Workers throw Roque’s own words back at him: “Read before you speak”

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque has argued that the setting of a national minimum wage (NMW) is “legally impossible,” as it would require Congress to repeal the current law on regional wage boards and authorize the NMW anew.

Our response to Roque is simple: read before you speak.

Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) has joined the Makabayan bloc in Congress in filing a National Minimum Wage bill (House Bill 7787). Roque clearly has not read the bill yet, which is ironic considering his vocal criticism of KMU and other labor organizations on May 1, when he accused labor leaders of slamming Executive Order 51 (EO 51) without having read the EO.

The Presidential spokesperson, who also happened to be a lawyer, also seems to miss the fact the Makabayan bloc has filed the NMW Bill precisely to amend laws and make it “legally possible” to implement a national minimum wage.

The NMW bill now filed with the House of Representatives is a clear answer to Roque’s argument. It sets forth concrete grounds and steps for abolishing the anti-worker, arbitrary, and irrational regional wage system. It lays out the path for amending the Labor Code and establishing an NMW that meets living standards.

To Roque, President Rodrigo Duterte, and the rest of the government, we assert that a National Minimum Wage law is not impossible. Not only is it a legal possibility, it is a moral necessity. A P750 NMW would close the gap between the minimum wage and the living wage at a time when the costs of basic goods are higher than ever, especially with the railroaded and burdensome Tax Reform Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law.

We urge Roque to a have dinner with a family of a worker living on the current minimum wage. To see for himself the grim and inequitable realities of the regional wage boards, we suggest that Roque consider integrating with minimum wage earners from the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), where the lowest MW rate of P235 is simply not enough for a family’s basic needs.

Junk the TRAIN Law! Pass the National Minimum Wage Bill! – KMU

National labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno, contractual workers’ national organization Kilos Na Manggagawa and partylist representatives from the Makabayan bloc filed today a National Minimum Wage Bill which aims to bring back the nationalized setting of the minimum wage as opposed to the current regionalized wage setting.

“The pressing down of wages through the regional boards must stop! The government should bring back the national minimum wage and ensure workers’ right to a living wage and to humane conditions of work,” Elmer “Ka Bong” Labog, KMU chairperson, said.

The bill provides that the national minimum wage should be set at seven hundred fifty pesos a day for private sector workers to achieve at least half of the estimated family living wage, and should be periodically increased to reach living standards.

“Passing the NMW bill would increase workers’ wages to P750 nationwide, which would serve as an immediate relief to workers and our families amidst the unabated price increases of basic goods and services brought about by the Duterte administration’s TRAIN law,” Labog said.

KMU also joined in filing a petition to junk the railroaded Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Law, noting that the law only siphons more taxes from workers’ meager wages.

“The TRAIN law has been a heavy and unfair burden on Filipino workers. It is robbing us of our meager wages and resulted in an even wider gap between existing wage levels and the living wage,” Labog said.

KMU welcomed other labor groups’ support for the National Minimum Wage Bill and demands for wage and allowance increases, saying that the fight for living wages would further strengthen the labor sector unity in advancing workers’ rights to living wages and decent jobs.

“We call on all Filipino workers to unite and fight for a national minimum wage. We must hold the Duterte administration accountable for failing to deliver his promise of doing away with the regionalized wage setting and for pursuing the previous administrations’ cheap labor policies. The NMW bill would give the labor sector another reason to fortify our class unity in advancing workers’ rights to living wages and decent, regular jobs,” said Labog.

One year of Martial Law led to killings, harassment, & repression of workers in Mindanao —KMU

Workers joined other sectors in marching to Mendiola on Wednesday to call for an immediate lifting of Martial Law in Mindanao, condemning the intensified militarization and trade union harassment in the region.

National labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) has been a staunch critic of Martial Law since it was declared on May 23 last year, and especially after President Rodrigo Duterte announced in December 2017 that it would be extended for another year.

Of 29 recorded killings of workers under the Duterte regime, many of those were from the southern Mindanao region (SMR). Fact-finding missions to Mindanao have also reported hundreds of human and labor rights violations against the workers of Shin Sun, Sumifru, Coke, and other companies.

“Workers in Mindanao have been among those hardest hit by Martial Law,” said KMU vice-president Lito Ustarez. “They are being treated as criminals, and unionism is being branded as terrorism. State elements such as soldiers and the police have been given free rein for their fascist tactics to suppress unionists and other critics of the Duterte regime.”

