On the Feb 27 dialogue with Duterte Workers’ unified position: end all forms of contractualization

National labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno is looking forward the scheduled dialogue with President Rodrigo Duterte in Malacañang on February 27 to assert the Filipino workers’ unified position and demand to end all forms of contractualization.

However, we strongly reject the Department of Labor and Employment’s twisted claim that the so-called “impasse” and “deadlock” on the issue of contractualization is due to the lack of unity among workers’ positions. Workers cannot be blamed for the DOLE’s apparent bias in favor of big businesses and labor contractors.

Filipino workers have long been united in our position that all forms of contractualization must end. Our unwavering unified demand have already been registered strongly during the October 17 Labor Summit and succeeding inter-island Labor Summits. Our concrete proposals and recommendations have also been presented before the DOLE. We have even drafted a proposed Department Order to replace the pro-contractualization DO 18-A series of 2011.

The impasse on the issue is precisely a result of the DOLE’s strong rejection of workers’ unified position. Secretary Silvestre Bello has devoted himself in upholding the “win-win” solution proposed by big business and labor contractors in connivance with the Department of Trade and Industry. He has since the beginning been pushing for further institutionalization and legalization of contractual employment schemes through his Department Order 168 which directly opposes workers’ position.

The labor dialogue with President Duterte will determine the direction of this administration’s commitment and promises towards ending contractualization. We stress that Filipino workers have only one resounding and unified demand: end all forms of contractualization!

HTI cover-up exposed, over 1,328 workers still unaccounted for

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National labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno today joined the Makabayan Bloc and the National Fact Finding Mission in a press conference at the House of Representatives to call for an immediate and independent probe on the apparent cover-up of the February 1 House Technology Industries tragedy in Cavite.

“We condemn the House Technology Industries, the Philippine Economic Zone Authority and the local government of Cavite for their attempt to cover-up what could be the worst workplace tragedy in history,” said KMU chairperson Elmer “Ka Bong” Labog.

The full report released by National Fact Finding Mission on the HTI tragedy held last February 2-5 revealed that at least 1,328 workers at HTI’s panel building remain unaccounted for and where over 582 are feared missing or dead. This data was based on the Department of Labor and Employment’s preliminary report on the HTI tragedy.

“We laud our pro-worker lawmakers in the MAKABAYAN Bloc for standing with workers in the search for truth and justice for HTI workers. We look forward that their resolution endorse the FFM results for a congressional probe would open doors towards holding the HTI, the PEZA, the Cavite LGU and even the DOLE accountable for the loss of workers’ lives,” Labog said.

KMU meanwhile slammed the Department of Labor and Employment for handling the HTI management with kid gloves amidst the apparent gross labor standards and occupational safety and health violations that caused the tragedy.

“Instead of holding the HTI accountable for the massive workers’ injuries and deaths, the DOLE has been handling them with kid gloves so as not to expose their own accountability for giving freedom to foreign big businesses, especially inside special economic zones, to siphon super profits by violating workers’ rights and welfare,” said Labog.

The labor center also claimed that the HTI tragedy puts into question one of the Duterte administration’s major economic policies of establishing more special economic zones to attract foreign investors and create an illusion of economic growth.

“The HTI tragedy highlights the worsening condition of workers under the government’s policy of promoting cheap, contractual, docile and precarious labor to attract foreign investors. This policy of offering workers’ lives to the altar of big business profits must stop,” said Labog.

The KMU called on Filipino workers to unite and join the fight for justice for HTI workers and all victims of workplace tragedies.

Duterte’s termination of peace talks rejected

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Filipino workers strongly reject President Rodrigo Duterte’s termination of the peace talks between the Government of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.

Such termination of a generally productive and progressing peace negotiations only serve to benefit the US monopoly capitalists, foreign and local big businesses, landlords and warmongers in his cabinet and the Armed Forces of the Philippines who have long opposed Filipino workers and people’s aspiration for national and social liberation and for a just and lasting peace.

By terminating the peace talks, the Duterte administration has also terminated hopes of forging socio-economic reforms that would address the ever worsening poverty among Filipino workers and people which spawned the almost five decade long armed conflict in the country.

