Belgian union activists hound Citra Mina in int’l seafood expo

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PROVING the long – or global – arm of the labor movement, Belgian trade unionists picketed the international seafood trade event in Brussels and “visited” the Philippine pavilion to protest the participation of Citra Mina’s Philfresh Corp. for its blatant disregard for the workers’ rights and welfare.

Members of the General Federation of Belgian Labor (ABVV-FGTB) demonstrated outside the expo venue, distributed leaflets, talked to Philippine fishery and agriculture representatives (BFAR and DA), and waited for Citra Mina delegates to express their dismay over the systematic violations of labor and trade union rights in Citra Mina.

“This is just the start of a global action against Citra Mina. If it would not mend its ways – reinstate the workers it illegally sacked to bust the union, pay them backwages and recognize their union, etc. – this ‘rotten apple’ could even drag the whole Philippine tuna industry down with it,” Josua Mata, SENTRO secretary general, warned.

Mata revealed that the said solidarity-protest action of the ABVV-FGTB has likely attracted the attention of the European Union (EU), which should raise a concern from the Philippine fish exporters as the country was recently given GSP or Generalized System of Preferences Plus benefits, notably tariff privileges.

But the GSP Plus requires a country to adhere to 27 international conventions, including the ILO Core Labor Standards, many of which are brazenly violated by Citra Mina, Mata noted.

Among the growing list of Citra Mina’s “crimes” are the arbitrary termination of 238 workers in 2013 for organizing a union, various threats against striking workers and union supporters, purported “disappearances” onboard fishing vessels of workers who complain of company abuses, unsafe and slave-like working conditions, blacklisting to keep workers in line, forced labor, rampant use of labor and fishing subcontracting called “cabo” system, alleged human trafficking and illegal fishing.

Citra Mina’s cabo and illegal fishing practices have in fact resulted to the most recent controversy involving this increasingly notorious firm: Its contracted out fishing boat’s 43 fishermen were abandoned in a prison facility in Indonesia after they were apprehended last August. They were freed and repatriated back to the country in late February but only after a joint campaign by SENTRO and the global union IUF, and in coordination with the Philippine government.

The Citra Mina Group of Companies is a top General Santos City-based fishing and fish/seafood processing company owned by the family of Joaquin T. Lu. It is also the country’s second biggest tuna exporter under the Philfresh brand.

The Seafood Expo Global/Seafood Processing Global is the world’s largest seafood trade fair conducted annually and attended by more than 1,700 exhibiting companies from over 75 countries. This year’s expo runs from April 21-23.

SENTRO is the national labor center Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa; while the Geneva-based IUF is the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations.

New Generation Free Trade Agreements: A Threat to Life and Livelihoods

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Multi-Sectoral Network Calls On Philippine Government To Turn Back From Its FTA Ambitions

Statement of the EU-ASEAN FTA Campaign Network on day of Global Action to Defeat Free Trade and investment Treaties and the International Day of Peasants and Farmers Struggle

The EU-ASEAN FTA Campaign Network joins movements and campaign platforms across the globe mobilizing to stop free trade and investment deals and to promote an economy that works for people and the planet.

This year marks 20 years of the Philippines’ membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO) and government’s continuous adherence to the WTO’s policy of economic liberalization.

The last two decades have been characterized by the consistent pursuit by successive administrations of free trade and investment policies that have been detrimental to the poor and marginalized. These economic policies have decimated agriculture and undermined our food sovereignty; led to job losses, given rise to more precarious work and weakening of workers’ rights; stymied the growth of our own industries; degraded the environment and destroyed fragile ecosystems, and have worsened inequality.

The Aquino administration continues on this dangerous path of neoliberal and corporate driven economic policy with bilateral and regional negotiations for ambitious economic partnership agreements like the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (RCEP) under ASEAN, bilateral FTA talks with the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and the European Union, and the development of a roadmap for the country’s entry into the US-led Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP).

