Bonifacio Day protest for P125 wage hike held

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To mark the 152nd birthday of working-class hero Andres Bonifacio, national labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno together with sectoral organizations under umbrella group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan marched to Mendiola this morning to call for a P125 across-the-board wage hike.

The protestors called on workers to emulate Bonifacio, who led the revolution against Spanish colonialism, and fight for their economic interests such as higher wages, an end to contractual employment, and the free exercise of trade-union rights.

They also called on workers to fight to end the new form of colonialism which they say still dominates the country, as shown by the thrust of the recently-concluded Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit held in the Philippines of serving the interests of big foreign capitalists to the detriment of workers and Filipinos.

“One hundred fifty-two years after Bonifacio was born, Filipino workers are suffering from worsening hunger, poverty and indebtedness as a result of starvation wages. And the Philippines continues to be treated as a colony of big foreign powers,” said Elmer “Bong” Labog, KMU chairperson.

The labor leader said that had Bonifacio been alive today, he would surely champion the workers’ call for a P125 across-the-board wage hike, which seeks to correct the decades of meager adjustments approved by the country’s wage boards amidst the soaring prices of basic goods and payments for services.

“We are calling on workers to emulate the heroism of Bonifacio and fight for our economic and political interests and for our motherland. Filipino workers will continue to be exploited and oppressed until the country is set free from present-day colonialism,” added Labog.

The protestors wore red scarves like those worn by members of the Katipunan, the secret society that was formed and led by Bonifacio, to signify their pledge to fight for workers’ rights and for national liberation.

Duterte lauded for contractualizaton stand



National labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno lauded Davao City mayor and presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte for expressing opposition to contractualization and urged other presidential aspirants to also speak up on the issue and other workers’ concerns.

The labor group said Duterte is correct in pointing out that contractual employment makes it difficult for workers to sustain their families and destroys the country’s work force in the long run.

“We are glad that Duterte has taken a pro-worker stand on one of the most important workers’ issues. We dare other presidential aspirants to also denounce this employment scheme which has meant a wholesale violation of workers’ rights,” said Elmer “Bong” Labog, KMU chairperson.

The labor leader said contractuals, who now comprise the majority of the country’s workforce, receive wages lower than those received by regulars, are often robbed of their benefits, can be retrenched for the flimsiest of reasons, and face repression when they try to form unions.

“It’s not enough that presidentiables and other election talk about measures that will supposedly bring about economic development. At a time when the economy’ so-called growth only means increased profits for the few, candidates should talk about concrete measures that will improve the lives of workers and the poor,” Labog added.

Labog said workers are calling for a P125 across-the-board wage hike nationwide, the implementation of a National Minimum Wage in the amount of P750, the banning of contractual employment, and an end to union busting.

KMU said contractualization was legalized by the Labor Code of 1974, which expressly prohibits “Labor-Only Contracting” but empowers the Labor Secretary to issue guidelines that govern “Job Contracting.”

Provisions of the Labor Code of 1974 that in effect legalize contractualization were retained by the Herrera Law. Under Pres. Noynoy Aquino, Department Order No. 18-A Series of 2011 was issued to serve as guidelines for contractualization.

“Because contractualization violates workers’ rights to a living wage, to job security, and to the free exercise of trade-union rights, it should be banned. It is a scheme that allows capitalists, especially the big ones, to amass huge profits by attacking workers’ rights,” Labog added.

Workers didn’t feel 6% GDP growth – KMU

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“What growth?”

This was national labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno’s response to the 6 percent expansion of the country’s Gross Domestic Product in this year’s third quarter, saying workers did not feel the reported growth in their wages, job security and trade-union rights.

The labor group said working conditions continue to deteriorate as wages continue to be pressed down, contractual employment continues to be promoted, and trade-union rights continue to be violated.

It cited flag carrier Philippine Airlines’ retrenchment of 117 workers in September, who will be replaced by agency workers despite PAL Holdings’ reported P5.8 billion net income in the first half of 2015. The amount is a ten-fold increase from P560 million in the same period in 2014.

“Without a significant wage increase, without the regularization of contractuals, and without the free exercise of trade-union rights, GDP growth means nothing to workers. It could only mean growth for the economic elite,” said Elmer “Ka Bong” Labog, KMU chairperson.

The labor leader reiterated workers’ demands for a P125 across-the-board wage hike, the enactment of a National Minimum Wage in the amount of P750 for private-sector workers, the banning of contractualization, and a stop to union busting.

