[On Bello’s pitch for a National Minimum Wage Law] Implement a genuine pro-worker national minimum wage now!

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Kilusang Mayo Uno recognizes Department of Labor and Employment Secretary Silvestre Bello’s pitch for a National Minimum Wage Law. It should however be followed by immediate and concrete actions.

The implementation of a national minimum wage has long been pushed by workers as their main demand on the Workers’ Agenda for Change. It has been presented and pushed to the Duterte administration since it stepped into office.

Workers demand that the Duterte administration enact a National Minimum Wage in the amount of seven-hundred and fifty pesos (P750). This will enforce a genuine minimum wage in the country and bring existing legally-mandated minimum wage levels closer to the living wage, which according to independent think-tank Ibon Foundation is already at P1,096.

A national minimum wage of P750 would serve as an immediate relief to workers and their families amidst their worsening hunger and poverty. It should also be regularly increased to meet living standards.

The DOLE must immediately abolish the Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Boards and establish a national mechanism for setting wages. Regional wage boards serves no purpose to workers. It has long been used by capitalists to deny workers of a significant wage hike. RWBs are also a deliberate waste of our taxes.

Duterte must order the “super-majority” in Congress to junk the Republic Act 6727 or the Wage Rationalization Law of 1989 that paved-way the drastic fragmentation of workers’ wages. Since its implementation, there has been no standard minimum wage in the country. In fact, it resulted to more than a thousand wage levels in the country.

The Wage Rationalization Law is a US-dictated neoliberal policy that fragmented and pressed wages down to poverty levels. To prove that the Duterte administration’s pitch for a national minimum wage is genuinely pro-worker, it has to be aimed at negating such US-dictated policies.

Justice for Fort Magsaysay massacre victims sought  

 

 

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Kilusang Mayo Uno condemned the Fort Magsaysay massacre that killed four farmers and wounded another. The victims were part of the cultivation activity on the land awarded to them inside the Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation in Laur, Nueva Ecija.

 

The four were resting after their farming chores when armed men alighted from a helicopter and opened fire at them Saturday afternoon. Their bodies were torn apart from the merciless rain of bullets.

 

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms the massacre of peasants in Fort Magsaysay. Impunity must end. We stand with our peasant brother and sisters in demanding justice against this heinous murder. The Duterte administration must ensure this won’t go unpunished,” said KMU Secretary-General, Jerome Adonis.

 

Reports revealed that the perpetrators are goons and private army affiliated with Palayan City Mayor Adrianne Mae Cuevas of the notorious Joson political clan of Nueva Ecija and a certain Col. Rigor of the Nueva Ecija CIDG.

 

“We urge President Duterte to immediately form a task force that will investigate and put the perpetrators behind bars to serve justice to our murdered peasant brothers and sisters” Adonis said.

 

On November 5, 1991, former President Corazon Cojuangco-Aquino awarded 3,100 hectares of the Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation to over a thousand landless peasants – including evacuees of the Mt. Pinatubo eruption. The beneficiaries were issued a Deed of Transfer between then Defense Secretary Renato de Villa and then Agrarian Reform Secretary Benjamin Leung.

 

“By virtue of the 1991 Deed of Transfer between the DND and DAR, the more than 6,000 peasant beneficiaries should have already acquired ownership of the lands they live on and till. Since 2008, the 7th Infantry Division of the AFP took part in scheming and harassing Fort Magsaysay farmers to cancel their Certificate of Land Ownership Awards,” said Adonis.

 

The four victims of the massacre who were identified as Baby Mercado, Violeta Mercado, Eligio Barbado and Gaudencio Bagalay, are members of the Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid na Nagkakaisa 3100 (ALMANA). During the Aquino administration, ALMANA 3100 leader Pascual Guevarra, 78, was shot dead inside his house by a lone gunman in barangay San Isidro, Laur, Nueva Ecija.

On Bello’s push for a P125 wage hike

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National labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno welcomes Department of Labor and Employment Secretary Silvestre Bello’s recognition of the Filipino workers’ need for an immediate relief amidst their worsening hunger and poverty.

Secretary Bello’s push for a general wage increase is a result of workers’ arduous struggle for a P125 across-the-board wage hike since 1998. It is a positive development in workers’ clamor for a significant wage increase which for more than a decade have been rejected by previous administrations.

A P125 wage increase should immediately be implemented across-the-board and not through Regional Wage Boards which could be used by capitalists to only give measly increases or even deny the wage hike. However, P125 may also already be insufficient to give immediate relief to workers as the current minimum wage has already been left out by the ever increasing prices of basic goods and services.

