Delete Anti-Labor Phrase in the BBL

File photo

The Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO) is appealing to the Senators for the removal of the phrase “in accordance with the law to be passed by the Bangsamoro parliament” in the BBL, referring to the fundamental rights of the workers.

The offending phrase is in section 10 on labor rights under Senate Bill 1717, the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law currently under deliberation in the Senate.

“While we support the enactment of the proposed legislation, we are disturbed at the notion that a universal and fundamental right such as workers’ rights would be subject to the whims of a regional government,” Josua Mata, Secretary General of SENTRO said in a statement.

The placement of the phrase is also critical as it was formulated to include key phrases such as the right to self-organization, collective bargaining agreement, and the right to strike, the labor leader said. The formulation is such that these rights would be contingent on the interests of the future parliament, which may not necessarily be in favor of the working people.

According to Mata, if global experience is an indicator, a decentralized judiciary and policy making on labor standards do not inspire confidence, consistency of implementation, or hope of protection.

Experiences in India and Pakistan show that the imposition of national laws regarding labor rights hardly happen in their autonomous regions because the local elites would usually invoke “regional autonomy,” Mata said. In the United States of America, most well-known country with decentralized governments, 28 states have imposed Right to Work legislation that prohibits union security clauses in collective bargaining, thereby weakening the labor movement.

There is no reason why the same thing could not happen in the Philippines. The weakening of the central government’s capacity to regulate erring local elites amidst entrenched political dynasties, the impunity of local political magnates is pretty much guaranteed. The local labor movement will be left without any recourse or support from any other level of government, considering the very possible invocation “domestic concerns” as a ready excuse.

Indeed, we see a grim horizon for the labor movement should the offensive phrase in the BBL is retained.

Mata also noted that the proponents of indigenous people’s rights succeeded in convincing lawmakers to put stronger provisions protective of their rights by specifically invoking the IPRA Law. “If they can ensure incorporation of IPRA, then why can’t they do the same with labor,” he added.

Women’s Groups Decry Violence as Women’s Month Opens

On the second day of women’s month, women leaders expressed their opposition to the policies of President Rodrigo Duterte, including Charter Change, which they say aggravate violence against women.

“The killings on account of President Rodrigo Duterte’s anti-drug campaign continue and will likely increase if his term is extended when the Charter is changed,” stated Jean Enriquez, Executive Director of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women – Asia Pacific (CATW-AP) and Philippine Coordinator of the World March of Women (WMW). Enriquez expressed the group’s vehement opposition to Charter Change or ChaCha as the administration party’s proposals reflect the erosion of the Bill of Rights and Social Justice provisions of the 1987 Constitution. “We are currently helping 118 widows, mothers and orphans left defenseless by the government’s war on the poor, but they will rise,” said Enriquez.

Jelen C. Paclarin, Executive Director of Women’s Legal and Human Rights Bureau stated that: “the Duterte administration has repeatedly disrespected the 1987 Constitution and Magna Carta of Women with his anti-women remarks which are always passed off as “jokes”. These actions only show his deep-seated misogyny that further contributes to the normalization of sexual violence against women and girls. Access to justice has become even more problematic and challenging for women victims of sexual violence especially now that the judicial institutions that are supposed to protect the people and ensure legal remedies for women are also being threatened by this administration. This government has continued to disregard the rule of law and allows blatant discrimination against women without any State sanction.”

Paclarin further added that “no one deserves to be violated and discriminated. We deserve no less!”

The statement is then followed by Lisa Garcia, Executive Director of Foundation for Media Alternatives (FMA), “misogyny is also about controlling and punishing women who challenge male dominance. This anti-women culture is very evident in our society wherein women who dare to be vocal are made fun of and insulted by people, and their opinions are disregarded by the President himself as he reduces them to mere body parts. Women are attacked with gender slurs, hateful and vitriolic comments, and even threats of rape as a tactic to intimidate and force them into silence. This culture of misogyny creates a chilling effect on every woman’s freedom of expression.”

Judy Pasimio, National Coordinator of LILAK (Purple Action for Indigenous Women’s Rights), stated that the stature of Senator Leila de Lima as senator did not spare her from the vicious and malicious attacks by the President and his men, and has been imprisioned for standing up for the truth and human rights. “Imagine how vulnerable the indigenous women feel right now as they fight for their lands and their rights?” She added that, “out there in their communities, they face armed groups and big corporations forcing them off their ancestral domains for the minerals and natural resources in there.” She lamented that as indigenous women resist, they are branded as “militants or communist-sympathizers – labels which seek to justify harassments, threats and killings of their leaders.”