“Workers’ demands for improvements in working conditions remain unheeded by the government. The overall effect is not growth but worsening hunger, poverty and indebtedness among workers and most Filipinos,” Labog added.

KMU cited independent think-tank Ibon Foundation’s claim that the GDP growth is still exclusionary for failing to solve the country’s job crisis, with unemployed and underemployed Filipinos numbering at 12.3 million in July 2015.

“The government and big capitalists claim that workers have to accept lower wages, contractual employment and trade-union repression so that the country can create more jobs. The country’s economic policies are clearly flawed because they result in worsening unemployment and worsening working conditions,” Labog stated.

Labog also said that only a shift in government policy towards land reform and building national industries can solve unemployment and at the same time improve working conditions for Filipinos.

Aquino gov’t, enemy of tax relief for ordinary Filipinos

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Last Tuesday, House Speaker Sonny Belmonte said moves to decrease ordinary Filipinos’ income taxes will no longer prosper in Congress. He said Congress does not have enough time for the measures and that it “should have more time for bigger reform.”

Lack of time is a lame excuse for not passing bills seeking lower income taxes. The truth is that the Aquino government is an enemy of tax relief for ordinary Filipinos. Pres. Noynoy Aquino himself demanded that proponents of tax relief come up with proposals to replace the P30-billion revenue which the government will supposedly lose if tax relief measures are approved.

The recently-concluded Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit surely has something to do with the Aquino government’s firmer opposition to tax relief measures. APEC surely reiterated the dictates of big foreign capitalists and financial institutions to governments of underdeveloped countries to carry out fiscal austerity.

The International Monetary Fund, World Bank, Asian Development Bank, among other financial institutions want the government to increase tax collection so it can put more money to paying the foreign debt.

This, despite the fact that Filipinos are shouldering some of the biggest income taxes in Southeast Asia, even as the country has the third lowest per-capita income among APEC countries.

The call for tax relief for ordinary Filipinos is most just. Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares’ House Bill 5401 or the Personal Income Tax Reform Bill, which seeks to reduce the income taxes of the middle class, and exempt low-income families earning a maximum of P396,000 annually from income tax, should be passed immediately.

Ordinary workers and employees are overworked, underpaid and overtaxed. Congress should work double time to pass the Personal Income Tax Reform Bill before it adjourns. This bill’s passage is much-needed by Filipinos and is long overdue.

Suppression of APEC protests hit

Photo from philstar.com AP/Bullit Marquez
National labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno condemned today the suppression of protests against the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit, claiming the government defended those responsible for the country’s poverty and underdevelopment against the condemnation of workers and the poor.

The labor group said that from November 16 to 19, the Philippine National Police used an increasing amount of force against protestors and that the agency is “makapal ang mukha (shameless)” for threatening protest leaders with lawsuits.

“Instead of respecting the Filipino workers’ and people’s right to assert that their demands be heard, the Aquino government responded with an overkill amount of force. It clearly sided with big capitalists and powerful governments against Filipinos,” said Jerome Adonis, KMU secretary-general.

The labor leader said eight activists from the labor sector were wounded or seriously hurt or both in the protest last Thursday along Buendia Avenue in Pasay City, against which the police used truncheons.

Among these are: Steve Ranjo and Genero Paredog of the Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng Tsuper at Operators Nationwide or PISTON and Bironico Pardillo, Nilo Juayang, Sonny Aguinaldo, and Allan Bacara, strikers of Golden Fortune Techno Built, Inc.

Also wounded and seriously hurt were Bonifacio Cuello of the NXPSCI Workers’ Union and Rea Alegre, spokesperson of broad campaign network All Workers’ Unity. Ranjo and Alegre suffered head wounds after being hit by stones thrown from the ranks of the police.

“We condemn the Aquino government and the PNP for their use of violence against protestors. We are studying the possibility of filing administrative charges against government and police officials involved before the Ombudsman,” Adonis added.

KMU also condemned the PNP’s use of a loud speaker which played dance music to try to counter the sound coming from last Thursday’s protest and to try to disrupt the protestors’ program.

“The Aquino government continues to use new ways of suppressing dissent because it fails to come up with answers to the demands of workers and the people. Stifling the voices of workers and the people has never been, and will never be, music to our ears,” Adonis stated.

APEC declaration: intensifying war vs. workers, peoples of the world

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The “23rd Declaration of APEC Leaders” is no less than a declaration of intensifying war against the workers and peoples of the world.