These new generation trade and investment agreements pose a very serious threat to the life and livelihoods of the poor and marginalized. These agreements go well beyond commitments to liberalize trade and encompass a whole range of economic policies that push for market liberalization of goods and services, stronger and more restrictive intellectual property rights, but also the easing of restrictions on investments, and greater investor protection.

These agreements are straitjackets that would lock us in to economic policies that serve the interest of transnational corporations and their global production networks.

The provision on intellectual property rights will undermine peoples’ access to medicines and life saving drugs. A highly restrictive IPR regime will go against the spirit and the letter of our national Cheaper Medicines Law and would ran counter to government’s own goal of ensuring the right to health.

The government should cease any effort to amend our national law and its implementing rules and regulations to accommodate the demands of big pharmaceutical companies and to comply with standards set by agreements like the TPP.

The investment chapter will commit us to a regime that guarantees greater protection and rights to corporations including the right to sue governments over public policies and regulations under an investor-state dispute settlement mechanism (ISDS). ISDS will make us more vulnerable to challenges and claims by corporations against vital public policies such as regulations on utilities like water and energy, minimum wage, public health, and environmental protection. Defending against these corporate claims will cost the government millions of dollars and will cause a further strain on public budgets.

We strongly urge the government to turn back from its FTA ambitions. Rethink its decisions to pursue these highly ambitious new generation agreements and instead initiate a nationwide and participatory process of review of our trade and investment policies starting with an assessment of the impact of the WTO on the lives and livelihoods of the poor and marginalized.

GAD2015ENweb

People and Planet before profits,
Defeat the free trade and investment treaties.

Workers, youths demand ‘respect’ from fast food giants #fastfoodglobal

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021 Global Day Of Action Image Strike

FAST food workers are demanding respect for their rights that are being withheld from them by fast food chains whose overarching goal is to further amass superprofits.

This is done by shortchanging the workers through low wages along with “charity” or unpaid turnover work, measly benefits, contractual jobs or those with no security of tenure coupled with “zero hour” contracts and union busting, according to the newly organized Respect Fast Food Workers Alliance (RESPECT!).

RESPECT! reiterated the fast food workers’ demands for dignified work and living wages as well as freedom to unionize without harassment and intimidation during a picket-protest held today at the McDonald’s restaurant near MRT Quezon Ave. station.

Youth members of the Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL-Youth-SENTRO) supported RESPECT in staging the picket, which was highlighted by the rendition of the classic song “Respect” and the giving of roses to McDonald’s crew with a note saying “You deserve RESPECT!”

McDonald’s was again chosen as the protest venue for it is the world’s top fast food chain and epitomizes the ugly side of the global fast food industry: the rampant use of cheap and contractual labor and the unabated anti-worker and anti-union practices.

Contractualization in McDonald’s is assured by its heavily use of franchises – more than 80 percent of its restaurants worldwide are owned and operated by franchisees; thus, 1.5 million of its 1.9 million global workforce work for franchises, which enables McDonald’s to perpetuate contractual labor and accumulate huge profits.

Likewise, as if receiving a cheap wage is not enough, workers further fatten the McDonald’s already bulging pockets by serving for free for a certain period of time each day, which is called “charity work” or “turnover work” – in the Philippines, it ranges from no less than 30 minutes to as much as 2 hours, APL-Youth revealed.

Zero hour contracts, meanwhile, are those with no specified work hours and which do not guarantee jobs or income, but which are now becoming widespread in the rapidly expanding fast food industry, the global union IUF said.

McDonald’s anti-worker and anti-union practices have also been widely imitated and intensified by both global and local brands in the fast food industry, including its American competitors Burger King, Wendy’s, KFC, among others, as well as homegrown fast food restaurants led by Jollibee.

The country’s top fast food chain, Jollibee is also notorious for its low pays and routine use of “endo” – acronym for “end-of-contract” workers or those with short-term and unprotected work contracts, which are also called “5-5-5” scheme where workers are endlessly hired and fired every five months to prevent them from having permanent or regular employment status.

