KMU Correspondence (March 2016)
March 2016 Issue
- Women workers worse off under President Aquino
This year’s March 8 is final International Working Women’s Day under Pres. Noynoy Aquino. The condition of women workers has only worsened in the six years..
According to Ibon Foundation, the number of unemployed Filipinos are at an historical high, while the Bureau of Labor and Employment Statistics say that women comprise only 39 percent of employed Filipinos. Women form the majority of the unemployed, and many find precarious work in the informal sector.
As a result of the regionalization of wage-setting and other attacks on the legally-mandated minimum wage, there remains no genuine minimum wage in the country. Women workers suffer more from this because of wage discrimination.
Contractualization is already the norm in most workplaces in the country and it continues to spread. Women workers are concentrated in sectors of the economy which are some of the the most contractualized – the service sector, special economic zones, and agro-corporations.
Women contractuals are deprived of maternity benefits. Because they can be laid off from work easily, contractual women are the ones most vulnerable to sexual exploitation by managers and capitalists.
Majority of the workers who died in factory fires under Aquino’s term – Kentex (2015), Asia Micro Tech (2014), Novo Jeans (2012) – are women. Workers suffer more from the violations of Occupational Health and Safety standards committed by capitalists and abetted by the government.
The rising cost of commodities and social services make life even more difficult for women workers, who often double-duty as homemakers. Gabriela, a national alliance of women, reports that police reports of violence against women have peaked in the past months.
We call on Filipino women workers to unite and fight! History has shown that women workers are exemplary warriors in the fight for national liberation, working-class liberation, and women’s liberation.
Majority of the workers who launched the historic 1975 strike in La Tondeña are women. Women workers have fought the US-backed Marcos dictatorship and succeeding oppressive regimes hand-in-hand with male workers.
Women workers, unite and fight! Let us fight for a National Minimum Wage, P750 (USD 16). Let us fight for the banning of contractual employment. Let us fight to exercise our trade-union rights. Let us fight for safer workplaces. Let us fight for national liberation, workers’ liberation and women’s liberation.
- One Billion Rising expressed support for Kentexworkers
The Justice for Kentex Workers Alliance – survivors and families of victims of the Kentex factory fire, and their supporters – held a forum at the factory’s gates. They were joined by Eve Ensler, playwright best known for Vagina Monologues, and Monique Wilson, a theatre and film actress, who are organizing the One Billion Rising international campaign opposing violence against women. Both women expressed their solidarity with the survivors and families of relatives.
Later they all stormed the gates of another factory tied to the operation of Kentex.
The workers and families filed the following cases: labor and criminal (against the owner and agency), and administrative (against the national government).
Majority of the workers who died in the Kentex factory fire are women.
- Maternity leave not extended to contractuals, workers protest
Women workers picketed the Labor Department’s main office in Intramuros, Manila on March 4 to press for maternity leave for all workers, which they say can only be possible if contractualization is banned as an employment scheme.
The labor group said that while the Senate’s effort to pass a bill increasing the 60-78-day maternity leave last January 18 is salutary, most workers do not enjoy maternity leaves because they are considered contractuals.
KMU said many women workers, especially in export-processing zones and the service sector, complain that being pregnant means getting laid off from work or simply being allowed to go absent from work without receiving any pay.
“We are glad that measures are being taken to increase the days that women workers are allowed to go on maternity leave. These measures, however, will mean nothing to the majority of the country’s workers, if they remain contractuals,” said Nitz Gonzaga, KMU vice-chairperson for women’s affairs.
The Senate passed the Expanded Maternity Leave Law of 2015 in order to comply with the International Labor Organization’s standard of a 100-day maternity leave, while maintaining the provision that workers will get no less than 2/3 of their regular monthly wages.
“For many workplaces all over the country, it seems that for contractuals, bawal ang mabuntis (it is forbidden to get pregnant). This situation is most anti-worker and anti-women and could only be ended if contractualization is outlawed,” said Gonzaga.
The labor leader said that while laws guarantee contractuals’ right to maternity leave, the fact that contractuals can easily be removed from work legally and without repercussions has allowed capitalists to cut costs for pregnant workers.
“Contractualization is a whole-scale violation of workers’ rights and should be outlawed. Contractuals who are women suffer more from this anti-worker scheme,” Gonzaga stated.
The Labor Code outlaws labor-only contracting but allows the Labor Secretary to issue guidelines as to how companies can carry out job contracting legally. The present guidelines on contractualization is contained in Department Order No. 18-A Series of 2011.
4. Illegal lockout in Cebu Maternity Hospital hit
The management of the Cebu Maternity Hospital, which is based in Cebu City, carried out an illegal lockout last March 16 in the midst of a labor dispute in which employees are demanding a meager wage increase.
KMU also expressed support for the hospitals’ 12 resident doctors and 130 rank-and-file employees led by the Cebu Maternity Hospital Employees Independent Union, an affiliate of the Association of Democratic Labor Organizations-KMU, who are now holding a hunger strike in response to the illegal lockout.