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 actual 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, P491 in the NCR, does not even come half of the estimated P1,096 family living wage.

To supplement the P125 increase, we urge the DOLE to immediately work on implementing a National Minimum Wage of P750 for private sector workers. Not only would it give an immediate relief to workers and their families, it would also negate the fragmentation and further pressing down of the minimum wage by the Wage Rationalization Law. It should also be regularly increased to meet living standards.

There is no standard minimum wage in the country. Currently, there are more than a thousand wage levels in the country. The rationalization of wages also put workers’ demands for a significant wage hike at the mercy of Regional Wage Boards who could only give insultingly measly increases.

We appreciate that the Duterte administration is one with workers in wanting wages in the provinces to be at par with wages in Metro Manila. There should therefore be no dilly-dallying in the implementation of a National Minimum Wage which is the only way to end the disparity of wages in the country.

On the Davao Bombing

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Filipino workers strongly condemn the bombing in Davao City that has killed at least 15 and wounded over 80 people. We demand justice for the victims of this heinous act of terror that deliberately targeted civilians to spread fear, violence and chaos in the country.

We seek that the perpetrators of this terror attack be brought to justice. However, we are alarmed with President Duterte’s declaration of a state of lawlessness on a nationwide scale which also includes the war on drugs. Such declaration could further unleash the brutal and fascist character of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police which could result in gross violations of human rights against civilians especially the Moro people.

We have every reason to believe that the Davao bombing was an act of terror orchestrated by the US government and their lapdogs in the AFP using their long time terrorist bogey Abu Sayyaf Group to create havoc and unrest in the country to justify the increased deployment and presence of US troops in the country especially in Mindanao.

It is no secret that the ASG has been created, funded, trained and operated by the US’ Central Intelligence Agency and the AFP to justify US intervention and violations of our sovereignty under the guise of the war on terror.

We demand that President Duterte stand with the Filipino people against these US orchestrated acts of terror. He should immediately cut all unequal ties with the US particularly the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, the Visiting Forces Agreement, the Mutual Defense treaty and the Mutual Logistics and Support Agreement that gave license to the US to meddle with our internal affairs and commit such heinous acts of violence and terror against the Filipino people.

NEDA’s position vs wage hike, an insult to workers  

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Workers’ unions led by national labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno held a nationally coordinated noise barrage protest to condemn Socioeconomic Planning Secretary and National Economic and Development Authority director general Ernesto Pernia’s attack against workers’ legitimate demand for a substantial wage hike.

Simultaneous noise barrage protests were held outside factories and in workers’ concentration areas around Metro Manila, Cavite and Laguna to demand the implementation of a National Minimum Wage of 750 pesos a day for private sector workers and 16,000 pesos monthly for government employees.

“Change has not come to NEDA. We are enraged over director Pernia’s insulting statements that wage increases are counterproductive. He is merely echoing the same anti-worker reasoning used by the Aquino government to deny us of a substantial wage hike amidst our worsening poverty and hunger,” KMU chairperson Elmer “Ka Bong” Labog said.

The labor center insisted that capitalists are more than capable of giving a substantial wage increase citing independent think-tank IBON Foundation’s study which showed that implementing a National Minimum Wage of P750 would only amount to a 30% decrease in profits, leaving employers a significant 70% of their clean profits.

“A National Minimum Wage of 750 pesos can and should be implemented. Increasing workers’ wages is not counterproductive. In fact, higher wages, proper benefits and decent working conditions, can increase workers’ productivity and purchasing power which will in turn revitalize the domestic market” Labog said.

The labor leader also slammed Pernia’s claim that minimum wage increases would result to massive lay-offs saying it is an absurd and baseless justification to further press down wages and reject Filipino workers’ demands for a National Minimum Wage.

“For the longest time, the minimum wage in the country has already been at poverty and starvation levels yet unemployment continue to worsen. There has been no significant wage increase for decades yet thousands of workers are being laid-off for exercising their rights to unionize” Labog said.

Labog insisted that even with the current measly minimum wage, previous administrations have failed to create decent jobs in the country citing IBON Foundation’s data showing that 24.4 million or around 63% of total employed are actually in poor quality work, consisting of: non-regular and agency-hired workers (6.6 million), private households (2.0 million), self-employed without paid employee (10.7 million), employer in own family-operated farm or business (1.2 million), or unpaid family work (3.9 million).

“If the Duterte administration is truthful in its promise of change, it should reject NEDA’s anti-worker position. Duterte should distinct itself from previous administration’s economic policies that are detrimental to workers by declaring national industrialization as its development policy. Only through such policy can the government ensure the creation of decent jobs, living wages and genuine development in the country” Labog ended.

