Stop Violence Against Domestic Workers! Respect Migrant Workers’ Rights!

2014.11.25noviolenceDWs1.1

To mark today’s International Migrants Day, almost a hundred Filipino domestic workers in Hong Kong belonging to the Progressive Labor Union (PLU-SENTRO-IDWF) trooped to the consulates of various migrant sending countries and the Hong Kong Central Government Offices.

Joining the Filipino trade unionists in picketing the consulates of the Philippines, Thailand and Nepal, as well as the HKCGO, were members of the Coalition for Migrants’ Rights (CMR), Federation of Asian Domestic Workers’ Unions (FADWU) and the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU).

“For far too long, migrant workers, particularly migrant domestic workers, continue to toil under slave-like conditions,” Sheila Estrada, chairperson of PLU, said, urging for “enough of violence, enough of discrimination, it is high time for migrant workers everywhere to be respected as workers, as human beings.”

Around 3 percent or 320,000 of the Hong Kong population is composed of foreign domestic workers, in which 50 percent are from the Philippines, 47 percent from Indonesia, and the rest from Thailand, Burma (Myanmar), Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

The rally highlighted the call for all countries to ratify and fully implement Convention No. 189 (Decent Work for Domestic Workers) of the International Labor Organization (ILO).

In addition, the PLU called on the Philippine government to live up to its promise of ensuring that migration would truly be just one – not the primary – of the many employment options of the Filipinos.

“President Aquino is at the homestretch of his 6-year term, and yet we haven’t seen any policy change that would ensure full employment in the Philippines,” Estrada said.

“Instead of jobs creation, what we see is the continuing destruction of decent and regular jobs, where various forms of precarious work becoming more prevalent, even among public sector workers,” she added.

The PLU said that as long as there is no full and decent employment in the Philippines and its much-vaunted economic growth continues to fail to generate the much-needed quality jobs, millions of Filipinos would be forced to seek the proverbial greener pastures abroad.

PLU is an affiliate of the domestic workers’ union under the HKCTU as well as the global union International Domestic Workers Federation (IDWF). On the other hand, PLU’s mother organization in the Philippines is the national labor center Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO).

Power to the People Coalition calls for People’s Resistance Against the Aquino Emergency Power

The passage of the Joint House Resolution 21 giving President Aquino emergency powers at a time when the people are still reeling from typhoon Ruby and despite popular clamor against this Congressional moves—is a blatant disregard of the people’s will and rights. Like thieves in the night, the congressmen passed the resolution which continues to stand on a shaky legal and factual basis, despite protests from various quarters. To this date , Secretary Petilla and even Malacanang miserably failed to justify the need for such power using Section 71 of EPIRA as its legal shield.

This will lead us to doubt the real intentions for the emergency power. The DOE even admitted that the emergency power will not ensure that there will be no power rate hike next year.

One thing is clear though. Private corporations generating power supply for their needs and will be mobilized in the Interruptible Load Program( ILP) of the government will stand to benefit from this emergency power. It is not surprising why the likes of Henry Sy of SM is eager and willing to participate in the said program. The government’s solution to resolve the power crisis means pushing for its pending and new coal power plant projects that face legal and popular opposition, particularly from impacted communities. Therefore, we continue to assert that the proposed measures will only benefit corporate interest and will further violate human rights of the people and destroy the environment.

There is no long-term solution to the perennial power supply crisis and the unending rise in power costs other than for the government to repeal EPIRA, junk the privatization regime, and put under public control the power industry. A decisive component of this is to restore to Government its planning and regulatory powers apart from restructuring ownership of power generation, transmission and distribution in favor of the State and the public.

The Power to the People coalition will never stop and will continue to campaign against this dangerous and destructive emergency power measures of the government. The people need to be vigilant and active in stopping any measure that will lead to their harm and the betrayal of their interests and sovereign will. They should oppose any emergency measure that will ram through dirty and harmful energy projects like the new coal power plants, destroy the environment and exacerbate our climate crisis. We will welcome the year 2015 with continued protest actions if the government will remain intransigent and ride roughshod over the people’s rights and interests and ignore the snowballing public demand for the scrapping of the emergency power and the repeal of EPIRA.

