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.

Bello told: End, not spread contractualization

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In a press conference today in Quezon City, national labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno called on Labor Secretary Sylvestre Bello III to sign the labor sectors’ proposed department order as opposed to the current anti-worker policy drafted by the Department of Labor and Employment’s (DOLE). The draft of the Department Order 168 is set to blatantly legalize contractualization of all types of job functions to third party service providers.

“DOLE’s DO 168 is the most dangerous anti-worker policy on contractualization yet. It will allow the contractualization of all jobs that directly violates President Duterte’s marching order and the Filipino peoples’ demand,” said Elmer “Ka Bong” Labog, KMU chairperson.

The labor leader rejected the new DO’s policy of regularization through service providers calling it a cheap-trick to make capitalists’ violations of workers’ rights acceptable.

“Workers will not be fooled by the DOLE’s sugar-coating of contractualization’s gross labor rights violations. Their new DO precisely serves the objective of all contractual employment schemes which is to liberate principal employers from all obligations under permanent employer-employee relationships from which Philippine and international labor laws are based,” said Labog.

KMU also claimed that by ridding any employer-employee relationship between the principal employer and their workers, the DOLE’s new DO would pave way to further violations of workers’ rights.

“Not only would this policy result to more and more workers being hired through manpower agencies under legalized contractual employment schemes, it would even subject workers to worse labor rights violations as the absence of employer-employee relationship gives freedom to capitalists to siphon super profits through extreme labor exploitation,” Labog said.

The labor center meanwhile announced their plan to hold a series of protests to call for the junking of the DO 168 and to insist that President Duterte fulfill his promise to heed workers’ demand to end all forms of contractualization.
On February 3, KMU will launch a “Nationwide Protest” in all three major islands in the country. Thousands of workers are set to join the big mobilization in their respective key cities.

“We call on all Filipino workers to show their outrage against the DOLE’s betrayal of our demand for regular jobs. Let us unite and let our voices be heard until the DOLE junk its anti-worker DO and push president Duterte to heed our demand to end all forms of contractualization.” Labog said.

Admin’s economic agenda, rejected by workers at DOLE’s labor summit

 

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Attending today’s Labor Summit hosted by the Department of Labor and Employment, national labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno expressed its rejection of the Duterte administration’s 10-point Socio-Economic Agenda saying it is detrimental to workers.

 

“The administration’s 10-point economic agenda is detrimental to Filipino workers. It’s main thrust is to assure super-profits for foreign and local big capitalists by undermining Filipino workers’ rights to regular jobs and living wages,” KMU chairperson Elmer “Bong” Labog said.

 

The KMU sees the administration’s economic agenda as the main reason behind the labor department’s recent rejection of the proposal for a P125 across-the-board wage hike and its lack of decisive measures towards ending contractualization.

 

“The people who are strongly opposing workers’ demands for a significant wage hike and the junking of contractualization are the same pro-contractualization and pro-cheap labor oligarchs who drafted the administration’s economic agenda. We believe that the main reason why the DOLE rejected proposals for a significant wage hike and why it failed to take concrete steps in ending contractualization is because these are against these 10 points.” said Labog.

 

KMU also claimed that the administration’s economic agenda beclouds President Duterte’s promise of change as it is a mere continuation of the previous administrations’ economic framework of promoting cheap, contractual and docile labor to guarantee the profits of foreign and local big businesses.

 

“Change may not come as promised if the current administration would continue its predecessors’ policies of undermining the rights and welfare of the Filipino workers and people to promote the interests of foreign and local big businesses. The framework of the administration’s economic agenda is the same framework that caused our workers’ current woes,” Labog said.

 

The labor leader also insisted that the agenda pushed by the administration’s economic managers and foreign big businesses directly negates the President’s assertion of an independent foreign policy.

 

“The administration’s economic managers are directly defying the President’s assertion of an independent foreign policy. The framework of the 10-point economic agenda is to remain subservient to neoliberal policies imposed by the US through onerous free trade agreements,” said Labog.