In negotations for a Collective Bargaining Agreement which started in January 2015, employees demanded a P30 (USD 0.6) wage increase for 2015 and a P25 (USD 0.5)wage increase for 2016, but have since adjusted their demand to P10 ( USD 0.2) and P15 (USD 0.3) , respectively.
The management of the non-stock, non-profit hospital, however, asserted a mere P4.00 (USD 0.08) wage increase for 2015 and a zero wage increase for 2016, despite the hospital’s fund balance of P207 million ( USD 4,3 million) in 2014.
“Cebu Maternity Hospital’s brutality towards its employees is most revolting. Hospitals should be about caring for patients and for employees who take care of patients,” said Jerome Adonis, KMU secretary-general.
The labor leader said the hospital, which services an average of 25,000 patients yearly, paid its newly-hired employees the regional minimum wage of P353 (USD 5.35) , its regular employees wages slightly above the minimum, and the longest-standing maternity employee a mere P10,000 (USD 208) monthly.
“Employees who are responsible for the safe birth of a lot of babies should be given wages that are close to the living wage. It is simply horrendous that Cebu Maternity Hospital gave its employees alibing (burial) wage and is now killing their jobs,” Adonis added.
KMU said the employees’ demands should be heeded by the hospital’s Board of Trustees composed of the following: Dr. Iris Gerarda Jakosalem-Lastimosa, president; Dr. Ma. Lourdes Villegas, vice-president; Dr. Ma. Cristina Senerpida, secretary; Mrs. Andrada Castillo, treasurer; Mrs. Betsy Chiongbian, auditor; and 10 other members of Cebu’s political and business elite.
5. ILO complainant ComVal banana plantation workers hailed
We hail the more than 300 rank-and-file workers of Kuwaiti-owned Musahamat Farms in Pantukan, Compostela Valley for valiantly standing up for a union that will genuinely fight for their rights. Despite the harassment, intimidation, red-tagging, and veiled threats carried out by the company’s management, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), and the Associated Labor Unions-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (ALU-TUCP), the workers voted for a union that is genuine, militant and nationalist.
The union filed a complaint at ILO last 2015 regarding the trade union repression they are facing.
In August 2014, leaders of the Musahamat workers were coerced by the military and presented as surrenderees of rebel group New People’s Army. They filed a complaint before the International Labor Organization in February 2015 in relation to this incident. Before last Monday’s certification elections, a smear campaign was launched linking the Musahamat Workers Labor Union (MWLU), an affiliate of the Association of Democratic Labor Organizations (ADLO)–Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), to the NPA.
The Musahamat workers’ struggle is one illustration of the state of labor in the country, especially under the regime of Pres. Noynoy Aquino. Workers’ wages are pressed down, contractual employment is promoted, and workers’ right to form unions is violated. Workers face a tripartite of enemies: the greedy capitalist, the pro-capitalist union center, and the pro-capitalist government, often represented by its military forces. These forces will never allow workers to enjoy the most basic of labor rights without a fight.
We hail the Musahamat workers for remaining united and for continuing to fight for their rights. Despite the odds, they remained steadfast in struggling for higher wages, opposing contractualization, and exercising their right to form a union. They serve as an inspiration to workers all over the country. Their struggle shows that workers will face various obstacles and opposition when they try to form genuine, militant, and nationalist unions but with unity in fighting for labor rights, workers can win.
6. Workers bare National Minimum Wage demand, labor agenda for national elections
Workers gathered last March 14 at Welcome Rotonda and other parts of the country this morning to unveil their demand for a National Minimum Wage in the amount of P750 (USD 16), which is topmost in their labor agenda for the 2016 national elections.
KMU, which mobilized its regional chapters in Cordillera, Southern Tagalog, Negros, Panay, Cagayan de Oro and other regions, said there is no genuine minimum wage existing in the country at present and workers need immediate relief in the form of a significant wage hike to cope with the rising prices of basic goods and payments for services.
Dubbed “Boto ng Obrero, Hamon sa Kandidato (Workers’ Vote, Challenge to Candidates),” the labor agenda contained other pro-worker demands like the banning of contractual employment and safer workplaces, as well as nationalist demands like genuine land reform and national industrialization.
“There’s no genuine minimum wage in the country and wages have been pressed down so low as a result. Workers urgently need a National Minimum Wage and a significant wage hike embodied by the amount of P750 (USD 16),” said Elmer “Ka Bong” Labog, KMU chairperson.
The labor leader said the Wage Rationalization Law of 1989 is supposed to set the minimum wage in the country but instead carries out the regionalization of the minimum wage and other forms of attack on the latter.
The Department of Labor and Employment in 2014 stated that there are more than 1,000 wage levels across the country, and that almost half of private-sector workers in the country are not receiving the legally-mandated minimum wage.
“We are calling on all workers to unite and fight for our demand on the issue of wages and we are calling on the public to support our call. We are calling on all candidates, especially the presidentiables, to state their position on our demand,” Labog stated.
KMU said P750 (USD 16) is equivalent to 70 percent of the P1,088 (USD 22) Family Living Wage, or the amount needed by an average Filipino family to meet its daily needs, as computed by independent think-tank Ibon Foundation.