Young workers are particularly vulnerable under these exploitative contracts since they comprise the bulk of the fast food workforce throughout the world, APL-Youth said.

The picket was held simultaneous with similar protest actions in many countries dubbed “Global Day of Action for Fast Food Workers” to underscore the struggles of the increasingly exploited and suppressed fast food workers.

One of the demands in this international action is for McDonald’s Korea to reinstate

Gahyun Lee, who was dismissed from her job in a McDonald’s outlet in Yeokgok, Gyeonggi province a few days after joining a protest action by US fast food workers in Los Angeles last September.

RESPECT! is a member of the national labor center Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO) and the Geneva-based IUF or the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations.

Defending the Human Right to Water as Key Fight to Securing Water for Our Future

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14 April 2015 – Participants of the 2015 Daegu Alternative World Water Forum

In Solidarity with South Korean Civil Society

We, water justice movements in Asia, express our solidarity with South Korean trade unions, civil society groups and social movements who are gathered in Daegu for the Alternative Forum—Water for All in Korea on April 13-14 in a common struggle to defend and realize our human right to water and keep water as part of the commons.

We stand with the Korean Government Employees’ Union (KGEU) in challenging the water privatization and corporatization model that is being imposed on Korea’s public water system and those of many other Asian countries. Already proven as flawed and anti-people, this model of governance that privileges the private sector has continuously been pushed by the World Bank, Asian Development Bank and other international financial institutions (IFIs), and adopted by governments in pursuit of neoliberal agenda. The very same neoliberal model has led to violations of the right to water and sanitation in many developing countries, transformed water into a commodity, made the market as the arbiter of value and allocator of resources and contributed substantively to deepening the multiple crises of water, food and energy.

We join their voices in exposing and resisting the “Green Economy” championed by the Korean government and its corporation, K-Water. An expression of warped, capitalist logic, the Green Economy believes in putting a price on nature and its functions as a way of safeguarding them, with little or no concern for people’s access, especially impoverished communities, and the water cycle and its interconnections. The wide support this has so far garnered from big business warns us of the deeper economic, social and environmental inequities and crises that this usher. It will only intensify the corporate capture of water and subordinate our societies and nature to financial markets. This model will not provide access to water and sanitation for all and will not support a sustainable world.

We also support the campaigns of KGEU and other Korean water movements in instituting the right to water and sanitation in policy and practice. We remain committed to sharing and strengthening links between and among our experiences against various forms of on-going water privatization projects, such as so called Public-Private Partnerships and corporatization measures under the banner of “New Public Management” in Nagpur, Manila, Osaka, Cebu and other major cities.

We join the fight to defend and reclaim public water through de-privatization and public-public and public-community partnerships and to build democratic models of water service provision, resource management and watershed protection. Water is a vital resource, without which all life on earth would perish. For this reason, water must remain in the public domain.

Our struggles and movements in Asia are slowly turning the tide of privatization. In Indonesia, citizens’ movements persisting in education, organizing and mobilization efforts, succeeding in pressuring the annulment of an 18-year World Bank-imposed water law policy and declare water as part of the commons. In India, the newly elected government in New Delhi committed to the provision of free basic water for the city’s residents, issued its own declaration recognizing water as a human right and rejected private for-profit services.

With these and many other gains, we will continue to advocate and campaign together with our South Korean and Asian counterparts, as well as water justice movements in other regions for democratic public control over water services and resources, targeting in particular, the IFIs the multinational corporations and colluding neoliberal states.

Through resolute and sustained actions, we will continue to steadily make strides forward in truly securing water for our future, based on the principles of human rights, gender equality, social justice, peoples’ participation, transparency, accountability and democratization of water governance.

IFIs, MNCs out of water! Water in people’s hands! No to commodification and privatization of water resources and services! Respect, protect and fulfill the human right to water!