“But the true terrorists are the military, who have been systematically harassing unionists and other workers in Mindanao,” Ustarez said. “The true criminal is Duterte, who has curtailed democratic rights with his unjustifiable and unwarranted declaration of Martial Law, and used it as a license to crack down on workers fighting for their rights to fair wages, regularization, and organization.”

Since the declaration of Martial Law, the valid protests of workers, such as the strike at Shin Sun and the picket at Coke Davao, have been violently dispersed by the government. The communities of workers, such as those in Sumifru in Compostela, have become heavily militarized.

KMU also drew attention to the case of KMU-SMR organizer Daniel Remeticado, who was illegally detained without cause or court order on May 21 by the 71st Infantry Battalion of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

“The military has accused Remeticado of being a rebel and KMU of being a ‘legal front’ of communists,” said Ustarez. “This blatant red-tagging is clearly a tactic to stifle the just and valid struggles of workers and other groups fighting against the fascist and anti-people Duterte regime.”

“We demand an immediate end Martial Law and the state’s repressive counterinsurgency program, Oplan Kapayapaan, as well as the resumption of peace talks as the only path to genuine development and progress in Mindanao and the rest of the Philippines,” Ustarez added.

Death of Hanjin worker puts pressure on Senate to pass pro-worker OSH bill now —KMU

The death of one worker and injuries to several others in an accident on May 12 at the Korean shipyard construction company Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction (HHIC) Philippines should be the impetus needed for the Senate to pass a pro-worker occupational safety and health (OSH) bill, said national labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU).

Workers led by KMU marched to the Senate on Monday to call for justice for the Hanjin victims, and to urge legislators to junk and replace the watered-down version of the OSH bill passed in February this year, which relies on self-inspection and voluntary compliance with safety standards.

The protest was timed to coincide with the meeting of the Senate’s Bicameral Conference Committee (Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development) to discuss the existing Occupational Safety and Health Standards Act, which lacks key provisions that would criminalize OSH violations and ensure mandatory inspection of workplaces.

“The death and injuries to Hanjin workers was a direct result of the company’s gross OSH violations, its failure to comply with occupational safety and health standards,” said KMU vice-president Lito Ustarez. “We condemn the government for turning a blind eye to these anti-worker practices.”

The four Hanjin victims fell from a scaffolding at the shipyard on May 12. All were hospitalized, and one died from internal injuries. The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) ordered Hanjin subcontractor Binictican I-Tech Corp. to stop work after the accident.

“Hanjin’s reliance on subcontracting is intended to decrease its liability in the event of a workplace accident, but a stronger OSH law would ensure that Hanjin is punished for its criminal negligence and mistreatment of workers,” Ustarez said.

KMU offered condolences to the families of the victims of the Hanjin accident, and vowed to push the Duterte administration to ensure justice for the Hanjin workers, accountability for Hanjin management, and the passage of a genuine and effective OSH bill.

“We demand an immediate and thorough labor standards inspection of the whole premises of Hanjin, and fair compensation for the victims of the accident as well as all workers who will be affected by the stop-work order,” Ustarez said.

KMU slams threats of violence and retrenchment against 131 contractual workers on sit-down strike in Laguna

On May 10, a mere ten days after President Rodrigo Duterte signed the anti-worker Executive Order (EO) 51 — which he claimed was his fulfillment of his promise to end contractualization — workers of Middleby Philippines in Binan, Laguna launched a sit-down strike, to protest their impending termination as contractuals.

The strike is now on its ninth day, and 131 Middleby workers are set to be fired this month. Many of them are long-time employees of Middleby Philippines, under the international, US-based Middleby Corporation which supplies commercial cooking equipment for fast-food chains and other restaurants. Their baseless termination, made possible by their unfair status as contractuals, is in line with the exploitative nature of contractualization schemes.

Locals report that firemen and policemen have threatened to use tear-gas to disperse the strike. The strikers are also being denied access to food and water brought to them by supporters outside the Special Economic Zone where the Middleby plant is located. Family members of workers on strike have been summoned by the corporation, and used to convince the workers to leave the sit-down strike.

The Middleby workers, under the KMU-affiliated Samahan ng mga Manggagawang Kontraktwal sa Middleby, slammed both the corporation and the government for their failure to implement an April 24 ruling by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) which ordered the regularization of all 131 workers.

