On Duterte’s first year, workers were shortchanged

President Rodrigo Duterte’s promise of “change” has not come in his first year in power. Duterte has shown extremely low productivity in terms of addressing our workers’ legitimate and just demands and even failed in delivering his own promises and pronouncements.

Duterte’s first year in office can be summed-up as a year of worsening hunger, poverty and injustice among Filipino workers and people under the continued implementation neoliberal economic policies of promoting cheap, flexible and repressed labor.

On Contractualization

Duterte’s promise of ending contractualization remains unfulfilled. Worse, the recently signed Department of Labor and Employment Order 174 has legitimized contracting-out of labor through labor contracting agencies as a government employment policy.

The DOLE’s much hyped efforts that claimed to have regularized 70,000 workers remain questionable. Regularization through labor contractors and not through their principal employer is not regularization. The DOLE has also failed to act on the obviously undeniable practice of “Endo” against SM workers and the prevalent contractualization by big multi-national corporations especially in Special Economic Zones.

President Duterte also failed to sign KMU’s draft executive order to end all forms of contractualization which was submitted to him by all labor groups last May 10 as a result of the Labor Day Dialogue in Davao last May 10.
On Wages

There has been no significant wage hike on Duterte’s first year. The current wage levels remains unlivable. Even the highest wage level in the country, P491 in NCR, does not even come half of the suggested P1,119 Family Living Wage.

Instead of heeding our demands for the implementation of a national minimum wage of seven hundred fifty pesos a day, the government has upheld in its Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022 the previous Aquino administration’s wage cut and wage freeze through the Two-Tiered Wage System.

Duterte’s first year has also seen an unabated increase in prices of basic goods and services. The government’s tax reform policy would also be an additional burden to Filipino workers at would impose more taxes and even threatens to remove the cap on tax exemption for minimum wage earners.
On Martial Law

Duterte’s declaration of martial law has also taken its toll on workers’ rights. Foreign and local big businesses, in connivance with state security forces, is now using the martial law to curtail civil liberties and suppress workers’ legitimate and just demands.

Last June 2, a week since its imposition, martial law has been used as a license to violently disperse and arrest workers of banana plantation giant Shin Sun Tropical Fruit Corporation in Mindanao who have been on strike for more than 2 months against contractualization and union busting.

Laying-off of workers forming unions remain rampant. This has been highlighted by the succeeding strikes and protests against illegal dismissals, union busting and for regularization of workers of Manila Cordage Company-Manco Synthetics Inc. (MCC-MSI) and Philippine Dong Yun Plate Making Corporation in Laguna, Soro-soro Ibaba Development Cooperative (SIDC) in Batangas, Freshmax Trading Company and Shin-Sun Tropical Fruit Corporation in Compostela Valley among others.

DOLE Secretary Silvestre Bello has invoked the Republic Act 6715 and used his power to assume jurisdiction and suppressed the legitimate strike of Delmonte Land Transport Bus Co. Inc. (DLTB) workers on January 2017 without addressing their demands for wages and benefits.

The worsening conditions and continued attacks against workers’ wages, jobs and rights under Duterte’s first year in office has been reflected in the International Trade Union Confederation’s 2017 Global Rights Index which ranked the Philippines as the fourth worst country in the world for workers’ rights.