Sentro welcomes pres’l bets raising the ‘endo’ issue, dares them to present concrete steps to curb contractualization

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File photo

AFTER being ignored as a pressing problem for so long, the “endo” or rampant contract labor has finally been elevated to a more mainstream issue when all the five presidential candidates acknowledged and openly opposed it during their third and last debate yesterday that was broadcast live nationwide.

The national labor center Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa, however, challenged the presidential bets to present detailed measures on how to end the worsening “end-of-contract” (endo) labor or contractualization and not just spout motherhood statements or good sound bites to gain votes.

“The trade unions have been campaigning against ‘endo’ or contractualization for many years now, and closely linked to this, we have also pushed for the Security of Tenure (SOT) bill in Congress. But it has repeatedly been blocked by Big Business and their allies in the past three Congresses already and it has languished there for almost 10 years now,” Josua Mata, Sentro secretary general, said.

“Since all of the presidential hopefuls are incumbent government officials in the legislative as well asthe national and local executive branches, which provide them at least a stronger platform to fight ‘endo’ practices, we wonder what they have been doing before regarding this issue or why they have to wait for the upcoming elections or the presidential debates to express their supposed opposition to contractualization,” Mata asked.

Aside from low pays and scarce benefits that burden the vast majority of Filipino workers, a rapidly growing number of the labor force is driven to contractualization or precarious work arrangements, including the “endo” or “5-5-5” scheme, where workers are endlessly hired and fired every five months to prevent them from having permanent or regular employment status, Sentro revealed.

This highly exploitative and illegal tactic enables unscrupulous employers to avoid giving mandatory bonuses and other benefits to would-be regular workers, and contractual employees are likewise not allowed to join unions, which in turn can negotiate for higher wages and additional benefits and ensure many other rights for union members, Sentro explained.

Sentro slams the Easter Sunday carnage in Pakistan, calls for social justice to fight all forms of terrorism and bigotry

Aftermath of a  bomb blast site in Lahore Pakistan on March 27, 2016. (AFP Photo)

Aftermath of a bomb blast site in Lahore Pakistan on March 27, 2016. (AFP Photo)

“I WISH I hadn’t brought my daughter to the park today (but) … This is the only recreation we can afford for her. What is her fault?”

Thus, a distraught working-class father lamented when, on March 27, his little girl became one of the casualties in the suicide bombing at a funfair in a popular public park in Lahore, Pakistan, which supposedly targeted Christians celebrating the Easter Sunday. Over 70 people were killed, many women and children, and mostly in fact were Muslims, and more than 300 others injured.

The dead and maimed now belong to a long and growing list of innocent, helpless and noncombatant victims of senseless and horrific terrorism spawned by religious extremism of Al-Qaeda and Taliban in Afghanistan, Pakistan’s neighbor, which have reared their ugly heads also in the form of their equally sadistic counterpart, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, which continues its killing and destruction spree in its occupied territories and has recently unleashed its orgy of bombings and shooting in France and Belgium.

The Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa strongly denounces the Lahore carnage, a merciless and indiscriminate murder of ordinary working-class families who have nothing to do with the dubious and double-faced US-led global “war on terror” and who were only strolling in the park and letting the kids play on the rides and swings. This reprehensible slaughter shattered the happy scene of bonding between poor parents and their children as well as the relatively peaceful coexistence of the majority Muslims and minority Christians in Lahore.

Sentro expresses its fervent opposition to any form of extremism and fundamentalism that use and propagate twisted and self-serving interpretation of Islam and jihad that let loose intolerance, mayhem and brutality; as we fervently oppose distorted and egocentric versions of Christianity – and all religions for that matter – that set off racism, bigotry and many types of violence, including the rule of the few rich over the overwhelming poor majority, which are personified by Aryan or White supremacists, a variety of Christian fundamentalist sects and even other fringe groups or apologists like Donald Trump.

This cycle of violence and counter-violence will never end as long as the great inequality in wealth and opportunities continue – as this great inequality creates and worsens poverty, muzzles our voices, and ensures the dominance of prejudices and the tyrannical rule of the few. These are the social inequalities and injustices that the trade unions and the entire social movements are fighting. Indeed, our thoroughgoing fight for justice is also a thoroughgoing fight for a lasting peace.

Sentro formally endorses Leni, Walden, Akbayan after MOA signing

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MORE than a week after declaring its support during the International Women’s Day rallies, Sentro formally endorsed vice-presidential candidate Leni Robredo, independent senatorial aspirant Walden Bello and the Akbayan party-list following the recent signing of their respective memorandum of agreements (MOAs) with the national labor center.

Signed last March 19 during separate meetings on the sidelines of the Sentro 4th General Council confab in Quezon City, the MOA binds the parties upon signing to “jointly and steadfastly promote and pursue (Sentro’s) labor and other social advocacies,” which were enumerated in the documents.

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Included here are the general labor and social agenda drafted by Sentro, each with still specific items, such as promoting secure and quality jobs as well as “green” jobs; living wage; social protection and services; strengthening trade union, political and human rights; refiling of certain significant bills that were blocked or rejected or set aside in the past Congresses; and filing other proposed laws and policies that will truly benefit the basic sectors, and ensure national sovereignty and territorial integrity.

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More comprehensive and updated Sentro priority legislative and executive agenda were presented to Akbayan, such as on various international and national issues affecting the working people; asset reforms; sustainable employment; living wage, social wage and restructuring the wage determination system; strengthening trade union rights; Labor Code reforms; issues of specific groups of workers; working women’s priority agenda; socialized housing; and institutionalizing workers’ representation.