Filipino workers have always looked forward the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms (CASER) in high hopes that workers’ demands would be addressed, especially after the Duterte administration’s failure to fulfill its promise of ending the widespread contractualization in the country and in implementing a substantial wage hike through a National Minimum Wage.

We also reject the Duterte administration’s all-out war against the Communist Party of the Philippines, the New People’s Army and the NDFP. History have proven that these fascists military campaigns only result in gross human rights violations against workers and peasants who are being targeted by brutal attacks by the AFP.

The collapse of both parties’ unilateral ceasefire declarations was a result of the AFP’s violation of its own ceasefire through continuous military offensives under the counter insurgency campaign Oplan Bayanihan. During the duration of the ceasefire, unionists have also been subjected to the AFP’s psywar operations highlighted by the threats and harassment of its operatives against Antonio “Ka Tony” Begornia, secretary general of the Alliance of Nationalists and Genuine Labor Organizations (ANGLO-KMU).

Duterte also failed to fulfill his promise and to comply with the GRP’s obligations to release the more than 400 political prisoners in compliance with the Comprehensive Agreement on Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL). Among the political prisoners that Duterte failed to release are unionists who in the first place should have not been detained and persecuted for asserting workers’ rights and welfare.

We demand that Duterte reject the pressure from peace saboteurs, the US and fascists warmongers in his cabinet and AFP, and revoke his termination of the GRP-NDFP ceasefire.

Duterte should heed the Filipino workers’ and people’s clamor for just and lasting peace by showing utmost sincerity and political will in resuming the GRP-NDFP peace talks and in forging peace agreements that would address the roots of armed conflict in the country.

Workers demand release of labor rights defenders

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QUEZON CITY – National labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno demand the immediate release of labor rights defenders illegally arrested based on false charges. The detention of Roderick Mamuyac, 43 years old, alongside Jun Sinday, 55 years old and NDFP consultant Ariel Arbitrario was made at around 9:00 am yesterday in Sirawan, Toril, Davao City.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) denied in a statement that Mamuyac’s arrest was part of the recent presidential declaration to put NDF negotiators back in prison. Instead, they insist his alleged criminal culpability as the purported regional liaison officer of the Southern Mindanao Regional Committee of the New People’s Army (NPA).

KMU with its regional chapter in Southern Mindanao denounced AFP’s statement as erroneous and fabricated. Mamuyac is a long-standing trade union organizer of KMU Southern Mindanao and is not in any way connected with the NPA. The regional chapter confirmed that both Mamuyac and Sinday were tasked to accompany Arbitrario as the latter’s detail as KMU’s expression of support to the inclusion of the workers’ demands in the GPH-NFDP peace talks.

“We are strongly supporting the GPH-NFDP peace talks especially the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms that includes ending of all forms of contractualization and junking of the ‘provincial rates’ thru the implementation of a national minimum wage among the numerous list of workers and people’s demands,” stated KMU Chairperson Elmer “Ka Bong” Labog.

KMU is a member of the network Exodus for Justice and Peace (EJP) which facilitated Arbitrario after his release and has vigorously pushed for the resumption of talks and the freedom of all political prisoners.

“Arbitrario’s arrest, despite the non-existence of a formal notice of termination, is a desperate attempt of the AFP to sabotage the peace talks by taking advantage of the president’s hasty retorts,” he added.

KMU enjoins all workers and the Filipino people to demand the immediate release of Mamucay, Arbitrario and Sinday. It also called on President Duterte to take back his rash remark and genuinely support the socio-economic reforms that were being negotiated in the peace talks.

“We call on the president get back to his senses and respect previously signed agreements such as the JASIG and Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect of Human Rights and International Law (CARHRIHL),” he said.

KMU challenged the president to veer away from the neoliberal dictates of the imperialist US-Trump and resolve the armed conflict in the country by ending landlessness, foreign socio-economic dependence, poverty, and injustice rather than be swayed by the pressure of the mercenaries in the AFP and capitalists.

Justice for HTI workers sought in nationwide protest

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Leading today’s nationwide protest against contractualization and for a national minimum wage, workers led by national labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno stormed the Department of Labor and Employment to demand justice for the victims of the House Technology Industries (HTI) fire in Cavite.