It professes loyalty to neoliberal “globalization” policies that favor big foreign capitalists, especially financial capitalists, to the detriment of workers and ordinary peoples. It reaffirms APEC’s commitment to the widely-discredited World Trade Organization and to the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, which subjects member-countries to neoliberal economic policies more forcefully.

It professes loyalty to the US’ “war on terror” and “Pivot to Asia,” which means greater US military presence in the Asia-Pacific region and support for the US’ wars of aggression against governments and political forces that stand in the way of the US’ economic and geo-political interests. For the Philippines, it will mean more human-rights violations by the US-backed Philippine military.

APEC 2015 will worsen the effects of APEC 1996 on the economy of the Philippines. It will further weaken the country’s agriculture and manufacturing sectors, which are key to generating employment, in favor of the services sector. It will therefore result in greater joblessness and lower quality of jobs for Filipinos. Wages will continue to be depressed, contractual jobs will continue to be promoted, and trade-union rights will continue to be attacked and violated.

APEC 2015’s stated commitment to Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises is worrisome for workers. In the past, MSMEs have been used by big capitalists as excuse to further press down wages, spread contractual employment, and stop unions from being formed. At the same time, the problems which MSMEs really confronted were ignored: high power and water rates, huge taxes and government kickbacks, wanton trade liberalization and smuggling, and poor infrastructure.

APEC 2015’s statements on disaster preparedness look good on paper, but are too little and too late when compared with the demands from people’s organizations and non-government organizations. No amount of declarations on disaster preparedness will save lives and rebuild communities if governments, like that of Aquino, are corrupt to the core and indifferent to the suffering of the people. This government has only used “disaster preparedness” to pocket international donations.

Needless to say, the sacrifices which the Filipino workers and people were asked to endure are not “temporary disruptions” but a foretaste of the bigger suffering that APEC will bring in the coming years and decades.

The future of the Filipino workers and people under APEC is bleak. We therefore call on workers and all Filipinos to intensify our struggle against neoliberal policies, all of which are anti-worker and anti-poor. Let us intensify our struggle for land, higher wages, job security and free exercise of trade-union rights. Let us intensify our struggle for national and social liberation. There can be no genuine development for a country that continues to be shackled to neocolonial rule.

Economy cannot be inclusive under APEC

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APEC 2015 has the theme “Building inclusive economies, Building a better world.” Under APEC, under the world capitalist economy, “inclusive economies” is only an illusion. It is a pipe dream being used by the powers-that-be to make people hope for a better future that will never arrive.

The truth is that the economy under APEC cannot be truly inclusive. Because it perpetuates the economic and geo-political divisions of the world capitalist economy, APEC cannot include all people even in the growth that it brings.

APEC is about preserving a global socio-economic system where there are a handful of capitalists on the one hand and a mass of workers on the other. It is about preserving a global geo-political system where there are a handful of powerful countries on the one hand and many neocolonial countries on the other. In these pairs, the wealth and power of the first stem precisely from their domination over the second.

Worse, APEC is about advancing the interests of the few to the detriment of the many. It is about giving big capitalists in the world greater opportunities for amassing profits. It is about giving powerful countries in the world greater opportunities to defend and expand their hegemony.

What we demand, therefore, is not inclusion into APEC economies or into the world capitalist system. We demand nothing less than a way out of APEC and of the world capitalist system. We desire the eventual abolition of APEC and the world capitalist system.

What we want is for the majority of peoples and countries in the world to take the economic and political power, their destinies, into their hands. What we want is for the interests of the poor peoples and countries to prevail over the interests of a handful of wealthy people and powerful countries.

In the Philippines, the struggle for a better world is the struggle for national freedom and democracy from big foreign capitalists and their wealthy and powerful allies in the government and in the country. It is a struggle for a society where the majority, not the minority, rules. It is only by struggling for socialism can the workers and peoples of the world pave the way for a better world.

More photos here.

APEC deserves Filipinos’ protests, condemnation – KMU

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Workers led by national labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno, together with other progressive organizations, held a lightning rally in the corner of Taft and Buendia avenues in Pasay City this morning to condemn the APEC Summit which started today at the Philippine International Convention Center.

The labor group said APEC deserves Filipinos’ condemnation and protests because of its thrust of increasing the profits of big foreign capitalists and advancing the interests of powerful countries at the expense of the workers, peasants and other poor people of the Philippines and other underdeveloped countries.

KMU also said that the immediate difficulties caused by the government’s hosting of the summit to ordinary Filipinos reflect APEC’s bias in favor of big capitalists and governments of powerful countries.