Let this be a warning and a notice to this power-hungry administration.

NO TO EMERGENCY POWER!

REPEAL EPIRA NOW!

NO TO COAL ! YES TO RENEWABLE ENERGY !

Unions press for better treatment, policies for hotel housekeepers

CONTINUING the initial salvo fired during the recent Bonifacio Day rally, activists from the trade unions and other mass organizations pressed anew for better treatment and policies for hotel housekeepers by picketing today the office of the national association of hotel housekeeping managers in Manila.

Led by members of NUWHRAIN-APL-SENTRO, the protesters urged the officials of the Executive Housekeepers Association of the Philippines (EHAP) to heed their demands aimed at addressing the plight of the “overworked, underpaid, abused and perpetually contractual” hotel housekeeping staff.

The picket coincided with the observance of the National Human Rights Awareness Week, which includes the International Human Rights Day on Dec. 10, to reiterate the call that “workers’ rights are human rights.”

Members of EHAP – quite a misnomer since it is actually composed of managerial personnel – are usually the direct supervisors of “true” housekeepers; thus, the former are the first-line implementors of unjust and harmful practices against the housekeepers in the HRCT (hotel, restaurant, catering and tourism) industry.

NUWHRAIN noted that the campaign obviously targets also the top management and employers in the hospitality industry, specifically in the hotel sector, and not merely their subordinates among the EHAP executives.

This drive is part of the international campaign dubbed “Make Up My Workplace,” which was started last year by the global union IUF because of the worsening plight of hundreds of thousands of housekeepers – majority are women and many are migrants – in the booming hotel industry around the world.

Despite their equally important functions and the regular nature of their work, hotel housekeepers more often get lower wages and fewer benefits; but have heavier workloads, more prone to workplace hazards and sexual harassment or outright assaults, and typically remains contractual – effectively denying them the economic and political gains that may be enjoyed by regular workers, including the right to join a union and to receive additional rights and benefits from a collective bargaining agreement (CBA).

The IUF lamented that the job of hotel housekeepers are seen as “unskilled” which justify their lower wages, although they: work lifting heavy loads (regularly lifting king-sized and larger mattresses); work within strict time limits (15 or even 12 minutes to clean a room) and unreasonable quotas or number of rooms to be cleaned each shift (15 or as high as 30); use toxic chemicals and cleaning solvents; operate commercial sized vacuum cleaners; and perform 10 to 15 different cleaning tasks in one shift.

NUWHRAIN added that some hotels do not have trolleys forcing the housekeepers to carry or put in a bag on their backs heavy linens, towels, cleaning materials and tools, which frequently cause back pain, slip disc, joint and knee problems.

This blatant disregard for or violation of occupational safety and health standards (OSHS) may result not only to temporary injury but also to permanent disability of the workers, NUWHRAIN warned.

It added that the hotels’ “closed door” policy coupled with requiring chambermaids to wear miniskirts while cleaning the room may make them vulnerable to sexual harassment or actual rape from some guests.

Looking down on the value of work of the housekeepers as merely “auxiliary” or “non-essential” – plus the selfish motive to amass bigger profits – hotel employers, led by the global hotel chains, resort to contracting out housekeeping services from outsourcing agencies, NUWHRAIN added.

Thus, a NUWHRAIN study showed that housekeepers with regular or permanent employment comprised only of less than 20 percent of the total number of housekeepers in all 5-star international hotel chains in Metro Manila.

Included in this global campaign are the demands for the ILO (International Labor Organization), the UNWTO (United Nations World Tourism Organization), the national governments, and hotel companies to promptly address these issues and concerns of the housekeepers in the hospitality industry.

Foremost of these demands are the regularization of employment of housekeepers, strict observance of OSHS, wages and benefits befitting their permanent work status, clear measures to prevent sexual harassments in workplaces, among others.

NUWHRAIN is the National Union of Workers in Hotel, Restaurant and Allied Industries, which is affiliated to the IUF, the APL or Alliance of Progressive Labor and the national labor center SENTRO (Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa). The Geneva-based IUF is the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations.

 

SENTRO condemns the dispersal of pro-democracy protest in Hong Kong Calls for the unconditional release of all those arrested

“Shame on you Leung Chun-ying!”

