On Pulse Asia’s survey on Pinoys’ top concerns

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Pulse Asia’s December 2015 survey regarding Filipinos’ top national concerns reflects the bad state of the economy at the end of Pres. Noynoy Aquino’s term. It belies this government’s claim of economic growth and shows that this government is a failure in improving the lives of workers and majority of Filipinos.

We call on top candidates running in the 2016 elections to heed workers and all Filipinos who are making their voice heard through the survey. We call on them to stand for higher wages, lower prices and decent jobs. The country will be able to create decent employment only through the implementation of the twin policies of land reform and national industrialization.

We call on workers and Filipinos to join the fight for higher wages, lower prices and decent jobs. While we can expect politicians to make pro-worker and pro-people promises during the elections, we cannot expect them to deliver our demands to our doorsteps. We have to fight for lower wages, higher prices and decent jobs.

The survey showed that Filipinos’ top priorities are the following: controlling inflation (45 percent), increasing workers’ wages (42 percent), reducing poverty (38 percent), and creating more jobs (34 percent).

Layoff of 44 flat glass workers hit

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National labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno condemned today the retrenchment of 44 workers in a Japanese-owned flat glass factory in Pasig City, claiming AGC Flat Glass Philippines is trying to bust the workers’ union which is fighting for the regularization of contractuals.

The labor group said that the company has already retrenched 37 workers before the start of negotiations for a Collective Bargaining Agreement in March 2015 and has refused to respond to the union’s proposals for the regularization of contractuals and for higher wages and benefits.

“We condemn AGC Flat Glass Philippines for committing a wholesale violation of workers’ rights. It has been illegally dismissing workers, trying to bust the workers’ union, refusing to actually bargain with workers, and preventing contractuals from being regularized,” said Jerome Adonis, KMU secretary-general.

The labor leader said AGC Flat Glass Philippines, which makes flat glass for homes and companies as well as solar panels, has also retrenched hundreds of long-standing contractuals after the start of negotiations for a CBA in order to thwart the unions’ drive to make them regulars.

“AGC Flat Glass Philippines has gotten away with long-term contractualization for decades. It wants to continue amassing huge profits at the expense of workers despite protests from workers and their supporters,” Adonis added.

When AGC Flat Glass Philippines started in the Philippines in 1985 with the name Asahi Flat Glass Philippines, all of its close to 1,000 workers were regulars and unionized. While the total workforce remains the same, the number of regulars has shrunk to a mere 150 at present.

“The fight against contractualization is a fight of all workers and all Filipinos. Contractualization is a whole-scale violation of workers’ rights that should be banned entirely,” said Adonis.

KMU has been calling for the banning of contractualization, including the scrapping of Department of Labor and Employment Order No. 18-A Series of 2011, of the Herrera Law, and the Labor Code of 1974.

The AGC Flat Glass Philippines management claims that the layoffs is a result of the closure of its Solar Panel Department but workers demand that the department’s workers be absorbed in other departments.

On the SC ruling on EDCA

We condemn the Supreme Court for declaring the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement as constitutional. We accuse the majority of the SC justices of carrying out orders from Pres. Noynoy Aquino who has exceeded previous presidents when it comes to puppetry to the US.

EDCA means the spread of US bases all over the country. It further violates Philippine sovereignty and territorial integrity, further endangers Filipino lives and properties, and further imperils the environment. The SC decision on the EDCA plunges the Philippines deeper into neocolonial relations with the US.

The SC made the ruling less than two weeks before the anniversary of the bloodbath in Mamasapano, which was ordered by the US and involved US military presence in the country. EDCA is a neocolonial, not a nationalist, response to China’s incursions into Philippine territory.

We vow to intensify our fight for an end to US military presence in the country and for the junking of treaties upholding such presence. We vow to intensify our struggle for a Philippines that is genuinely free from US imperialism.

Aquino brought giant ballpen for SSS pension hike

Article - 2016.01.15 No.2

Carrying an effigy of a ballpen, workers led by national labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno marched to Mendiola this morning to call on Pres. Noynoy Aquino to sign a bill that will raise Social Security System pensions by P2,000 across-the-board.