“APEC is making the lives of Filipinos more difficult, and that’s just a preview of the greater difficulties that it will bring in the coming years. Filipinos’s current status as second-class citizens to APEC delegates is a concrete warning that we are increasingly being transformed into cheap and repressed laborers,” said Roger Soluta, KMU vice-chairperson.

The labor leader cited the “no work, no pay” scheme imposed on workers, the eviction of vendors and beggars from areas near the PICC, the huge traffic jams caused by the full and partial closure of major roads, the imposition of rules violating workers’ and Filipinos’ right to freedom of expression, among others as evidence of Filipinos’ second-class status in relation to APEC delegates.

“There’s no ‘inclusive growth’ or ‘better future’ with APEC. Its thrust, its composition, and the manner by which it is being hosted in the Philippines show just how it excludes workers and ordinary Filipinos. We are being given a foretaste of the mess it will plunge the country into,” Soluta added.

KMU also said that contrary to the claims of APEC organizers, it’s not the protests that’s causing embarrassment to the country, but the patently anti-poor measures implemented by the Aquino government in hosting the summit and its suppression of legitimate protests.

“What a shame that the Aquino government is causing great inconvenience and suffering to Filipinos and suppressing legitimate protests in order to appear presentable before an international audience. These measures emphasize what they want to hide: that things aren’t doing well and looking up for most Filipinos,” Soluta stated.

Luisita massacre’s 11th year: Unite! Fight APEC’s attacks on workers’ rights!

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Today, we mark the 11th year of the massacre at Hacienda Luisita which killed seven people and wounded hundreds. No one has been jailed over this gruesome crime, eleven years hence. Luisita’s lands, which the farm workers have demanded for, remain firmly in the hands of the Cojuangco-Aquino family. This, despite the justness of distributing the lands to farm workers and a Supreme Court decision ordering the distribution.

The Hacienda Luisita massacre was carried out in order to attack and end the farm workers’ strike, which was caused by extremely low wages in the hacienda’s sugar mill. As of late, it is the most brutal incident of trade-union repression in the Philippines and among the most savage cases of violence against farm workers in the world.

We mark the 11th anniversary of the Hacienda Luisita massacre just a few days before the country hosts the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit. Trade-union repression and other forms of attacks on workers’ rights are central to the APEC, whose thrust is to further increase the profits of the biggest capitalists in the world and the Philippines to the detriment of workers, the poor and the environment. The best way to pay tribute to the martyrs of Luisita is to continue their struggle for a better world for workers against big foreign and local capitalists and their instruments like the APEC.

APEC 2015’s rhetoric of “investing in human capital” is all about producing cheap, semi-skilled and repressed labor from underdeveloped countries like the Philippines. It will intensify APEC’s long-standing policy of pressing down wages, promoting contractual employment, violating workers’ rights to form unions and hold strikes, and removing all regulations that protect workers, including those on workplace safety.

We are calling on all workers and all Filipinos to join protests in time for the APEC Summit. Let us show our condemnation of APEC’s existing anti-worker, anti-people and anti-environment policies. Let us show our opposition of the policies which APEC 2015 seeks to approve and impose on the workers and peoples of the world.

Solidarity with the workers and peoples of France

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We express our solidarity with the workers and peoples of France in the wake of the deadly attacks in Paris which have claimed the lives of more than 128 people. We unite with the workers and peoples of the world in condemning these attacks on civilians and the ISIS for perpetrating these.

The dust has not yet settled but French Pres. Francois Hollande has already called the attacks “an act of war.” The imperialist powers will surely use these terrorist attacks as a pretext to intensify wars of aggression outside of their countries and impose fascist measures on the workers and peoples of their countries. They will surely use these attacks to further whip up terrorism scare, racism, xenophobia, anti-migrant prejudices and religious bigotry.

We are calling on the workers and peoples of the world to translate our grief and solidarity into knowledge of the historical causes of the attacks. The ISIS, for example, was created by the US to further its terrorist agenda. Let us be critical and not be swayed by the propaganda of imperialists, who have used similar attacks in the past to try to justify terrorism on a greater scale. Let us be very clear: Our grief is not a call for imperialist wars of aggression.

We are calling on all progressive organizations to intensify efforts to educate the workers and peoples of the world about the historical causes of the attacks, how these have been used by imperialists to advance their interests, and the need to end imperialism and its attendant plunder and wars of aggression around the world.