“We demand justice for our fellow workers in HTI. The HTI management, the Philippine Economic Zone Authority and the Department of Labor and Employment must be held accountable for their disregard for workers’ health and safety that led to yet again another tragedy resulting in the injury of hundreds of workers and possible loss of lives,” said Elmer “Ka Bong” Labog, KMU chairperson.

KMU demanded that there should be a thorough and independent investigation on the tragedy as they fear of a whitewash of the HTI and PEZA’s culpable violations of health and safety standards.

“There should be a swift investigation on the incident to avoid a whitewash of HTI and PEZA’s occupational health and safety standards violations. It is enraging that until now, the cause and actual number of casualties remain unclear to the public. A fire that resulted in the injury of hundreds of workers is not a mere accident. The HTI and PEZA should not go unpunished,” Labog said.

KMU along with other labor institutions held a fact finding mission at the Cavite Export Processing Zone yesterday and cited that most of the workers they interviewed were hesitant to speak for fear that they may not receive compensation from the Japanese firm.

Labog meanwhile claimed that the HTI tragedy highlights the gross exploitation of Filipino workers, especially in special economic zones, under the neoliberal economic policies promoted by the Duterte administration’s economic managers.

“Like majority of today’s workers, HTI workers are mostly contractuals, their wages are way below living standards and are deprived of their right to unionize and to collectively bargain. These are neoliberal attacks against workers that the Duterte administration failed to address. Worse, his economic managers are even promoting these gross anti-worker policies,” said Labog.

After their program at the DOLE, Workers marched to Mendiola to hold the Duterte administration accountable for its failure to address their legitimate demands to end contractualization and implement a national minimum wage of P750 a day for private sector workers and P16,000 for government employees. Similar protests were also held at DOLE regional offices in key cities across the country.

“In his first six months, Duterte has failed to fulfill his promise of ending contractualization. His DOLE even promotes and legitimizes this anti-worker practice through Secretary Bello’s DO 168. Duterte has also failed to heed our demands for a significant wage hike through a national minimum wage. The administration has been eager to increase taxes and the prices of basic goods and services but remains uncommitted to giving workers a substantial wage hike.” said Labog.

KMU meanwhile warned that the Duterte administration could expect bigger protests as it continues to fail in heeding workers’ legitimate demands for regular jobs and for a national minimum wage.

Justice for HTI Cavite fire victims!

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National labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno joins the Filipino people in seeking justice for the victims of the fire that broke out at the House Technology Industries (HTI) complex inside the Cavite Export Processing Zone.

The HTI management, the Philippine Economic Zone Authority and the Department of Labor and Employment must be held accountable for their disregard for workers’ health and safety that led to yet again another tragedy resulting in the injury of hundreds of workers and possible loss of lives.

The KMU, together with the Institute for Occupational Health and Safety for Development (IOHSAD), Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR), All Workers’ Unity and Gabriela Women’s Party, are now conducting a Fact Finding Mission at the CEPZ to gather data and look into the gross occupational health and safety standards violations that led to the tragedy.

As of this moment, we have confirmed that at least 104 workers were injured while unconfirmed ground reports also suggests of possible deaths as hundreds remain missing after being trapped inside the HTI complex.

We demand that there should be an immediate and thorough investigation on HTI’s violations on occupational safety and health standards especially with the fact that this is not the first time that a fire broke out at their compound.

We also demand the junking of the Republic Act 7916 or the “Special Economic Zones Act” that allows the establishment of special economic zones where foreign capitalists are given liberty to exploit workers and violate their rights and welfare to guarantee their profits.

The DOLE should also revoke its policy of voluntary labor standards inspection that allows capitalists to freely violate workers’ occupational health and safety standards.

The HTI tragedy highlights the gross exploitation of Filipino workers, especially in special economic zones, under the neoliberal economic policies. These policies has resulted in the further pressing down of workers’ wages through widespread contractualization, regionalization of wages and curtailment of workers’ rights to unionize, collective bargaining and occupational health and safety.

We challenge the Duterte administration to stand for justice for HTI fire victims and the Filipino workers. He should reject his economic managers’ promotion of anti-worker neoliberal policies that would only further result to worse tragedy against Filipino workers.