 

Fast track of agreement on socio-economic reforms welcomed

 

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National labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno welcomed the positive developments in the peace negotiations between the Government of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.

 

“Workers are jubilant over the positive developments in the GPH-NDFP peace talks. We are hopeful that the efforts of both panels would pave the way in achieving the Filipino workers and people’s aspiration for a just and lasting peace.” KMU chairperson Elmer “Ka Bong” Labog said.

 

With just four days since the GPH-NDFP peace talks resumed, both negotiating panels have already agreed to draft an agreement on six substantial issues such as the  affirmation of previously signed agreements, reconstitution of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) list, acceleration of the peace negotiations, the mode of interim ceasefire, general amnesty for political prisoners, and the convening of the Joint Monitoring Committee of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL).

The KMU also welcomed both panels’ effort to complete the work on the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms (CASER) within six months.

 

“We welcome the GPH and NDFP’s commitment to forge an agreement on socio-economic reforms within six months. These reforms, particularly the genuine agrarian reform and national industrialization, would address the worsening poverty among workers and peasants which is the root of armed conflict in the country” Labog said.

 

Labog also urged the GPH and the NDFP to fast-track the work on addressing particular workers’ demands such as the junking of contractualization, implementation of a national minimum wage and respect for workers’ rights and welfare.

 

“We are also hopeful that the peace talks would address the most pressing issues and demands of Filipino workers. The lack of regular jobs, poverty wages, and gross violations of workers’ rights has resulted in social unrest in the country,” said Labog.

 

The labor center meanwhile demanded the House of Representatives to immediately act on passing a General Amnesty Law that would free the more than 500 political prisoners, among which are unionists and labor rights advocates.

 

“The release of all political prisoners is crucial in attaining peace that is based on justice. To prolong their incarceration is to deny them justice. The more than 500 unionists, labor rights advocates, farmers and social activists have been illegally and unjustly detained for standing-up of for workers’ and people’s rights and aspirations for genuine freedom, justice and change” Labog said.

 

 

Dismissal of LRT workers slammed

 

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National labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno led railroad and other industrial workers in a picket-protest at the Department of Transportation (DOTr) office in Ortigas to demand the reinstatement of the unjustly dismissed workers of the Light Rail Transit.

The Light Rail Manila Corporation dismissed 41 of its workers last June to make-up for the government-run company’s alleged losses due to unconfirmed ticket sales which is being managed by private concessionaire AF Payments Incorporated (AFPI).

“Workers should not be punished for the failures of LRT’s private contractors. It was the AFPI and not the workers who failed to deliver efficient service that has resulted in the losses of the LRT,” KMU secretary general Jerome Adonis said.

The KMU meanwhile urged DOTr Secretary Arthur Tugade to order the LRTA to recall the unjust and blatantly anti-worker dismissal order.

“We call on secretary Tugade to recall the unjustly dismissed LRT workers. This would prove the DOTr’s commitment in bringing about the change that the Duterte administration has promised. For the longest time, workers’ rights to job security are being violated by such retrenchments to cut costs and boost capitalists’ profits” said Adonis.

The labor leader also insisted that the government should rescind all onerous contracts with private big businesses in the country’s railway system which has not only resulted in such unjust dismissals and violations of workers’ rights, but also to burdensome fare hikes and deterioration of services.

“Instead of retrenching workers to make-up for its losses, the LRTA should dismiss its contract with the sloppy and futile Ayala-Pangilinan run AFPI. These private concessionaires not only cause great losses for the LRT, but also burdens workers, commuters and the Filipino people” Adonis said.

Junking of pro-contractualization DO 18-A sought

 

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Over a thousand workers led by national labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno trooped to the Department of Labor and Employment office to present the labor sector’s proposals on how to end contractualization in a protest-dialogue with Undersecretary Joel Maglunsod.

 

“We welcome the labor department’s efforts to minimize the rampant contractualization in the country. However, workers are pushing for more concrete and decisive measures that the DOLE can take to totally end all forms of contractual employment schemes,” said KMU chairperson Elmer “Ka Bong” Labog.

 

KMU particularly demanded the junking of the DOLE Department order 18-A series of 2011 which has institutionalized contractualization by setting guidelines that teaches employers how to circumvent labor laws and legalize their contractual employment schemes.

“The DO 18-A must be junked. It has institutionalized contractualization by teaching employers how to bend our laws and violate workers’ rights to legalize their contractual employment schemes. Since its implementation, contractualization has become more rampant and the number of temporary contractual workers drastically increased,” Labog said.