“With Duterte saying he himself will pick out mining and plantation companies to enter the ancestral domains, this runs parallel to the effort to remove protection of our environment in the Charter Change and we are afraid that violence will intensify among indigenous communities, who continue to resist land-grabbing by corporations, and wholesale theft of their resources,” added Pasimio.

According to Nice Coronacion, Deputy Secretary General of the labor group SENTRO, “for years, workers have been demanding a shift from taxing consumption (a regressive tax system) to one that is based on income (progressive taxation).” She said that “unfortunately, Duterte’s TRAIN, as it is currently crafted, is taking the wrong way.” Coronacion stated that they welcome the lower tax on personal income but rejects regressive impact of excise taxes.

“The workers’ gain in Personal Income Tax (PIT) will be offset in a regressive manner by the imposition of excise taxes on fuel products and the lifting of VAT exemptions in the sale of specific goods and services,” said Coronacion.

“Meanwhile, feminization of labor is increasing and women are in the vulnerable situation in the world of work, particularly contractualization,” added Judy Miranda, Secretary General of Partido Manggagawa. “It should be highlighted that since most of them experienced the 5-5-5 scheme or ENDO, most of them are already tax-exempted but will bear the cost of increasing prices of basic goods and services.” The labor groups asked, “Is having TRAIN worth it if you are part of the working poor? Even if part of the law is giving subsidies to the poor. Now, we have a more delicate issue: What happens with the poor once the subsidies are stopped 2-3 years from now? And even today, it’s not yet implemented.”

“So the key issues of the working women and of the working people have not been addressed. Yet, we are having an on-going debate to amend the constitution to give way for a new form of government that does not even guarantee inclusive development. Studies have shown that there is no correlation between a federal form of government and inclusive development,” said Coronacion.

To this day, proponents of federalism continue to argue that transitioning to a federal structure guarantees more economic activity. With research done by academics and policy advocates in the Philippines and abroad—and for that matter, even our own in-house researchers in the Labor Education and Research Network (LEARN) and SENTRO—we have found no clear correlation or guarantee whatsoever. The form of government has never guaranteed an automatic shift into equitable economic development. If any, they have only affirmed that government form shifts only normally tend to strengthen already-existing institutional features. “If the nature of Philippine institutions already foster anti-development, are we really planning on strengthening those inequalities at the expense of selling us a promise of change,” said the women leaders.

The group invited the public to their action on March 8, International Women’s Day, which will begin at 8AM in front of the University of Sto. Tomas in España. They will march to Plaza Miranda and hand flowers to survivors of EJKs, and will hold a program. Their main themes are “Kabuhayan, Katarungan, Kapangyarihan sa Kababaihan,” and “Rise, Resist, and Reclaim (our rights, our bodies and territories).”

DTI should impose its weight against rising inflation, not on labor

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) should impose its weight against rising inflation rather than keeping the labor price low under the policy of contractualization.

The DTI has always been on the side of business, thus, when Secretary Ramon Lopez stated that contractualization “is not unfair to workers” he was essentially parroting the line of the Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP) whose bottom line position on this issue is to keep the price of labor low to remain competitive. For DTI and ECOP, the best way to keep the price tag of labor low is to keep contractualization as the prevailing policy of the Duterte administration.

The labor movement has repeatedly rejected the “win-win” formula of DTI and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE). Our bottom line is change: Direct hiring must be the new policy. This is the only way workers can actually enjoy their constitutional right to security of tenure. The DTI and DOLE position is for workers to enjoy security of tenure in their respective manning agencies and not in their principal employers as contained under Department Order 174 of DOLE. This “win-win solution” has led to a farcical situation where majority of the more than 45,000 workers reportedly “regularized” under DO 174 last year now find themselves “regularly employed” by agencies and not by the principal. The rule should be, as its name denotes, manpower agencies and other service providers should merely be treated as agents of the principals.

This is the main reason why we have been pushing for an Executive Order to correct this distortion and rectify decades of injustice imposed upon millions of workers. The Labor Secretary, and in this particular case, the President, can prohibit contractualizaton under the Labor Code.

Section 2 of the labor-proposed EO provides relief for this impasse as it states that: “Contracting or subcontracting when undertaken to circumvent the worker’s rights to security of tenure, self-organization and collective bargaining and peaceful concerted activities pursuant to the 1987 Philippine Constitution is hereby strictly prohibited. Security of tenure refers to the direct hiring relationship between the principal employer and employee.”

Contractualization under the proposed EO is still recognized. Only that the types of job that can be contracted out be done upon consultation with members of the National Tripartite Industrial Peace Council (NTIPC). What the DTI wants is to perpetuate the norm of contracting out almost all jobs in the guise of management’s exercise of their prerogative. This regime, for over two decades, led to a dramatic change in employment relations, with “middlemen employers” such as manning agencies and “labor cooperatives” dominating the trade.

This norm also has dissipated almost all rights guaranteed to workers by the constitution and labor laws, from security of tenure, right to organize, collectively bargain and to strike in accordance with law, and to be represented in the formulation of policies affecting their welfare.

Again, to DTI: Contractualization is not unfair to workers? It seems like this agency is now headed by a feudal lord.

Trading workers through manpower agencies who act as middlemen in a trilateral employment relationship is feudalism, which is clearly unjust. For more than two decades, this re-feudalization of labor has become the norm and keeping the policy will perpetuate this abominable condition of poverty and inequality amid economic growth.

Hence, when we stated that the buck stops now with the President, it is because we believe the impasse can be resolve in favor of justice. It’s either change as promised by the President, or business-as-usual as demanded by ECOP.

NAGKAISA Labor Coalition

Time is up: The buck stops now with the President on the issue of endo

NAGKAISA! Labor Coalition
28 February 2018

Contractualization was a top billing issue during the 2016 presidential election. And it was the President who made a campaign promise that the moment he becomes the Chief Executive, contractualization will stop. The trade union movement responded with enthusiasm and accorded the President the courtesy and latitude of managing his plans by participating in all the summits, workshops, and dialogues organized by the government on this issue.

Several times he asked leaders of Nagkaisa labor coalition that he be given more time to realize his pledge – the first was on February 27, 2017; then on May 1, 2017; and the last was on February 7, 2018 where he asked for another extension until March 15. On these occasions, President Duterte would always say that contractualization is anti-labor and anti poor as it brings in hardship and poverty upon millions of our workers.

Furthermore, it was also the President who asked Nagkaisa leaders during the Labor Day dialogue held in Davao last year to draft within 10 days an Executive Order (EO) that he can sign to correct the labor-rejected Department Order 174 issued by the Department of Labor and Empoyment (DOLE) in March last year and to rectify the more than two decades of failed framework of regulation. Nagkaisa religiously complied with all these processes and waited for the final response of the President.

Now, a few days before his self-imposed deadline and the President is no longer asking for time and more drafts but for a compromise. The buck stops now with President Duterte. The labor-drafted EO which seeks to bring back direct hiring and institutionalize prohibition as the general rule on contractualization but recognizes that there are types of jobs that can be contracted out as along as it passes through consultation with the National Tripartite and Industrial Peace Council (NTIPC) is the fairest middle ground or “compromise” that labor can take. A watered-down version of an EO is unacceptable.


Strike Looms in Coca-Cola as company threatens destruction of jobs

Photo by Jun Santos

Today, at least a hundred workers belonging to various unions working together under the banner of the Coalition of All Coca-Cola Workers’ Unions and their allies, swooped down on the headquarters of Coca-Cola FEMSA Philippines Incorporated (CCFPI) at Netlima in Bonifacio Global City, to once again protest the company’s plan to destroy more than 600 regular jobs, including union leaders, many of whom are young workers.

“Coca-Cola claims to be the No. 1 soft drinks company in the country, and yet, by busting the union, Coca-Cola is acting like the worst corporate thug,” the coalition said in its statement. “We have no recourse but to take strike action,” the coalition said.

In an overwhelming fashion, workers in TRCI voted last 23 February 2018 to go on strike. Meanwhile, most of the sales force unions have filed their respective Notices of Strike.

Twenty-three of those to be laid-off are union leaders, including four union presidents.  CCFPI claims that the lay-offs are being done to develop its new business model in order to conform to the challenges in the industry and the larger economic environment.

The CCFPI management and the Federation and Cooperation of Cola, Beverage, and Allied Industry Unions (FCCU-SENTRO/IUF) had an agreement which requires the management to hold discussions with the union on labor relations issues, including violations of international guidelines for industrial and labor relations like the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. The restructuring and mass lay-off on are outright violations of the above. This is outright, unabashed union busting. The lay-offs are nothing but CCFPI destroying jobs and people’s lives.

The CCFPI management uses the implementation of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) as a façade for their union busting. The workers and their families are not gullible to accept such elementary reasoning and alibi.

The Coalition of All Coca-Cola Workers’ Unions calls on the DOLE to hold the CCFPI management accountable for their callous decision to destroy their workers’ jobs. The Coalition also demands for the CFFPI management to present concrete evidence for the need to restructure and let workers be consulted in any action related to this. The Coalition also demands a joint agreement with the management that will assure them that there will be no restructuring without negotiation with our unions.

Oppose Coke’s blatant disregard for workers’ rights! 

No to Contractualization!

Stand with the Coalition of All Coca-Cola Workers’ Unions!