Mung Siu TatThis was the chant of almost a hundred labor activists belonging to SENTRO who trooped to the Chinese embassy’s consular section in Makati City today to condemn Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying for breaking up the democracy encampment in Admiralty section of Hong Kong.

“If the political elites in Beijing and their lackey, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, think that they can stump out the people’s yearning for democracy by cracking down on Occupy Hong Kong, they are completely wrong,” Edwin Bustillos, the spokesperson of SENTRO, said.

SENTRO demanded the immediate and unconditional release of all pro-democracy activists who were arrested in Admiralty, including at least three leaders of the independent Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU) who were arrested for ‘obstruction’: Chief Executive Mung Siu Tat, construction union leader Ar Man and Organizing Secretary Fredrik Fan.

“The struggle for democracy will continue to grow even after Occupy Hong Kong,” Bustillos added, referring to the protest camps around Hong Kong that grew into mini-communities that lasted for 74 days.

Occupy Hong Kong erupted after at least 59 were injured and 89 arrested when the police assaulted a peaceful protest in Sept. 28 against China’s “dogmatic refusal” to respect the Hong Kong citizens’ right to universal suffrage or the right to vote and be voted.

The pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong vowed that there would be another round of occupations in the future. The phrase “We will be back” was seen scribbled on tents, roads and walls of Admiralty.

Extra-judicial killings, other human rights violations persist under ‘tuwid na daan’ – Nagkaisa!

A culture of impunity translated into extra-judicial killings (EJK) and other forms of human rights violations against leaders and labor organizers continue under the ‘tuwid na daan’, a coalition of major trade unions and labor organizations in the country, Nagkaisa!, said in a statement on the eve of the celebration of International Human Rights Day.

Since 2011, Nagkaisa! is engaged in dialogues with the Aquino administration on several labor issues, including some 62 unsolved cases of EJKs involving labor.

Nagkaisa! said the most recent in the cases of unsolved EJKs was the murder of a labor organizer in Negros Occidental. Rolando Pango, a full time organizer of Partido Manggagawa (PM) was gunned down in Binalbagan town in Negros Occidental on Novermber 29, 2014.

“Prior to his death, Pango was deeply involved in both the agrarian and labor disputes in Hacienda Salud, a 135-hectare sugar plantation in Barangay Rumirang, Isabela leased and managed by Manuel Lamata,” said PM Chair Renato Magtubo.

Pango was instrumental in organizing the plantation workers in Hacienda Salud who in June applied the land under CARPER coverage. Salud workers has also filed of a case of illegal dismissal before the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) against Lamata for unlawful termination 41 workers.

PM and Nagkaisa is calling on both the national and local governments to render immediate justice to this case.

Josua Mata, Secretary General of Alliance of Progressive Labor–Sentro, said Nagkaisa will be raising this issue before the Tripartite Industrial Council (TIPC) and the DOJ panel investigating the EJKs.

“Like Ruby, solving cases of EJKs in the country is a slow-grind,” said Mata.

Before Pango, another PM organizer, Victoriano Embang, leader of Maria Cecilia Farm Workers Association (MACFAWA) in Moises Padilla, Negros Occidental was also killed on December 29, 2012. A failed assassination attempt against his brother, Anterio Embang, followed few months later, February 28, 2013.

A Negrense himself, Magtubo said Negros remains a ‘labor hotspot’ because of strong resistance by landlords to agrarian reform and their outmoded serf-type treatment of their laborers.

“Perhaps this regional feudal context has escaped the eyes of the labor department and the national government. Or they simply don’t care,” added Magtubo.

Aside from EJKs, Nagkaisa! is also alarmed at the resurgence of other forms of human rights violations.

Last October, Antonio Cuizon, president of the Panaghiusa sa Mamumuo sa Carmen Copper, was arrested on trumped up charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives. The union and the management were then in the thick of labor dispute when the case was file against Quizon.

But the most widespread of human rights violations, Nagkaisa! said, is the violation of labor’s right to freedom of association and collective bargaining.

“The onslaught of state-sanctioned contractualization schemes have effectively disarmed workers of their ability to defend themselves, through their unions, against many forms of abuse and exploitation,” concluded Magtubo.