All Saints’ Day: Workers mourn workplace deaths

12182612_1633985020209089_1220575209709327323_oTwo days before All Saints’ Day, workers led by national labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno held a protest in front of the Labor Department’s main office in Intramuros, Manila to mourn the death of fellow workers in workplace accidents and to demand better working conditions.

The workers lit candles and carried big placards painted as tombstones containing the Top 5 worst cases of workplace accidents under the presidency of Noynoy Aquino: Kentex (more than 74 workers, May 13, 2015), Novo Jeans and Shirts (17 workers, May 9, 2012), Eton Towers (11 workers, January 27, 2011), Semirara Mining Corp. (9 workers, July 17, 2015), Asia Micro Tech (8 workers, May 30, 2014).

KMU also warned workers and the public about the upcoming Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit on November, which it said would mean lower wages, widespread contractualization, rampant violations of workers’ rights – and therefore gradual death for the country’s workers.

“We remember and mourn for our fellow workers who died in the workplace. We continue to cry for justice for them. Their deaths compel us to fight for better working conditions for all Filipino workers,” said Jerome Adonis, KMU secretary-general.

The labor leader said the upcoming APEC Summit, in the guise of “attracting foreign investors” to “developing countries” like the Philippines, will further undermine existing laws and create new ones that would allow big capitalists to increase profits by making working conditions worse.

“APEC would mean more workplace deaths and a gradual death for all workers. Since the last APEC Summit in the Philippines in 1996, wages have been pressed down, contractualization has spread, violations of workers’ rights have become more rampant, and more workers have died in workplace accidents,” Adonis added.

KMU reiterated its call for a significant wage increase in the form of a P125 across-the-board wage hike nationwide to make up for the meager wage adjustments that were approved by the country’s regional wage boards over the past decades.

“We reiterate our call to bring the minimum wage closer to the living wage, not to the libing (burial) wage. The very meager minimum wage levels in the country are bringing workers closer and closer to death. We need a significant wage hike to bring us some form of immediate relief,” stated Adonis.

Noynoy wrong, Marcos apology not enough – KMU

12118865_1633508430256748_2420175458666154341_nPres. Noynoy Aquino said yesterday that an apology from the Marcos family would be enough for the Filipino people to forgive them. He even proposed the following statement to constitute the Marcos family’s apology: “We had this opportunity to turn this country great as our father promised – it didn’t happen. We apologize, we want to make amends.”

First of all, an apology is not enough for the Filipino workers and people to forgive the Marcos family. There should be justice and accountability for their crimes against the country. They have long been judged by Filipinos to be guilty of major crimes including plunder and human rights violations. The cases against them should be pursued by the government.

It is clear, however, that Aquino wants to give the Marcos family a way out from the Filipino workers’ and people’s condemnation. He is strengthening the Marcoses’ campaign to make a comeback. The statement of apology that he is proposing is empty and evasive. In promising national forgiveness in exchange for an empty apology, Aquino is displaying nothing less than disgusting ruling-class unity against the Filipino workers and people.

The Aquino family, like the Marcos family, is also guilty of grave crimes against the Filipino workers and people. It is also guilty of plunder and human-rights violations. Its current spokesperson, Noynoy Aquino, has no moral authority to demand an apology from the Marcoses. He should also be held accountable for his crimes after the end of his term in 2016.

Arraignment of pol detainee should be case junking – KMU

Workers led by national labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno and with other progressive organizations under the Free Adel Silva network picketed the Manila Regional Trial Court this morning, saying the political detainee should not be arraigned and the case against him should be junked immediately.

The labor group said that Silva was not named by so-called witnesses in the alleged 1985 massacre in Inopacan, Leyte, which supposedly killed more than 70 people, and that he should be immediately set free.

It also said that another person is currently in prison on the basis of an arrest warrant against Adelberto Silva, proof of the government and the military’s indiscriminate filing of trumped-up charges against activists and arrests of the latter.

“Adelberto Silva should not be arraigned and the cases filed against him should be junked immediately. The government and the military do not have any basis for filing charges against him and keeping him imprisoned,” said Roger Soluta, KMU vice-chairperson.

The government and the military have accused Silva of supposedly replacing Benito and Wilma Tiamzon in the leadership of the Communist Party of the Philippines, while KMU has claimed that Silva is a long-time unionist and labor organizer and is the labor group’s adviser on the peace process.

“There simply is no reason to keep Silva in jail any minute longer. All the charges that were filed against him are trumped-up and were fabricated with the objective of keeping him in jail,” Soluta added.