 

Meanwhile in a protest held outside the Labor Summit’s venue, leaders of various labor unions, people’s organizations and pro-labor institutions vowed to oppose any attempt to integrate the 10-point economic agenda on the administration’s labor policy.

 

“We will not allow these anti-worker agenda to be reflected in the DOLE’s labor policies. We challenge Secretary Bello to stand with workers against the big businesses asserting the 10-point agenda by heeding our demands to junk all contractualization schemes and implement a national minimum wage” Labog said.

 

The KMU also called on President Duterte to reject his economic manager’s 10-point agenda and instead adopt national industrialization and genuine land reform as his economic development program.

 

“We strongly urge President Duterte to junk his administration’s 10-point economic agenda. Instead, he must heed the 15-point people’s demands which have been presented to him in Malacanang on his first day in office. It states concrete proposals on how he can choose the path towards genuine, pro-people and self-reliant national development by adopting national industrialization and genuine land reform as his economic policy.” Labog said.

ECOP and NEDA’s connivance to reject P125 wage hike slammed

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National labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno strongly condemns the Employers’ Confederation of the Philippines and the National Economic Development Authority for conniving to reject workers’ demands for a significant wage hike.

 

The NEDA and ECOP are lying. A P125 across-the-board wage hike would only be a 12.3% deduction from capitalists’ profits. The 2013 Annual Survey of Philippine Business and Industry (ASPBI) of the Philippine Statistical Authority (PSA) indicates 1.58 trillion pesos in profits for some 35,000 firms with 3.9 million employees.

 

Even Micro, small and medium enterprises admit that wages are the least of their worries as labor costs only amounts to 10% of their total production costs. The high cost of electricity, poor infrastructure, red tape in the government and widespread smuggling and influx of cheap imports remain the major deterrents in businesses in the country.
It has also been a foregone conclusion that the P125 hike can be implemented. This was proven by its passage in the 13th Congress but with some sort of manipulation due to cited technicalities by then Congressman Crispin Remulla, the approved version of the P125 wage hike bill was remanded back to the lower house and held there till the lapse of the Congress session.

 

A P125 across-the-board wage hike has been long overdue and has in fact already fallen short to give immediate relief to workers. The gap between the mandated minimum wage and the family living wage, has drastically widened over the years. The highest wage level in the country, P481 in the NCR, does not even come half of the estimated P1,096 family living wage.

 

Workers are now demanding a significant wage hike through the implementation of a National Minimum Wage of 750 pesos. This would serve as an immediate relief to workers and their families amidst their worsening hunger and poverty. It would also counter the disparity of wages in the caused by the Wage Rationalization Law and bring the current minimum wage closer to the Family Living Wage.

 

A National Minimum Wage of P750 would only mean a 30% deduction in capitalists’ profits leaving them 70% of clean profits. NEDA and ECOP can no longer insist their age-old and absurd lies that such a hike would result in loss of jobs and increasing of prices.

 

NEDA’s position against wage hike is part of the administration’s 10-point economic agenda which undermines workers’ rights and welfare to further attract foreign investors. It is in direct defiance to President Rodrigo Duterte’s marching orders of implementing a national minimum wage and ending contractualization.

 

We urge DOLE Sec. Silvestre Bello III to stand by the President’s marching orders and reject these lapdogs of Wall Street. He should be more in favor to the workers’ interests to prove that changes are coming in Duterte regime.

 

[On Duterte’s first 100 days] Turn anti-US stance into pro-Filipino economic policies – KMU

 

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This is the Filipino workers’ challenge to Duterte after his first one hundred days in office: translate your independent foreign policy towards a pro-Filipino economic framework. By this we mean working towards a self-reliant economy through national industrialization and genuine land reform.

 

Workers fully support the President’s assertion of the country’s sovereignty against foreign intervention. We urge Duterte to immediately put into writing his assertions for an independent foreign policy. He can start by issuing an order to junk the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement which allow increased US military presence and permanent basing in the country in gross violation of our sovereignty.