“We renew our vow to fight for higher wages. We vow to intensify this fight in the coming months and years in order to force the government and capitalists to heed our demand,” Labog stated.
7. Death of 4 miners in ComVal condemned
We are deeply saddened by the death of four fellow workers in a mining accident last February 27 in Sitio 1, Australia Tunnel, Mt. Diwata, Monkayo, Compostela Valley. We send our condolences to their families and friends. We hope that the three other miners who went missing would be found alive.
No worker should die because of their workplaces. The death of four miners after a flash flood could only be the result of grave violations of safety standards in the workplace. We are calling for an immediate and independent investigation into this accident and the death of our fellow workers.
Mining is one of the most deadly industries for Filipino workers. The inherent dangers of the industry often take their toll because of the greed of big capitalists who scrimp on costs for upholding safety standards in order to boost their already-huge superprofits.
We recall that after the death of nine workers in Semirara Mining Corporation in Caluya, Antique, the Department of Labor and Employment, through its secretary Rosalinda Baldoz, said it has no powers over mining companies’ compliance with safety standards.
The DOLE said it has no labor law compliance indicators when it comes to mining sites. It added that mine safety, and health and sanitation fall within the ambit of either the Department of Energy or the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, depending on the company’s end-product.
Mining, as most people know and as shown by numerous accidents, is a very dangerous occupation. It is most revolting to learn that the DOLE, the government agency that should be concerning itself with workplace safety, is only coordinating with the DOE and the MGB regarding the said issue.
This set up only goes to show that the government is not concerned with miners’ lives at all, viewing workers merely as the tools for extracting minerals. Its only concern is to protect the big profits of foreign mining corporations.
We reiterate our call to end large-scale corporate mining in the country, which is responsible not only for exploiting and killing workers, but also for destroying the environment and plundering the country’s patrimony. The government should provide alternative employment opportunities to Filipino workers.
Statement by WORKINS and ILPS Workers’ Concerns
Workers and people of different countries oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), was signed amid huge protests in Auckland, New Zealand, on February 4, 2016.
The signing by representatives of 12 countries marks the beginning of a processes by which their countries will begin to attempt to ratify the agreement. This process could take two years, and is a major opportunity for workers’ and people’s campaigns to block ratification in the TPP countries.
It would also enable multinational corporations and financial oligarchs to challenge national regulations on workers’ and people’s rights, foreign ownership on land and vital industries, and finance.
Multinational corporations especially from the US, have long been pushing for TPP. Widely recognized as one of the worst trade acts in history, it is no wonder that its contents have long been kept a secret by those responsible for its drafting who are mainly corporate lobbyists.
TPP is anti-worker and anti-people. Some of the most devastating consequences of TPP are:
- Workers will receive lower wages and their working conditions will worsen. Employers will be empowered and incentivized to drive down wages. The increased market power of multinationals will worsen the pressure both on governments to create means for legitimating lower wages and on local firms who compete for contracts with these multinationals by lowering the costs of their production by cutting wages and health and safety measures.
- Labor standards will be further eroded. Foreign firms will have the power to attack national laws that protect labor, environment, and citizens’ health through the much-discussed investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) tribunals, claiming that these laws ‘harm’ their investments. The tribunals are composed of private trade lawyers, and enable firms to sue national governments for unlimited amounts of tax-payer money. Apart from the fact that foreign firms can bypass national judicial systems, the ISDS tribunals feature little transparency, allow a ‘judge’ in one case to be a corporate advocate in another case, recognise no precedents, and allow for no appeal. In fact, these tribunals are not real courts at all, but are biased to investors.
- Workers and their families will have less access to health care and cheaper medicines. Medicine will become more expensive everywhere, but with especially grave consequences in poorer countries. Due to its expanded intellectual property rights, TPP rules will require changes in national laws in order to increase the monopoly power of pharmaceutical companies. With prices so high, many in need will have to struggle on, with their health issues untreated.
- Workers and people will be more vulnerable to climate change disasters. TPP will result in increased carbon emissions and it will empower corporations to challenge laws that ban environmentally destructive practices such as fracking. This is more serious given the recent failure of COP21 to produce any binding agreements toward combating climate change, which has already produced weather fluctuations resulting in devastating disasters particularly in the poorest countries which have the least infrastructural capacity to respond to them.
With the signing of TPP, now more than ever, workers must take action to block ratification. Our campaign to stop the TPP must continue to build momentum.
Let us oppose attacks on jobs, access to healthcare, environment, information and national sovereignty.
Let us oppose the TPP, its subsequent ratification by governments who signed, and the plans for more governments subservient to US policy to sign on to the TPP against the will of the people.
We support the Honda Workers in India!
(please attach photo: Honda)
More than 3,000 Honda Motorcycles and Scooters India (HMSI) workers of Tapukara plant in Alwar have faced trade union repression from the management and police. The union initiated the process of union formation last August 2015 and submitted a Charter of Demand last December 2015. After these, they started facing repression.
The 3,000 workers and hundreds of other factories gathered in Gurgaon last February 19. They demanded the reinstatement of terminated workers and for the management to stop the attacks on the workers’ right to form a union and to conduct collective bargaining.