Saying the pension hike is long overdue, the labor group condemned Presidential Communications Operations Office Usec. Manuel Quezon III for asking the public last Saturday to wait for the chief executive’s action on the bill which was transmitted to the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office last Dec. 15.

“SSS pensioners, workers and Filipinos cannot wait anymore. The SSS pension hike is long overdue, should have been signed before Christmas, and should be signed immediately,” said Roger Soluta, KMU secretary-general and himself and SSS pensioner.

The labor leader also condemned Quezon for hinting that a “compromise” on the bill should be made supposedly because the fund life of the SSS would become shorter if the pension hike is approved.

“We condemn the Aquino government for trying to scare SSS pensioners and workers into accepting low pensions. It is trying to hide the fact that all social security systems in the world have limited fund lives,” Soluta added.

He cited the United Kingdom, whose version of the SSS has a fund life of 12 years, and Canada, whose version of the SSS has a fund life of six years – shorter than the 14 years being claimed by the SSS.

“The SSS has funds for the increase. It will have more funds if it improves its collection efficiency, penalizes employers who fail to remit members’ contributions, does away with the huge bonuses of its board members, and reduces its administrative costs,” Soluta stated.

Citing research from Cong. Neri Colmenares’s office, KMU said the SSS has a collection rate of only 38 percent, has filed only 1,200 cases a year against 164,111 delinquent employers as of 2010.

It also said that the SSS has given more than P1 million in bonus to each of its board members in 2012, has given its retiring board members a pension package of more than P200 million in 2009, and has spent more than its counterpart in other countries for administrative costs.

“We oppose any compromise on this issue, whether in the form of a lower pension hike or an increase in members’ premium contributions, like what the SSS leadership wants. The reasons being cited by the SSS and the Aquino government are simply unacceptable,” Soluta stated.

2016 bets dared: emulate ‘Ka Bel,’ stand for workers

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Workers and labor advocates celebrated Crispin “Ka Bel” Beltran’s 83rd birthday today with a short program in front of the labor leader’s bust in Plaza Miranda, Manila in which they dared candidates for the 2016 elections to emulate his example of standing up for the country’s workers.

Led by national labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno and labor NGO Crispin B. Beltran Resource Center, the attendees called on candidates to side with workers in demanding a significant wage hike, an end to contractual employment, safer workplaces, and the free exercise of trade-union rights.

“As a labor leader and party-list representative, Ka Bel lived a life of service to Filipino workers which should be emulated by all politicians. We challenge candidates to speak up for higher wages, regular employment, safer workplaces and free exercise of trade-union rights,” said Elmer “Ka Bong” Labog, KMU chairperson.

The labor leader said that Beltran, as a former representative of partylist groups Bayan Muna and Anakpawis, consistently championed workers’ demand for a P125 across-the-board wage hike, an end to the regionalization of wages, the junking of contractualization, and a stop to union-busting drives.

“Workers and Filipinos need more people like Ka Bel in government. The country is in such a bad shape at present partly because people who are the opposite of what Ka Bel was, those who serve big capitalists over workers, are the ones occupying the top positions in government,” Labog added.

Workers from Planters Development Bank, AGC Flat Glass Philippines, Tanduay Distillers, Inc. and Kentex Manufacturing Inc. spoke up about their present struggles and aired their demands to politicians.

Some of the attendees, which included leaders of partylist groups Piston and Anakpawis, wore masks containing the labor leader’s face and held a streamer that read “Hamon sa Kandidato: Tularan si Ka Bel! Paglingkuran ang obrero! (Challenge to candidates: Be like Ka Bel! Stand up for workers!)”

“The great thing about Ka Bel as a labor leader and congressman is that he did not confine the workers’ struggles to the halls of Congress. He believed that advancing the rights and interests of workers entail the unity and collective action of workers themselves in their workplaces and communities,” Labog stated.

Labog said that Beltran dreamed of a Philippines led by workers and the toiling masses and achieving genuine development for the country through the twin policies of national industrialization and land reform.

Arrest try vs. ex-KMU official condemned

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National labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno condemned today the Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group’s attempt to arrest Rafael Baylosis, the group’s former vice-chairperson for political and external affairs, claiming that the operation was unjustified and based on trumped-up charges.