 

However, the President’s independent foreign policy cannot be fully realized if his administration’s economic framework remain subservient to US dictated neoliberal policies of privatization, liberalization, deregulation and denationalization. Such policies have subjected Filipino workers and people to decades of worsening hunger and poverty.

 

We strongly urge President Duterte to junk his administration’s 10-point economic agenda which blatantly negates his pro-worker, pro-people and patriotic sentiments. The programs drafted by his economic managers are mere photocopies of previous administration’s neoliberal economic policies that paved the way for widespread labor contractualization and further pressing down of workers’ wages through wage rationalization.

 

President Duterte can choose to take the path towards developing a genuinely self-reliant national economy by adopting as his economic development program the National Democratic Front of the Philippines’s draft for a Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms (CASER) of National Industrialization and Genuine Land Reform. The administration can draft policies to assert majority Filipino ownership of vital industries and enterprises with rural agro-industrial development as its backbone.

On Dee’s tirades against Usec Maglunsod

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We condemn Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP) chairman emeritus Donald Dee for resorting to tirades against Labor Undersecretary Joel Maglunsod to undermine workers’ demands for a significant wage hike.

 

As a known despotic anti-worker and anti-poor capitalist, it is not surprising that Mr. Dee would reject Maglunsod’s proposal for a General Wage Increase through a P125 across-the-board wage hike. What enrages us most is that he is resorting to arrogant and senseless tirades against a pro-worker government official to desperately assert the ECOP’s age-old absurd argument of pitting jobs against wages which have long been debunked by workers and labor researchers.

 

A significant wage hike can and should be given to workers. Increasing workers’ wages would not result in loss of jobs if it would be deducted from capitalists’ ever-increasing profits.

 

Workers need an immediate relief that would at least bring the minimum wage closer to living standards. The gap between the mandated minimum wage and the amount needed by a family to live decently, the family living wage, has drastically widened over the years. The highest wage level in the country, P481 in the NCR, does not even come half of the estimated P1,096 family living wage. A P125 across-the-board wage hike has been long overdue and already falls short to give immediate relief to workers.

 

Workers are now calling for a significant wage hike through the implementation of a National Minimum Wage of P750 a day for private sector workers. This would serve as an immediate relief to workers and their families amidst their worsening hunger and poverty. It would also counter the disparity of wages in the caused by the Wage Rationalization Law and bring the current minimum wage closer to the Family Living Wage.

 

The problem with Mr. Dee is that he is too greedy. He is sticking with their lie that increasing wages would result in job loss while denying the fact that a significant wage hike, through the National Minimum Wage of P750, would only be a 30% decrease in their profits as per independent think-tank IBON Foundation’s research. This leaves them with 70% of clean profits to pocket.

 

Studies also show that workers’ wages are at the least of the worries even of small businesses in the country as labor costs only amounts to 10% of their total production costs. The high cost of electricity, poor infrastructure, red tape in the government and widespread smuggling and influx of cheap imports remain the major deterrents in businesses in the country.

 

Another glaring fact Mr. Dee refuses to recognize is that there has been no significant wage hike for decades yet unemployment in the country has drastically worsened. Workers’ wages have already been left out by the ever-increasing prices of goods and services while capitalists’ profits have been constantly increasing at unprecedented rates.

 

Chronic unemployment is a result of widespread landlessness in the countrysides and the backward and import-dependent Philippine economy. The only way to address this is through genuine land reform and national industrialization which are the main socio-economic reforms being pushed by workers in the on-going peace talks between the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.

 

Oligarchs and foreign big businesses represented by Mr. Dee are threatened by President Duterte’s pro-worker and pro-people initiatives. Mr. Dee is using Maglungsod’s appointment as an excuse to defy the Presidents’ marching orders to end contractualization and to implement a National Minimum Wage.

