as a vital source of public income and employment,” said Matula.

As in the case of the Edsa Busway carousel, the group said the free ride was very beneficial to the working people in terms of saved income and travel time. “Transforming the system into a cooperative- run busway or tramway may create alternative economy, as well as synergy to both the coop workers and the commuting public than the typical ‘seller-buyer’ relationship under the privately-run utilities that we had over the past several decades,” added Matula. 

Matula said the coalition is raising this point as regular dialogues with the government on important policies and programs is part of Nagkaisa’s 5-Point Labor Agenda. The others include wage hike and reforms in the country’s wage-fixing mechanisms, end to endo and the full exercise of trade union rights. 

“We want the government to avoid fixation with privatization as there are other alternatives to it especially when mechanisms for genuine people’s participation in policy decisions are activated.  We believe that by working together, we can find a solution that benefits everyone, rather than just select tycoons,” said Matula.

NAGKAISA urges the government to listen to the concerns of the people and to prioritize the needs of the public over private interests. 

“We stand with the working class and the people in calling for an efficient and equitable transportation system that serves the needs of all Filipinos. What the country needs is a strong, accountable, comprehensive, responsive, effective, and democratic public services,” concluded Matula. ###

PRESS STATEMENT
07 January 2023
NAGKAISA LABOR COALITION