At 5:40 in the afternoon on January 1, around 10 to 12 CIDG personnel aboard three vehicles went to the Malolos, Bulacan residence of Lualhati Baylosis, wife of Rafael and member of KMU’s advisory board, to try to serve a bench warrant of arrest to Baylosis on the basis of a case that’s still undergoing hearings and in relation to 15 counts of murder allegedly committed more than 20 years ago.

The CIDG team, the leaders of which introduced themselves as Chief Inspector Niño Briones and Inspector Bernardo Suarez, left the area after being allowed to enter the residence and finding out that Baylosis was not there. Briones offered to leave a cellular phone number in case Lualhati decides to cooperate with the police, but the latter declined the offer.

Baylosis is charged with multiple murder – together with fellow National Democratic Front of the Philippines consultants Benito and Wilma Tiamzon, Satur Ocampo, Vicente Ladlad, Randall Echanis, among more than 60 others – in relation to an alleged mass grave discovered in Sitio Sapang Daco, Barangay Kaulisihan, Inopacan, Leyte in 2006.

“We condemn this attempt to arrest our former official and the harassment and possible surveillance of his family. We condemn the Aquino government for continuing its drive of hunting down, arresting and imprisoning activist leaders on the basis of trumped-up charges,” said Jerome Adonis, KMU secretary-general.

The labor leader blamed the Aquino government’s counter-insurgency plan Oplan Bayanihan for keeping the trumped-up charges alive, saying the government is using political repression against activists and others opposing the regime, instead of addressing the root causes of rebellion by continuing peace negotiations with the NDFP.

“Many activist leaders are being hunted down and imprisoned while their families are being subjected to surveillance and harassment because of false charges. These cases were filed by the government of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo against its critics, are based on testimonies of false witnesses and highly-questionable evidence, and should be junked immediately,” Adonis added.

Baylosis and his co-accused had earlier asked the Supreme Court to stop the hearing on  the case, stating that five of the alleged victims, whose skeletal remains were allegedly found in Monterico village, Baybay, Leyte on June 27, 2000 were the same alleged victims whose skeletal remains were allegedly found on August 26, 2006 in Inopacan, Leyte.

They also argued that the witnesses admitted that they are all under the custody of the military, that no substantial evidence was presented by the police and the military to prove that the bodies of the 15 alleged victims, or any one of them, were among the skeletal remains found in Inopacan, Leyte, and that the Hernandez political doctrine applies in the case.

Sign SSS pension hike bill now, Aquino told

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Workers led by national labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno picketed the Social Security System’s main office in Quezon City this morning to call on Pres. Noynoy Aquino to pass the bill seeking a P2,000 across-the-board increase in pensions that was transmitted to the Office of the President last December 15.

The labor group also called on pensioners in the SSS compound to join a march from Isetann Recto to Mendiola in the morning of January 12, to demand that Aquino sign House Bill 5842 which was filed by Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares.

KMU said that since the bill was transmitted to the Office of the President, it can be signed by Aquino into law, or become a law after 30 days of the president’s inaction, or be vetoed by Aquino.

“Aquino further disappointed SSS pensioners and Filipino workers by not signing the bill into law during the Christmas season. His refusal to approve the P2,000 hike in SSS pensions means that we have to hold more actions and make our calls louder,” said Roger Soluta, KMU vice-chairperson.

The labor leader called on SSS pensioners and all workers to press for the pension hike, claiming that Aquino may be planning to veto the bill given the chief executive’s refusal to sign it during the Christmas season.

“Why didn’t Aquino sign the bill during the Christmas season, when people were expecting him to do so? Is he planning to veto the bill and preparing his excuse for doing so?” Soluta asked.

He warned Aquino not to stand by the lie, promoted by SSS officials led by SSS President Emilio de Quiros, Jr., that the social security institution does not have the funds to finance the pension hike and not to veto the bill.

He also warned Aquino against claiming that the pension hike would only be possible if another increase in members’ premium contributions is carried out.

“SSS pensioners, workers and all Filipinos won’t believe Aquino if he claims that the SSS does not have the funds for the hike. The SSS does have funds for the pension hike. It will have more than enough funds if it improves its collection efficiency, goes after employers who refuse to remit workers’ contributions, reduces huge bonuses to board members, and reduces administrative costs,” Soluta stated.