 

We urge President Duterte to stand for Usec Maglunsod against the anti-worker, anti-poor and anti-Filipino oligarchs such as Mr. Dee and his foreign big business masters.

Put anti-EDCA and anti-Balikatan statements to writing, Duterte urged

 

National labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno urged President Rodrigo Duterte to put into writing his consistent statements against the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement and the US-RP Balikatan Exercises.

 

“We support President Duterte’s assertion against EDCA and to end the US-RP Balikatan Exercises. It has long been a demand of Filipino workers to end these unequal treaties that allows the US and other foreign powers to violate our sovereignty and meddle with internal affairs” KMU chairperson Elmer “Ka Bong” Labog said.

 

In a protest at the US embassy in time for the opening of the US-RP Balikatan Exercises in Subic, the KMU called on President Duterte to immediately issue an executive order terminating the EDCA which workers claim allows increased deployment and permanent basing of US troops in the country.

 

“The President can immediately junk the EDCA as it is mere executive agreement entered by the previous US lackey Aquino government. EDCA has allowed the US to re-occupy the Philippines by increased troop deployment and establishment of their permanent bases in the country” Labog said.

 

The labor leader meanwhile condemned National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon and Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay for contradicting the Presidents’ assertion to end the Balikatan Exercises calling Esperon and Yasay’s statements as a “shameless revision” of Duterte’s patriotic stance.

 

“It is alarming that some officials in the Duterte administration is singing a different tune from the President. To avoid defiance by pro-US officials in his administration, Duterte should turn his assertion of an independent foreign policy into concrete and written declarations” Labog said.

 

KMU assured Duterte that Filipino workers are willing to support his assertion of an independent foreign policy against pro-US oligarchs and officials from outside and within his administration.

 

“The US will use all its power to undermine Duterte’s assertion of an independent foreign policy. Pro-US elements are deeply embedded in institutions outside and even within his administration. If Duterte cannot get support from his officials, we assure him that Filipino workers are willing to back his assertion of our sovereignty against US and other foreign intervention once he has turned it into actual, concrete and written policies” Labog said.

 

 

Labog however insisted that the President’s assertion of an independent foreign policy should also be reflected in the administrations’ economic agenda and should be aimed at promoting workers’ rights and welfare against US-dictated neoliberal economic policies.

 

“Duterte’s foreign policy shift should also be aimed at rejecting US-dictated economic policies of promoting cheap, contractual and docile labor by implementing a National Minimum Wage and ending contractualization. In the long run, Duterte should adopt National Industrialization and genuine land reform as an economic policy to promote an independent, pro-people and developed national economy” said Labog.

On DOLE’s first 100 days, still no concrete step to end contractualization  

 

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Hundreds of workers led by national labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno trooped the Department of Labor and Employment’s office to present their critique on the labor department’s first 100 days.

 

In a protest held in time for the DOLE’s labor sector dialogue on labor issues and policies, the KMU insisted that until now, the labor department has taken no concrete step towards fulfilling President Duterte’s commitment to end contractualization.

 

“We weighed the DOLE’s efforts to heed our workers’ pressing demand to end contractualization. Clearly, the labor department has taken no concrete steps to fulfill the President’s commitment,” Elmer “Ka Bong” Labog, KMU chairperson, said.

 

The labor leader claimed that the labor department’s efforts to address contractualization does not directly respond to our workers’ demands for regular jobs.

 

“The recently issued Department Order 162 and Labor Advisory 10 are not aimed at ending contractualization. These merely reiterates the provisions of the DO 18-A which workers have long been demanding to be junked for institutionalizing labor contractualization” Labog said.

 

During the labor dialogue, KMU presented a draft of workers’ proposed Department Order to replace the “anti-worker” DO 18-A. According to Labog, their proposed DO aims to “strengthen workers’ rights to security of tenure by asserting that principal employers should have full responsibility for their workers while labor contractors should be considered as mere agents”.