The plight of the Middleby workers proves that Duterte has once again failed in his promise to end contractualization. The united labor sector asked the President to sign an EO that would set regular hiring as the norm, and ensure concrete mechanisms for punishing companies such as Middleby for non-compliance with DOLE regularization orders. Instead, Duterte gave us EO 51, which is completely useless in protecting the labor rights of Middleby workers and all other contractual workers in the country.

If Duterte were sincere in wanting to end contractualization, he would side with the workers of Middleby instead of corporations who are flouting the DOLE’s orders for regularization. His deceptive EO 51 is doing more harm than good, as Middleby workers have remained contractual and are set to be terminated without just cause.

KMU calls on all workers and members of other sectors to lend their support to the strikers of Middleby. The ongoing, massive retrenchments of contractual workers show that EO 51 is fake and deceptive, and that Duterte himself has no real plan or commitment to junk contractualization. We stand in solidarity with all workers and other labor organizations as we resist and oppose the anti-worker policies of the Duterte regime, and continue the nationwide struggle to end all forms of contractualization for good.

Sereno ouster kills judicial independence amid executive and legislative failure to protect workers’ rights —KMU

National labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) joins other sectors in condemning the arbitrary, railroaded, and unjustified ouster of Supreme Court (SC) Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno at the direction of President Rodrigo Duterte.

The state of workers’ rights and welfare has severely worsened in the two years since Duterte came into power. He has wielded executive power to legitimize contractualization, promote cheap labor and to engage gross trade union and human rights violations against unionists and labor rights advocates who criticize his tyrannical regime.

He has also worked through his allies in Congress to pass anti-people policies such as the TRAIN law which has hit the poorest Filipinos — including irregular and contractual workers — the hardest. Under Duterte, Congress has failed to heed calls for a national minimum wage, or to enact any kind of significant wage increase despite the huge gap between the various minimum wage rates and the living wage.

The judiciary stood as the last branch of government through which workers could assert for favorable rulings and protections of constitutionally-mandated labor rights, such as the right to job security and living wages.

Now, workers condemn the tyranny and budding dictatorship of Duterte in forcing the removal of Sereno. Her ouster is another move to consolidate his power over all branches of government, and to push through with his plans to establish his fascist one-man rule through the extension and expansion of the Martial Law in Mindanao or through the railroading of charter change, which would be a gateway to entrench his anti-worker and anti-people policies in the Constitution itself.

Filipino workers will not allow Duterte to pursue his ambition of becoming a fascist dictator and to push for worse anti-worker and anti-people policies. We join the Filipino people in protesting Duterte’s crackdown against critics of his tyrannical rule. Sereno’s ouster would only fortify the Filipino people’s unity in defeating his fascist rule and in advancing genuine democracy.

Junk 5% tax on pay for teachers serving in barangay elections! —KMU

National labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) condemns not only the decision of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) to impose a 5 percent tax on teachers’ compensation for their service during the 2018 barangay elections, but also its fake “exemption” for low-income teachers.

The BIR’s withholding tax will apply to both the P6,000 honoraria for teachers’ service as poll workers and their P1,000 travel allowance for the day.

“It is a travesty to impose such an arbitrary and unnecessary tax on the already meager income of public school teachers,” said KMU Secretary-General Jerome Adonis. “Also, the travel allowance is not even income. It is reimbursement for their expenses in traveling to and from their assigned precincts, and in transporting various election paraphernalia to other locations as directed by barangay officials.”

KMU also slammed a resolution released by the Department of Education (DepED) and the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) in response to protests against the tax.

Resolution No. 10332 of the DepED and COMELEC allows the BIR to return the tax to teachers who earn less than P250,000 annually, as prescribed under the Tax Reform for Acceleration (TRAIN) law. However, teachers would be individually responsible for going to the BIR to proving their income bracket and reclaiming the 5 percent tax from the agency.

“The DepED/COMELEC resolution is an insult to teachers,” said Adonis. “The amount of time, money, and effort teachers would have to expend just to recover the tax isn’t worth it. It’s not an exemption, it’s just a publicity stunt to divert attention from their failure to challenge the BIR on this issue.”

The KMU also claimed that the tax on teachers’ honorarium for the barangay elections is an additional burden to teachers amidst the already gross impacts of the TRAIN law to low and middle income Filipino working people.

“Instead of increasing teachers’ salaries and workers’ wages, the Duterte government is more inclined on siphoning greater taxes from our meager income. This would only worsen the hunger and poverty among the Filipino working people,” said Adonis.