Last Friday, Marilou Runes-Tamang, presiding judge of Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 98, ruled that Eduardo Serrano, a political prisoner for 11 years, is not the accused “Rogelio Villanueva” and must be immediately released.

“The travesty of justice that was committed in the case of Eduardo Serrano is the rule, not the exception, when it comes to political detainees in the country. We say: no more Eduardo Serrano’s. Free Adel Silva and all political detainees now,” Soluta stated.

Mural of Lumad martyrs unveiled by workers in protest caravan

Workers led by national labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno welcomed the protest caravan of Lumad people from Mindanao in front of the Bonifacio Shrine in Manila this morning with a mural depicting three Lumad leaders who were massacred last Septembre 1 in Lianga, Surigao del Sur.

The mural, carried aloft by workers as they joined the Manilakbayan ng Mindanao 2015, depicted Emerito Samarca, executive director of Lumad school Alcadev, Dionel Campos, chairman of a regional federation of Lumad organizations, and Jovello Sinzo, Campos’s cousin.

It was created by a team led by University of the Philippines Fine Arts student Melvin Pollero, who is also an organizer and educator of the KMU, and was accompanied with a cloth streamer containing the slogans “Stop Lumad killings! Military pullout now! Junk Oplan Bayanihan! Stop the plunder in Mindanao!”

“Samarca, Campos and Sinzo have become the symbols of the Lumad people who are being targeted with massacres and other human-rights violations. Their massacre at the hands of paramilitary groups backed up by the military awakened many people about the plight of the Lumad,” said Roger Soluta, KMU vice-chairperson.

The labor leader said the popularity of the three, whose death immediately sparked the popular hashtag #StopLumadKillings, was caused by the swift condemnation made by workers, netizens and many sectors of society.

“They are not only symbols of the victimization of the Lumad. They have become symbols, and at the same time catalysts, of the Lumad’s resistance and the unity being extended by workers and all Filipinos to that resistance,” Soluta added.

KMU said that despite the Aquino government’s efforts to mislead the public about the perpetrators of the Lianga massacre, it cannot erase the popular belief that the military and its paramilitary groups were responsible for the crime.

“Aside from the testimony of the witnesses, the Aquino government’s Oplan Bayanihan clearly points to the military as the perpetrator of the crime. The counter-insurgency program clearly states that the Lumad is a target of the military,” Soluta stated.

The workers set up the mural at the Manilakbayan’s campout in UP Diliman, and called on the public to visit the campout to hear the stories of the Lumad and extend support and solidarity to them.

Historic La Tondeña strike valuable, still relevant for workers – KMU

Today we mark the 40th anniversary of the historic La Tondeña strike. We pay tribute to the brave workers of La Tondeña and countless other workers who followed their path. The workers of La Tondeña launched a strike for the regularization of hundreds of casuals and extras in their factory, and did much, much more.

First, they defied the ban on strikes and all forms of protests imposed by the declaration of Martial Law in September 1972. They as such shattered the repressive silence that was prevailing at the time. Their strike was the signal fire that was followed by many other workers’ strikes and people’s protests. It paved the way for anti-dictatorship protests and the Edsa People Power uprising itself. It showcased workers’ key role in the struggle against dictatorships and for genuine democracy.

Second, they struggled against the anti-worker policy of contractualization, which further spread in the years and decades that followed. The Labor Code of 1974 legalized contractualization by declaring a ban on “Labor-Only Contracting,” only to empower the Labor Secretary to issue guidelines with regard to “Job Contracting.” The Filipino workers and people still face the task of fighting and ending contractualization.

Third, their strike showed the unity of various sectors of society in defense of workers’ trade-union and civil rights. Church people, students, urban poor and other sectors helped the workers in their strike. The strike showed the power of the unity of various sectors of society in fighting for workers’ rights and in struggling against the US-backed Marcos dictatorship.

Fourth, the strike was a defense of workers’ right to unionize and to strike. At present, workers face mass layoffs when capitalists find out that they are forming unions. Strikes are also being repressed through the Labor Secretary’s power to assume jurisdiction over labor disputes. The Hacienda Luisita massacre of November 16, 2004 highlighted the bloody consequences of this power of the Labor Secretary.

Fifth, the La Tondeña strike signalled the expansion of unions in the country. It showed that forming unions and waging strikes remained just and necessary for advancing workers’ rights. It served as an inspiration for workers to form unions and to struggle for their rights. It is crucial to the strengthening of the militant labor sector, and to the founding of Kilusang Mayo Uno in 1980.