 

The KMU also slammed the government’s so-called “win-win” solution to contractualization saying it would surely be a “lose-lose” situation for workers.

 

“Regularization through labor contractors further weakens workers’ security of tenure as it ceases any employer-employee relationship between workers and the principal employer,” said Labog.

 

Labog meanwhile expressed alarm over the appointment of well-known management lawyers in key positions in the DOLE saying these officials are out to sabotage the Filipino workers’ unity with President Duterte to end contractualization.

 

“We urge secretary Bello not to listen to, and if possible kick-out, these scumbags from the DOLE! These pro-capitalists lawyers are openly defying the Presidents’ marching orders by rejecting our workers’ legitimate demands to end contractualization in order to protect their personal and business interests,” Labog said.

 

On the other hand, KMU is looking forward a positive unity with the DOLE in implementing a National Minimum Wage of seven-hundred and fifty pesos a day for public sector workers saying it could serve as an immediate relief amidst the worsening hunger and poverty among workers.

 

“We are glad that the Duterte administration is one with workers in seeking to implement a national minimum wage to par wages in provinces to wages in Metro Manila. However, we will be vigilant and assertive in demanding concrete steps to make sure this will be implemented as soon as possible” Labog said.

Workers back Duterte’s call to pull out US troops

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Joining a protest at the US Embassy to commemorate the rejection of the US-RP Bases Agreement, workers led by national labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno called on President Rodrigo Duterte to push for the immediate pull-out of U.S. troops from Philippine territory.

 

“Workers agree with President Duterte. US troops must go! We are willing to support his plan to reorient the Philippines’ foreign policy if it means junking all unequal ties with the US,” said Jerome Adonis, KMU secretary general.

 

KMU demanded that Duterte junk the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), a bilateral treaty between the United States and the Philippines, which allowed the US to use existing camps of the Armed Forces of the Philippines as their military base, store weapons, warships, and aircrafts, conduct joint exercises with Filipino troops, and bring-in defense contractors and other civilian personnel.

 

“Duterte should reject the US’ recolonization of the Philippines. He should not allow the US to permanently station their troops in our country using resources from Filipino workers’ and people’s taxes. He should reject the US’ plan to use our country as their base of operation in spreading their hegemony in Asia,” said Adonis.

 

Amidst Duterte’s strong anti-US stance, government agencies such as the DND (Department of National Defense) and the DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs) have cautioned that the status quo will remain unchanged, and the alliance with the U.S. will be maintained.

 

“It is a blatant violation of our sovereignty. The US wants to use the Philippines as a pawn in its military plans for the Southeast Asian region,” said Adonis.  “Historically, allowing increased US military presence in our country has led to violations of human rights and escalation of conflict and violence.”

 

Duterte cited one such incident, which took place in Mindanao: the Bud Dajo massacre, which led to the deaths of an estimated 600 members of the Moro community at the hands of American soldiers. The KMU also pointed to many other cases where the U.S. military presence in the Philippines did more harm than good, from sexual assault cases like those of Jennifer Laude and Nicole, to increased tensions with China and aggressive counter-insurgency programs patterned after U.S. models.

 

“We join the Filipino people in calling for peace and sovereignty, in defending our rights and asserting our freedom from U.S. control,” said Adonis. “We challenge President Duterte to begin enacting and implementing concrete policy proposals to effect his proposed reorientation of foreign policy, to become more pro-Filipino instead of pro-America. Actions speak louder than words,” he added.

The labor leader meanwhile challenged Duterte to also reject US dictated neoliberal economic policies of pressing down workers’ wages and legalization of contractual employment.
“Duterte’s foreign policy shift must also be aimed at rejecting US dictated economic policies that subjects workers to worsening hunger and poverty. He can counter the US’ neoliberal attacks against workers immediately by implementing a National Minimum Wage of 750 pesos and ban all forms of contractualization, and in the long run should adopt national industrialization as his administration’s economic policy.” Adonis said.