Adonis asserted that Filipino workers and teachers demands the implementation of a National Minimum Wage that would par wages in all regions and industries and a nationwide increase of wages to 750 pesos for daily wage workers and to 16,000 pesos for monthly wage and salary earners. This according to Adonis would serve as an immediate relief for workers and their families amidst the skyrocketing prices of basic goods and services due to the TRAIN Law.

Statement on Pulong Duterte’s latest tirade against KMU

Kilusang Mayo Uno-Southern Mindanao Region’s Statement on Pulong Duterte’s latest tirade against KMU:

“Tugpa-tugpa pud aron makasabot ka sa kahimtang sa mga mamumuo. Dili pa ulahi ang tanan.”

Check your privilege; Put your feet on the ground and let workers’ realities enlighten you. Unless and until he considers realities on the ground before opening his mouth, he would not really know the dire plight of the very people he always maligns.

This is the unsolicited yet worthy advice we offer to Ex-Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo ‘Pulong’ Duterte, who again ranted on social media to condemn KMU’s criticism on Pres. Duterte’s signed EO No. 51.

Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) is an organization of workers and semi-workers, for decades stood and brought their interest and welfare at the forefront. These workers whom Paolo Duterte has belittled and maligned are the very people who made Duterte a President; without whom the progress that Davao boasts about would never be built. Yet despite the burden, hardship, and systematic exploitation that workers bear, leaders such as Paolo Duterte have the gall to insult them.

Why are these workers always demanding for higher wages? Take this. Understandably, he may have not imagined living with just P340 a day because he was raised in a privileged environment. He cannot possibly, truly understand what life is like for a minimum wage earner. The least he could do is to listen to the workers and semi-workers who entrusted their hopes on his father’s promise of inclusive development. Instead of vilifying people who dare to hope for a better life, and have fought tooth and nail to make this a reality, Paolo Duterte should address their legitimate concerns and serve as a channel to bridge the gap between workers’ demands and public policy. These workers are not asking to be spoon-fed; rather, they are asking to be given just compensation for their work.

The P340 minimum wage is very far from the P1,168.00 living wage that workers and their families need to live decently. The minimum wage was further devaluated and thus, the purchasing capacity of these wage earners became too low because of the inflation in the country worsened by the TRAIN law. Meanwhile, millions of workers were denied their right to tenure because of the continuation of contractualization in its many forms. The EO issued by the President was the employers’ version, not the workers’ version. It thus merely favored the wealthy few, outlawed what is already deemed illegal in the constitution, and complicity allowed the existing exploitative arrangement between workers and employers. Hence, workers’ protest remains valid and just, to demand what President Duterte has earlier promised.

Instead of maligning the workers, use your influence as a former vice mayor to alleviate the conditions of poverty and oppression that has become the everyday reality of the Filipino people.

Bear always in your mind that the workers and these poor people who have been the subject of your unfair tirades are ever since part of the populace who made Duterte’s history. We advise you to be humble. You still have plenty of time to serve these people before they would collectively act to change the course of history against Duterte.#

Signed EO 51 legalizes, not ends, contractualization

On this year’s historic Labor Day, we congratulate workers around the Philippines for showing an unprecedented unity across the entire political spectrum, to stand together against contractualization.

We condemn President Rodrigo Duterte for once again making a mockery of Filipino workers, by signing the deceptive, grossly anti-worker Executive Order (EO) 51 that ignores the just demands of the 50,000 workers who marched to Mendiola and the 150,000 more who gathered in other protest centers around the country.

The EO was immediately exposed by the national labor centers leading the march as fake and misleading, purported to end contractualization while actually further entrenching the anti-worker practice.

1. EO 51 does NOT end all forms of contractualization; it only further legalizes the practice.

Even from the title and introduction of Duterte’s EO, the lack of genuine commitment to end contractualization is apparent. The signed EO is based on the draft prepared by the labor sector over the past year, as ordered by Duterte, yet the language has been heavily watered down and rendered inutile. Virtually all references to contractualization have been stripped out of the government version.

The EO 51 merely reiterates anti-worker provisions in the labor code that has in fact legalized contractualization and led to the prevalence of various contractual employment schemes.
(see reference 1)

2. EO 51 worsens the existing loopholes in labor law such as DO 174.

The coalition of workers that attended several negotiations, dialogues, and summits with the Duterte administration has been clear in their main goals.