We vow to be worthy inheritors of the La Tondeña strike. We vow to intensify struggles for higher wages, against contractualization, and for the right to form unions and hold strikes. We vow to intensify struggles against neoliberal policies currently devastating workers and the Filipino people. We vow to advance genuine, militant and anti-imperialist unionism. We vow to intensify the struggle against the dictatorship of the elite few.

Candidates dared: back P125 wage hike for workers

One week after politicians filed certificates of candidacy before the Commission on Elections, workers led by national labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno dared the candidates at a picket in Mendiola this morning to back calls for a P125 across-the-board wage hike nationwide.

The workers carried a tarpaulin streamer bearing the faces of presidentiables Jojo Binay, Grace Poe, Mar Roxas and Miriam Defensor-Santiago, the faces of vice-presidentiables Alan Cayetano, Chiz Escudero, Gringo Honasan, Bongbong Marcos, Leni Robredo and Antonio Trillanes, and their call.

KMU said that Filipino workers need a significant wage increase in the form of a P125 across-the-board wage hike now more than ever, after wages were severely pressed down under the presidency of Noynoy Aquino.

“Filipino workers and their families experience hunger and indebtedness as they face the 2016 elections. We want workers’ wages to be one of the main agenda in the national discussion before the elections. That’s why we dare all candidates for national positions to bare their stand on our call for a P125 wage hike,” said Jerome Adonis, KMU secretary-general.

The labor leader said that some of the presidential and vice-presidential candidates may further expose themselves as extremely pro-capitalist and anti-worker and express outright opposition to the call.

He also cited independent think-tank Ibon Foundation’s mid-year study which shows that the Family Living Wage, or the amount needed daily by an average Filipino family to live decently, stands at P1,088 – a far cry from the P481 minimum wage in Metro Manila, the highest in the country.

“Only a significant wage hike, and not the meager adjustments approved by the country’s regional wage boards, could bring relief to workers suffering from hunger and indebtedness. This is something all candidates for national positions should understand,” Adonis added.

KMU also said the results of a Pulse Asia survey, conducted from May 30 to June 5, in which 47 percent and 46 percent of respondents said they were concerned about lower inflation and higher wages, respectively, truly reflect workers’ demands to candidates in the 2016 elections.

The labor group is also calling for a National Minimum Wage, saying the regionalization of wages should be ended and the regional wage boards abolished, in order to uphold workers’ right to a minimum wage.

Workers, public told: intensify calls for tax relief

12112432_1631751257099132_6763627468621082292_nResponding to the Aquino government’s expression of willingness to lower income taxes, national labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno called on workers and public to intensify calls for a tax relief.

The labor group said statements released by Communication Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr., Senate President Franklin Drilon, and House Speaker Sonny Belmonte last Tuesday expressing openness to proposals for tax relief were brought about by popular clamor coming from workers and the public.

KMU also warned the Aquino government not to exploit calls to lower the income taxes of ordinary Filipinos to further lower taxes being paid by big corporations and to increase the Value-Added Tax from 12 percent to 14 percent.

“The Aquino government was forced to take back its outright rejection of calls for tax relief because of widespread and growing calls coming from workers and the public. Let us make our calls louder so we can force this government to give us some form of tax relief,” said Elmer “Ka Bong” Labog, KMU chairperson.

The labor leader also said that Liberal Party candidates, most especially presidentiable Mar Roxas and vice-presidentiable Leni Robredo, would become even more unpopular if the Aquino government rejects calls for tax relief.

“Tax relief for workers and ordinary Filipinos is a legitimate election issue. Roxas, Robredo and other Liberal Party candidates would surely lose more votes if the Aquino government rejects calls for lower income taxes,” Labog added.

KMU has been calling for the passage of House Bill 5401, filed by Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares, which seeks to exempt low-income families earning a maximum of P396,000 annually from income tax.

“This government has sucked workers and Filipinos dry through intolerably high taxes. It should be forced by workers and ordinary Filipinos to give us a relief from high taxes before it finishes its term,” Labog stated.

A study of the Tax Management Association of the Philippines (TMAP) shows that while Filipinos earning P500,000 annually is taxed at 32 percent, our ASEAN neighbors with equivalent income are taxed at the lower rates: Vietnam (20 percent), Cambodia (20 percent), Laos (12 percent), Malaysia (11 percent), Thailand (10 percent), Singapore (2 percent), and Brunei (no taxes).