Signed by:

  • Advocacy and Monitoring Network on Sustainable Development (AM-NET), Japan
  • Alliance of Government Workers in the Water Sector (AGWWAS), Philippines
  • All Nepal Peasants Federation (ANFPA), Nepal
  • Aniban ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (AMA), Philippines
  • Focus on the Global South (Thailand, Philippines, India and Cambodia)
  • Freedom from Debt Coalition, Philippines
  • Globalization Monitor, Hong Kong
  • KRUHA, Indonesia
  • Jagaran, Nepal
  • Jubilee South- Asia Pacific Movement for Debt and Development (Asia-wide)
  • Nadi Ghati Morcha, India
  • Our Rivers, Our Life – Philippines
  • Public Services Labor Independent Confederation (PSLINK), Philippines
  • Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO), Philippines
  • Towards Ecological Recovery and Regional Alliance (TERRA), Thailand
  • ZENSUIDO, Japan

Labor dispute in Coca-Cola escalates

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heycokeWORKERS belonging to 14 unions in seven Coca-Cola plants and warehouses across the country will stage 2-hour pickets today as part of their planned series of coordinated actions to protest the increasing anti-labor and anti-union policies of the Coca-Cola Femsa Philippines’ management.

“We have had enough of Coca-Cola Femsa’s lack of respect for workers’ and trade union rights,” Alfredo Marañon, president of the Federation and Cooperation of Cola, Beverage and Allied Industry Unions (FCCU), said. “And if Coca-Cola Femsa will not mend its ways, we will be forced to escalate our actions,” Marañon added.

The protesters are comprised of separate Coca-Cola unions of rank and file daily, monthly and sales workers. They work in Coke’s facilities in Davao City; Bacolod City; Pavia, Iloilo; Canlubang, Calamba City, Laguna; Meycauyan City, Bulacan; City of San Fernando, Pampanga; and City of Ilagan, Isabela, Tagbilaran City.

Marañon, concurrent president of the San Fernando Coca-Cola Rank and File Union (SACORU), decried the management’s continuing refusal to openly provide basic company information required by law, particularly financial statements, which are needed by the workers and their unions in CBA (collective bargaining agreement) negotiations.

This and other “bargaining in bad faith” practices have unnecessarily resulted to CBA negotiation deadlocks between management and two incumbent unions in the Davao and Canlubang plants. The unions of Coca-Cola south sales force – encompassing the provinces south of Metro Manila – and in the Bacolod plant are also accusing the local managements of blatant CBA violations.

Unions in Davao and Bacolod are now strike bound. Those in Canlubang are about to join them soon. “The management’s use of ‘red baiting’ and threats failed to stop workers from overwhelmingly voting to go on strike,” Marañon said.

In addition, Marañon disclosed that Femsa has imposed its “Project Frequency” that now threatens the sales force workers in Antipolo, Lagro, Batangas and other areas.

At the same time, Femsa has outsourced the payroll system and implemented the work shifting method by replacing the long-time company practice of “calendar method,” which both caused not only chaotic salary payment and work schedules but resulted also to income losses due to unpaid hours of work.

“It is about time for Femsa to scrap this disastrous practice of outsourcing even a key administrative and regular function of payroll payment, and to revert back to the calendar method to ensure that there will be no income loss or reduction,” Marañon said.

Ironically, Femsa, the world’s second largest bottler of Coca-Cola, has proudly announced only last November that it will infuse additional $500 million investments in the country or a total of $1.7 billion by the end of 2015. It also claimed that since taking over the CCBPI’s majority stake in 2013, Femsa Philippines has “created nearly 2,000 jobs in the country,” now among the reported 8,000 employees working in 22 Coca-Cola plants nationwide.

“To prove its boast, Coca-Cola Femsa Philippines must ensure that labor and trade union rights are respected, where workers enjoy the fruits of their labor, job security is maintained, and trade unions are not suppressed,” Marañon said.

FCCU is an affiliate of the national labor center SENTRO (Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa) and the global union IUF (International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations).