Sentro urges China to free Chinese labor activists

freechinese

LI JIANGUO
Chairman
All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU)
10 Fuxingmenwai St., Beijing, PROC
info@acftu.org.cn

Dear Mr. Li:

The Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (Sentro) – Center of United and Progressive Workers (Center) – is a national labor center in the Philippines which is comprised of trade unions and other workers’ organizations in the private, public, informal and migrant sectors. It is also a member of the country’s largest labor coalition called Nagkaisa (United).

We were informed by our colleagues in the international trade union movement of the ongoing Chinese government’s crackdown on independent labor rights NGOs and activists in Guangdong province, a major manufacturing hub in southern China, since early December last year. We learned that more than 20 staff and volunteers from at least four organizations – Panyu Migrant Workers Service Center, Laborer Mutual Aid Group, Foshan Nanfeiyan Social Work Services Organization and Haige Workers Center – were apprehended by the authorities, and about seven of them have reportedly remained in police custody: Zeng Feiyang, Zhu Xiaomei, Tang Jian, Meng Han, Peng Jiayong, He Xiaobo, Deng Xiaoming.

Sentro is aware of the Chinese government’s allegations against these workers’ advocates which range from the anticipated but arbitrary charge of “disturbance of social order” to the dubious “embezzlement.” However, what they are doing is not at all “seditious” or “illegal” – helping uplift the terms and conditions of the workers in Guangdong, which should have even been supported by the government in the first place, especially because promoting and protecting workers’ rights are enshrined in the Chinese Constitution.

We respectfully urge ACFTU, as China’s officially recognized workers’ organization as well as for being a titular member of the ILO’s Workers Group, to defend the ILO basic labor rights to freedom of association or right to organize and to collective bargaining (Convention Nos. 87 and 98) by imploring the Chinese government to: (1) promptly release all the detained labor activists; (2) stop the clampdown against labor activists and organizations and other related civil society groups; and (3) respect and protect the fundamental rights of all Chinese workers.

Sincerely,

 

FRANK MERO
Chairperson

 

JOSUA MATA
Secretary General

Sentro calls anew the South Korea government to end the clampdown against trade unions

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14 December 2015

HER EXCELLENCY PARK GEUN-HYE
President
Republic of Korea
Blue House
Seoul, South Korea
president@president.go.kr.

Thru: HIS EXCELLENCY KIM JAE-SHIN
Ambassador
Embassy of the Republic of Korea
Taguig City, Philippines

Dear Madam President:

This is the second letter we are sending you in a span of a few days only – the first was on December 9, when we expressed our utmost concern and displeasure over your government’s sweeping and unwarranted crackdown on South Korea’s organized workers led by the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU).

We emphasized in our first letter that Sentro – a major national labor center here in the Philippines – is one with the KCTU and the international labor movement in strongly calling for your government to withdraw the proposed labor law “reforms,” end the clampdown against the KCTU and other trade unions, cancel both the existing and planned repressive regulations that suppress human, labor and trade union rights and civil liberties, free all the incarcerated trade unionists and activists, especially those thrown into prisons because of the current crackdown, drop all the charges against them, and fully restore all the democratic rights that were trampled upon since the start of the offensive versus the Korean workers and their supporters.

And now Sentro, along with the labor and social movements throughout the world, would like to convey our most vehement condemnation of the arrest and imprisonment of Bro. Han Sang-gyun, KCTU president. To spare the Jogye monks of “great inconvenience and difficulty” and the desecration of their temple in Seoul – brought about by the siege and eventual forced entry of hundreds of police troopers to nab Bro. Han Sang-gyun, who sought refuge there – he turned himself in to the raiders on December 9, after a 24-day standoff. We are aghast at the brazenness and overkill of your government and security forces in forcefully nabbing Bro. Han Sang-gyun whose only “crime” was standing up for the inalienable and legitimate rights of the workers. His was a peaceful and legal advocacy; he was not an armed and dangerous criminal or terrorist. We are likewise outraged by the police assault as a blatant disrespect for the sacred grounds of the Jogye temple.

We respectfully but firmly urge you, Madam President, to please release from jail Bro. Han Sang-gyun as well as other imprisoned trade unionists and activists as a sign of goodwill and openness to genuinely resolve the brewing conflict there as soon as possible. The world is intently watching you and it will see you in a positive light if your administration will treat the workers and citizens fairly and squarely, and if you will not return the country to the road of either civilian authoritarianism or military dictatorship.

Sincerely,

FRANK MERO
Chairperson

JOSUA MATA
Secretary General

Sentro asks South Korea government to end clampdown against trade unions

kctu2

HER EXCELLENCY PARK GEUN-HYE
President
Republic of Korea
Blue House
Seoul, South Korea
president@president.go.kr.

Thru: HIS EXCELLENCY KIM JAE-SHIN
Ambassador
Embassy of the Republic of Korea
Taguig City, Philippines

Dear Madam President:

The undersigned represent the Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (Sentro) or Center of United and Progressive Workers, a national labor center here in the Philippines comprising of trade unions and other workers’ organizations in the private, public, informal and migrant sectors. Sentro also belongs to the country’s biggest labor coalition called Nagkaisa (United), which likewise fervently advocates for labor and trade union rights, democratic freedoms and solidarity with workers throughout the world.

We were informed by our colleagues in the international labor movement as well as from the Korean trade unions themselves of the escalating crackdown of your government against the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), its affiliate organizations and other organized workers in South Korea. We are deeply concerned of the series of police raids on union offices and the sweeping arrests and detention of union leaders. We are particularly appalled by the attempts to forcefully seize Bro. Han Sang-gyun, KCTU president, who is now holed up in a temple in central Seoul. We are both shocked and disgusted by the arbitrary and illegal moves of the government and its security forces to ban even peaceful assemblies or protest actions; and in branding the protesters as like the ISIL, which is both a dangerous and silly accusation, and in trying to prohibit through legislation the covering of one’s face during demonstrations, which is patently ridiculous.

We are very much aware that these indiscriminate and draconian measures are clearly stubborn efforts by the government to stop at all costs the growing opposition of the Korean workers and trade unions against the proposed labor law “reforms” – which would slash compensations of senior workers, hasten the employers’ ability to terminate workers, increase the number of temporary agency workers in sectors that they are currently not allowed, further weaken protections for subcontractual workers, and restrict the union’s right to check the employers’ power to implement workplace rules that are harmful to the workers’ interests. Moreover, we are mindful of the fact that South Korea ranks lower in labor protection among the majority of OECD (Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development) rich member countries – contrary to the government’s fallacious claim that the country’s labor protection laws and policies are “too high” and hinder “job creation,” and which supposedly prompted the proposed labor law amendments.

Sentro strongly denounces the heavy-handed attempts of the government and its security forces to prevent the Korean workers and citizens from freely expressing their lawful and inalienable rights to peaceably assemble and to air their grievances and aspirations. The massive mobilization of workers and citizens last November 14 was a resounding manifestation of their rejection of the socioeconomic and labor agenda of the government; thus, its dogged attempts to ban the succeeding December 5 mass actions were a desperate bid to thwart the mounting challenge to its authority. Sentro is doubly alarmed by the increasing authoritarian tendencies of the President, which are disturbingly reminiscent of the military dictatorship of your late father, President Park Chung-hee, who ruled South Korea from 1961 until 1979.

Sentro echoes the calls to withdraw the proposed labor law “reforms,” end the clampdown against the KCTU and other trade unions, cancel all the repressive regulations that suppress human, labor and trade union rights and civil liberties, free all the incarcerated trade unionists and activists, revoke the arrest orders against Bro. Han Sang-gyun and others, drop all the charges against them, and fully restore all the democratic rights that were trampled upon since the start of the campaign versus the Korean unions.

Sincerely,

FRANK MERO
Chairperson

JOSUA MATA
Secretary General

Sentro echoes call for ‘zero carbon, zero poverty’ ahead of COP21

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ANDRES Bonifacio would have been a staunch environmentalist also if he were alive today, and would surely support the international labor movement’s twin and inseparable goals of “zero carbon, zero poverty” as well as the view that corporate “climate criminals” are the main culprits in the disastrous global warming.

This was aired by the members of the national labor center Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (Sentro) as they marched to Mendiola and held a rally near the Malacañang Palace today to celebrate the 152nd birth anniversary of Bonifacio and to air the people’s demands in the ongoing global climate summit in Paris, France.

Dubbed COP21 or the 21st annual meeting of the Conference of the Parties, also known as the 2015 Paris Climate Conference, it will be conducted from Nov. 30 to Dec. 11 and thousands of delegates from the governments, intergovernmental organizations, United Nations (UN) agencies, civil society and nongovernment organizations (NGOs), and the private sector – read: corporations, including the world’s leading polluters of air, water and land – will attend in the many sessions of this very crucial gathering. President Aquino has already left for Paris yesterday.

Aside from about 25,000 official delegates, thousands more are expected to troop to Paris, especially from the civil society, including environmentalist groups and trade unions from different countries, to press for “climate justice,” which, Sentro said, seeks to really heal and protect the Earth and to effectively stop the unabated environmental abuse primarily perpetrated by global corporations and industrialized nations.

Reputable scientific studies show that while an increase in the natural discharge of carbon dioxide (CO2) – the main gas that causes the greenhouse effect, which traps the gases in the atmosphere and results to devastating climate warming – normally takes thousands of years, its manmade counterpart has caused unprecedented and tremendous increases in just 120 years.

In fact, “about half of human-caused CO2 emissions between 1750 and 2011 happened in the last 40 years” that was largely triggered both by the use of fossil fuel and by industrial processes, which, in turn, “made up of about 78 percent of the total increase in greenhouse gas emissions from 1970 to 2010,” a report revealed.

It added that this climate change has given rise to “the warmest 30-year period (in 1983 to 2012) in at least 1,400 years,” which is no longer surprising since humans – mostly due to their factories, mines, deforestation, cars, and other related activities and equipment – add about 4.3 billion tons or gigatons (GT) of CO2 into the atmosphere every year.

Thus, a Sentro paper stated that the COP21 will again fail, like the past climate summits – amid the intense lobbying and muscling in of corporate interests and the backing of the rich countries’ governments – if a business as usual scenario prevails, which will further surge CO2 emissions “from 30 GT in 2010 to 43.3 GT in 2035, which is consistent with a catastrophic increase in average global temperature of six degrees Celsius, at least.”

This is very alarming since the generally accepted threshold for global warming is 2 degrees Celsius, but has skyrocketed since the 1950s only, the report added.

Global warming, for instance, is causing typhoons that are stronger, more frequent and with longer duration; weather extremes from long dry periods or droughts (El Niño) to seasons of unusual heavy rains (La Niña); dramatic melting of ice glaciers; severe upsurge of sea levels; immense flooding; monstrous hurricanes, and other never before seen natural calamities, which could easily surpass the ferocity and extent of supertyphoon “Yolanda” (Haiyan) that battered central Philippines in 2013.

Sentro, however, stressed that addressing climate change requires nothing less than radically changing the prevailing socioeconomic system, which enriches and empowers only the few and which disregards the environment amid their greed to wantonly exploit the riches of the planet.

Social activists, including environmentalists and trade unionists, said that aside from getting rid of the capitalist and neoliberal system, the world needs to institute “energy democracy” and “climate jobs” that would substantially lessen the carbon footprint and effectively tackle the worsening climate change.

Energy democracy, Sentro explains, means “an emergency transition to renewable energy by reclaiming public control over energy systems,” while climate jobs pertain to millions of employment opportunities that are both readily available and feasible and “that can be generated by shifting to a low carbon economy,” including using and developing electric public utility vehicles (PUVs), renewable energy generation and distribution (solar, hydro, wind, etc.), reforestation, coastal and riverine area rehabilitation, construction of climate resilient housing, and many others.

The urgency and life and death relevance of truly addressing the climate problem is even acknowledged by Pope Francis himself in his recent “Laudato si” encyclical, Sentro added, and it echoed a statement by a global trade union leader that there are “no jobs on a dead planet.”

Social activists have emphasized that the Paris summit “can be an important moment to say ‘No’ to the corporate agenda and the false solutions it entails,” adding that “setting a global carbon price and leaving it to the ‘market’” is not the answer – as history and experience have proven that the so-called market economy “is not up to the challenge and that what’s needed is less market and more democracy.”

Labor groups push for ‘just transition’ in March for Climate Justice

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Echoing the view of global trade unions that a shift to lower carbon economy is not just necessary but inevitable to address the worsening climate crisis, the coalition of labor groups Nagkaisa marched with multisectoral groups in the March for Climate Justice held in Quezon City this morning.

The group denounces corporate greed for spawning both a humanitarian and environmental crisis as manifested in the intensification of exploitative working conditions and the acceleration of climate change.

“When corporations rule under the framework of unlimited greed, workers endure the worst kind of exploitation. And when climate crisis worsened as tons of carbon are emitted into the atmosphere by oil and energy companies, mining and other hard industries, everyone suffers the brunt most particularly the poor people living in most vulnerable countries like the Philippines,” said Nagkaisa in a statement.

The group pointed out that while the country is less in carbon emission, her position of vulnerability can generate a powerful voice for demanding climate justice during negotiations.

“Unfortunately our government tailgated weakly behind the US position of simply having Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC) process instead of playing hardball in pressing a return to binding cuts based on science and common but differential responsibility and which will limit temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius,” lamented Nagkaisa.

The group said that even with INDC process and actual submissions, the UNEP still anticipates a 4-6 degrees Celsius, rendering the COP ineffective.

Workers were also apprehensive of the fact that while governments are active in climate negotiations, the next one in Paris next week, most of them didn’t have a clear framework on how to fine-tune this transition to lower carbon economy in a manner acceptable to the people.

Nagkaisa is pushing the framework for a ‘just transition’ which promotes social justice and employment, requires active government intervention, and demands proportionate responsibility from all stakeholders, including business.

“The Philippines, for instance, has not explicitly declared a timeline to when fossil-fuelled power plants are finally phased out so that the transition is clearly plotted in favour of renewable energy and the creation of climate jobs,” the group said.

The coalition believes further that thousands of climate jobs can be created in the country in the shift to renewable energy, disaster response and building climate resilient communities that includes resettlement in climate-proof buildings and housing projects, as well as the greening of mass transport system.

“Funding is main requirement for this shift. In climate negotiations, the rich industrial nations must be made responsible in funding the transition of most vulnerable nations,” the group added.

Meanwhile, Nagkaisa said transition policies should not, in any way, transgress into the framework of decent work since regular job and social security help build the resiliency of many people against the wrath of Mother Nature.