 

The labor leader claimed that since the implementation of the DO 18-A in 2011, contractualization has become more rampant citing independent think-tank IBON foundation estimates that four out of ten (43.5%) of rank-and-file workers are now hired under various contractual employment schemes.

KMU meanwhile insisted that the government’s anti-contractualization efforts must aim to promote regular employment by ending all forms of labor contractualization as all contractual employment schemes violates workers’ rights.

“There must be no distinction between Labor-Only Contracting and Job Contracting. Both must be outlawed. All forms of contractual employment schemes denies workers’ their basic rights and tramples their dignity as human beings. Contractualization, whether employed in legal or illegal schemes, subject workers to worst forms of labor exploitation.” Labog stressed.

 

The labor leader also urged the Duterte administration to order the “super-majority” in Congress to certify as urgent the House Bill 556 or the Regular Employment Bill filed by Anakpawis Partylist that would amend the Labor Code and junk its Article 106-109 which has legalized contractualization.

The dialogue between Maglunsod and labor leaders also tackled other workers’ issues such as the implementation of a National Minimum Wage of P750, the urgent resolution of labor cases, junking of the Single Entry Approach (SEnA) policy and the restrictive requirements on Workers’ Organization and Development Program (WODP), and the repression and militarization of workers’ strikes.

“There are many issues that the administration and workers can work together with. But first the DOLE must distinguish itself from previous pro-capitalist administrations by promoting clear and concrete pro-worker policies. Once these policy are set, working together can easily follow.” Labog said.

NDFP consultant Adelberto Silva’s release hailed

 

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Filipino workers are jubilant over the release of National Democratic Front of the Philippines peace consultant and labor rights defender Adelberto Silva after more than a year of illegal detention.

We hope that the release of Silva and other NDFP consultants would pave way for an unhindered resumption of the long-stalled peace talks between the Philippine government and the NDFP.

We commend President Rodrigo Duterte’s efforts to fulfill his commitment of releasing all 22 detained NDFP peace consultants. We also welcome Duterte’s efforts to allow NDFP consultants to join the resumption of the formal talks set on August 22 to 27 in Oslo.

 

Silva and other labor rights defenders among the NDFP consultants play crucial roles in raising workers issues and struggles in the peace talks and in drafting agreements on socio-economic reforms that would address the roots of armed conflict in the country.

 

We are however we are indignant over PNP Custodial Center Warden Arnel Apud’s denial to facilitate the release of NDFP consultants and labor rights defenders Benito and Wilma Tiamzon, amidst the release orders issued for them by respective local courts.

 

Adelberto Silva is a long-time labor leader and educator. He served as a staff member and speechwriter for the late KMU chairperson Rolando “Ka Lando” Olalia. In 1992, Silva acted as the education program coordinator for KMU. He is serving as KMU’s consultant on the peace process when he was arrested in June 1, 2015.

Marcos is a fascist dictator not a hero

 

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National labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno called on President Rodrigo Duterte to renounce his decision to give Ferdinand Marcos a hero’s burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani saying the late dictator was a murderer and a thief not a hero.

“Marcos is a murderer and a thief not a hero. We reject any plan to give a hero’s burial for the fascist dictator behind the mass murder of workers, peasants and activists and the massive plunder of the Filipino people’s taxes,” said KMU chairperson Elmer “Ka Bong” Labog.

Joining Martial Law victims and other sectoral organizations in a People’s Caravan against Marcos’ burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, the labor leader insisted that giving a hero’s burial for Marcos would be an injustice to the countless victims of extra-judicial killings and other human rights violations under his fascist dictatorial regime.

“A hero’s burial for Marcos would be an injustice to all victims of his fascist rule. If there is anything President Duterte should be busying himself with regarding the Marcoses, it should be giving justice to the victims of atrocities during Martial Law and the return of the Marcoses’ ill-gotten wealth,” Labog said.

The labor center also claimed that burying Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani is a betrayal to the Filipino workers’ and people’s history and struggle for genuine democracy, freedom and social change.

“Hundreds of unionists and labor leaders have been killed for asserting workers’ rights during Martial Law. To claim that Marcos was a hero is to betray the real heroes and martyrs of the Filipino workers and people who gave sacrificed their lives in fighting for genuine democracy, freedom and social change in the country,” said Labog.

KMU meanwhile called on Filipino workers to oppose Marcos’ burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani saying to forego his crimes against workers and people now would give way to worse Marcosian fascist dictatorships in the future.