Some of the top proposed laws that the endorsed candidates will support in the legislative and executive branches of the government are the pending or blocked bills on Security of Tenure (SOT), Freedom of Information (FOI), Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), Maternity Protection, and Anti-Discrimination.

Meanwhile, although Robredo has agreed to champion Sentro’s labor agenda, there is still an ongoing discussion with her on other important issues and concerns, like Sentro’s vehement opposition to the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) forged between the Philippine and US governments.

Each MOA was “individualized” in its introductory paragraphs to cite the achievements and track record of each candidate in the pursuit of the rights and welfare of the people, particularly the workers and other basic sectors, and – since all of them are either current or former legislators – for advancing other “other progressive and nationalist” causes “inside and outside the halls of Congress.”

Sentro holds ‘people’s Passion play,’ highlights workers’ woes

 Photo by FDC

Photo by FDC

THE PASSION of Jesus Christ is not merely a tale from a bygone time because it is still happening among the majority poor and oppressed people.

This was reiterated by members of the national labor center Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa as they staged today their annual “people’s Passion play” in observance of the Lenten season, which portrays or reenacts the many “crosses” of most Filipinos that weigh them down.

Sentro members from the trade unions, urban poor and youth sector marched from Morayta to Mendiola, near Malacañang, some of them wearing Roman soldier costumes armed with papier-mâché spears that signify specific everyday and long-term problems, such as job contractualization, low wages, scarce benefits, high costs of living, demolition of urban poor communities, inefficient public transport system, trapo (traditional politics) or elite “democracy,” neoliberal policies, among others.

One Sentro member acted as “Kristong Manggagawa” or Christ the Worker, who is being crucified or persecuted by a socioeconomic structure where a few gets richer and rules the overwhelming majority that remains poor or becomes poorer.

During the program in Mendiola, the actors playing the Roman soldiers stabbed “Christ” with their spears that symbolized the various issues and problems plaguing the common citizens.

The protesters dared the national and local candidates and party-list groups in the upcoming May elections to “decisively break” the “Roman spears” that represent and perpetuate poverty and many other forms of injustice.

In Mendiola, Sentro members also linked up with other allied organizations, led by the Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC), which earlier conducted an activist interpretation or a “people’s contemporary version” of the “Pabasa” or “Pasyon” (Pabasa ng Pasyon or “Reading of the Passion”), which is based on a 16th-century epic poem introduced by Spanish friars and adapted by the early Filipinos. It narrates the life, suffering, death and resurrection of Christ and recited by devotees through nonstop chanting in different Philippine dialects during Holy Week.

Poll bets should ensure ‘decent work, secure future, freedom from violence’ to get women’s vote – Sentro-Women

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Sentro Women with World March of Women on International Women’s Day

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WOMEN activists used the International Women’s Day (IWD) today as a launch pad to flex their political muscle for candidates in the May 9 elections who would truly address the pressing concerns on job insecurity,climate change, violence against women as well as the LGBT, militarism in Mindanao and EDCA.

Hundreds of women members of the national labor center Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (Sentro-Women) have called for that and other related demands during concerted IWD marches, pickets and other mass actions in Manila, Batangas, Cebu, Davao, General Santos and Marbel (Koronadal, South Cotabato).

In Manila, Sentro-Women joined the more than 20 mostly women organizations led by the World March of Women (WMW-Pilipinas) in a march from the LRT Doroteo Jose station to Mendiola, near Malacañang.

Prior tothat, at a prearranged time in the morning, several women activists took the women-only LRT lead train cars from Tayuman and Central stations. They handed roses and leaflets to the commuters that explain the IWD and the women’s current issues while serenading them the iconic “Bread and Roses”song.

The activists then urged the passengers to ask their respective local or national candidates to deal with the issues on contractual and low-paid work that torment many Filipinos, the disastrous and mainly human-induced climate change, the unabatedviolence and discrimination against women and LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) community, militarization and political killings in Mindanao, and the seemingly one-sided Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement or EDCA between the US and the Philippines, which could cause more sexual assaults like the “Nicole” and Jennifer Laude cases and could also further inflame the brewing tensions in the West Philippine Sea.

Getting off at the Doroteo Jose station, the women activists then met with their colleagues waiting for them and proceeded with their march to Mendiola, where they held a program and capped off with “I am a Woman” flash dance.

Meanwhile, Sentro-Women introduced the national candidates that they would support in the May polls, after scrutinizing their platforms and holding a series of dialogues with the political hopefuls as well as consultations with key leaders and members of the labor center.

They are Walden Bello and Risa Hontiveros, both senatorial aspirants; Leni Robredo for vice-president; and the Akbayan party-list.

Other national candidates may be added after undergoing the same exhaustive process of selection. Sentro chapters at the community or municipal, city and provincial levels have the discretion to pick their local bets but must satisfy first the general qualifications laid down by the national leadership.

“Bread and Roses” was first coined in a speech – “The worker must have bread, but she must have roses, too” – by Rose Schneiderman, an American trade unionist, socialist and feminist. It is an appeal for both just wages and working condition with dignity, and one of the most memorable phrases in the labor and women’s movement in that historic era in the early 1900s in the US.

It later inspired the poet and writer James Oppenheim to write the “Bread and Roses” poem. This poem is closely associated with the successful 10-week huge strike of textile workers in Lawrence, Massachusetts from January to March 1912. It was first turned into a song in 1976 by activist singer-songwriter Mimi Baez Fariña.