The first is to establish direct hiring as the primary mode of hiring for Filipino workers, as opposed to job contracting through manpower agencies. The second is to fix the loopholes in existing law on contractualization; in particular, DOLE Department Order 174, which sets out policies as to which forms are illegal, but does not ban contractualization altogether.

But EO 51 is even worse than DO 174, because it further establishes labor contracting through agencies as the standard of employment in the country. This is a severe blow to workers’ right to job security, and all the other rights that come with regularization and a stable, long-term employer-employee relationship.

EO 51 is likely to pave the way for massive retrenchments, and re-alignment and re-hiring of regular workers as contractuals under third party contracting agencies. (see reference 2)

3. EO 51 means that Duterte is responsible for enforcing and implementing the pending DOLE orders on regularization.

Over the past few years, KMU has led workers from various companies in mass filing for labor standards and labor-only contracting inspections, resulting in a string of DOLE orders for regularization of more than 100,000 contractual workers.

However, the majority of those DOLE orders for regularization remain unimplemented. Worse, regularization orders from DOLE regional offices, especially those involving big multinational companies, were even reversed by DOLE Secretary Silvestre Bello III himself. With the issuance of this EO 51, the implementation of these regularization orders now lie on Duterte’s hand.

In fact, the government EO completely removes the provision which sets out a budget for implementation of the EO. This clearly shows the Duterte administration’s lack of commitment to actually enforcing any of these DOLE orders. (see reference 3)

As it stands, EO 51 is a total rejection of Filipino workers’ demand for regular jobs. Duterte has again killed the hopes of millions of contractual workers — especially long-standing contractuals — of being regularized. The EO 51 is anti-worker, pro-contractualization and pro-big business and therefore should be junked.

Our struggle for regular jobs continues. We call on all Filipino workers to further unite and fight Duterte’s failed promises and rejection of our demand to end contractualization. We must further assert our demand for direct hiring and regularization through principal employers and not through contracting agencies.

We must intensify our collective action to put pressure on the government to implement long pending regularization orders. We urge on the millions of contractual workers to join us in mass filing for regularization before both the DOLE and the Office of the President.

Labor Day 2018, marked by workers’ historic unity and outrage vs the fascist Duterte regime

We Filipino workers mark this year’s International Labor Day commemoration with a historic nationwide protest that highlights our unity and outrage against Rodrigo Duterte’s failed promises, implementation of anti-worker policies, establishment of a fascist dictatorship through massive killings and gross trade union and human rights violations.

On Contractualization

Workers are outraged over Duterte’s rejection of our demand to end all forms of contractualization. We are not buying his desperate and repeated ploys to quell the labor sector’s growing protests and unity against his failed promises. We firmly believe that his claim that he “may or may not” sign an EO this Labor Day is just another PR stunt as last year’s Labor Day Dialogue where he promised to sign our EO which only ended in zero.

On Wages

There has been no real increase in wages since Duterte became President. Instead of a substantial wage hike, Duterte gave us price hikes through the notorious TRAIN law. As a result, the gap between the current minimum wage levels and the estimated Family living wage has grown ever wider. Whatever incremental wage or non-wage benefit Duterte passes this Labor Day will be insufficient to close this gap. Instead, we demand the implementation of a national minimum wage, along with increasing wages to P750 for all workers nationwide.

On Jobs

The hypocrisy of the Duterte regime is evident in the recent issues involving the loss of jobs for Filipinos here and abroad. Duterte is pushing for OFWs in Kuwait to return to the Philippines out of “nationalism,” yet his Labor Day job fairs are driving more and more Filipino workers out of the country. Moreover, he has just destroyed 36,000 jobs in Boracay to pave the way for Chinese investors. In the same vein, around 600,000 jeepney drivers are threatened to lose their livelihoods under the government’s jeepney phase-out program, while handing over the monopoly control of our public transport system to foreign corporations.

On Duterte’s tyranny and creeping dictatorship

This Labor Day, we vow to fight and defeat Duterte’s tyranny and creeping dictatorship. Duterte’s fascist tactics — his killing spree of unionists and labor rights advocates, the persecution of his political opponents, and the criminalization and terrorist tagging of workers’ and people’s legitimate dissent — must stop. We demand the lifting of Martial Law in Mindanao, which has led to gross labor and human rights violations in the region. We will not allow Duterte to push through with his Charter Change that would allow him to establish his fascist dictatorship.

This year’s historic Labor Day nationwide protest of over 150,000 workers only marks the beginning of our growing unity and resistance against Duterte’s oppressive and tyrannical rule.