To our sisters and brothers in the Finnish trade union movement


Militant greetings of solidarity and comradeship from your co-workers and co-trade unionists from the Philippines!

The Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO) – Center of United and Progressive Workers – a national labor center here in the Philippines, expresses its utmost support and offers its warmest applause for the mass protest actions and other related campaigns that will be staged by the organized workers in Finland, led by the Central Organization of Finnish Trade Unions (SAK), the Finnish Confederation of Salaried Employees (STTK), and the Confederation of Unions for Academic Professionals in Finland (AKAVA).

Your expectedly huge demonstration at the Helsinki Railway Station Square on Friday, September 18, rightfully deserves to be actively supported not only by all Finnish workers but also by the international labor movement and all workers anywhere, including the Filipino workers and trade unionists. We are one with the Finnish workers and trade unions in hoping for your success in pressuring the rightwing coalition that currently rules the Finnish government to stop its sweeping, arbitrary and unilateral actions and plans to significantly weaken labor and trade union rights as well as to substantially reduce social welfare benefits, including health and education budgets – which were all won from decades of hard-fought struggles of the Finnish labor movement, enjoyed for years by all Finnish people, and envied throughout the world.

The slashing of many workers’ benefits including unemployment insurance, overtime and Sunday pays, sick leaves, vacation leaves, among others, are not only utterly revolting and unjust but an ominous sign as well. Right-wingers and neoliberals, if not prevented and defeated, will eventually impose a social order where trade unions and other people’s organizations are effectively emasculated, and wealth and power are concentrated in a few.

If the ruling parties in the Finnish government refuse to heed the calls of the workers and the citizens, let the September 18 protests swell into a more massive and widespread collective actions of the Finnish trade unions and civil society to restore the rights and benefits that were taken from them.

Long live the Finnish workers and trade unions!
Fight and defeat rightwing and neoliberal plots against the workers and trade unions!
Workers of the world unite!

Botched ‘balikbayan’ box policy: Lina’s folly, Aquino’s saving face


Manila Bulletin Photo

THE COLLECTIVE and swift vigilance and wrath of the overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), their families and the civil society have forced President Aquino to backtrack yesterday on his implicit support of his customs chief’s plan to arbitrarily check “balikbayan” boxes, which are considered as “integral part of the family relationship” among those working and living abroad and their loved ones left in the country.

“Thanks, but no thanks to P-Noy; his about-face was merely to save his face, to avoid further backlash against his government and his anointed ones in next year’s elections. Because before he yielded to public clamor versus the balikbayan box policy, he actually encouraged this idiotic plan,” Josua Mata, SENTRO secretary general, said.

Mata added that “the morons who thought of that plan have apparently ignored the huge sacrifices and contributions of the millions of OFWs, the multibillion-peso smuggling of illicit or highly taxable items as well as the dumping of hazardous wastes from other countries that thrive and persist under the very noses of corrupt customs personnel, and the availability of nonintrusive inspection methods that could detect contraband goods without the need to pry open the humble balikbayan boxes sent by the OFWs to their families here.”

After widespread protests, including in the social media and from lawmakers, Malacañang belatedly ordered Alberto Lina, Bureau of Customs (BOC) commissioner, to stop his much-maligned idea – that in fact harasses the OFWs, not the big-time smugglers, criminals and terrorists – and to instead conduct noninvasive large-sized X-ray and K-9 examinations of all containers of OFW boxes.

Physical scrutiny of a specific balikbayan box will be allowed only if the X-ray or K-9 inspection found “derogatory findings,” but strict protocols will be followed, including the presence of a representative from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) or an OFW association, and CCTV (closed circuit television) units will be placed to monitor the inspection areas to deter pilferage or theft, bribery and vandalism.

Earlier, Lina – the former BOC head during the Arroyo regime, and appointed by Aquino last April – announced that balikbayan boxes, which typically contain the usual household wares and gifts, would be subjected to random inspections to prevent the entry of illegal materials or to assess the contents for duties and value-added taxes.

NCR fast-food workers lose P1,000 a month from daily ‘free work’


Respect Fast Food Workers’ Rights activists in one of its campaigns last April 15, 2015


MORE THAN P1,000 every month are “counted out” – called “wage theft” – from the already low salary of every McDonald’s crew in Metro Manila through an unwritten but rampant practice in the entire fast-food industry, where workers provide additional but unpaid work in their workplaces for a certain period of time every day.

Based on a series of surveys starting in 2013 that focused on the working conditions in key McDonald’s branches in the National Capital Region (NCR), this and other findings on the plight of the mostly young fast food workers were highlighted by the youth group APL-Youth-SENTRO in today’s celebrations of the International Youth Day (IYD).

This paper – part of the APL-Youth-SENTRO’s Respect Fast Food Workers’ Rights campaign – was also discussed in four pre-IYD forums attended by school- and community-based youth organizations in the NCR last month and early this month, and was presented in the International Fast Food Workers’ Conference on June 6-8 in Detroit, Michigan.

Called “turnover work” in McDonald’s restaurants, “charity work” in Jollibee outlets and nameless in other fast-food joints, this “cost-saving” and profit-increasing scheme is defined as an extra work “a fast food crew needs to accomplish after her/his normal shift.”

This “free work,” which could also occur before the start of the employees’ official work schedule, includes washing the dishes or wiping the eating and cooking utensils for those assigned in the kitchen; accounting of the day’s sales for cashiers; cleaning the rest rooms and mopping the floors; collecting and disposing the trash.

Surveyed were McDonald’s crews in branches inside and outside shopping malls, most of them were working in 24-hour outlets and most were directly operated by the Golden Arches Development Corp. (GADC), the Philippine franchisee of the US-based McDonald’s, which is in turn the world’s largest fast-food chain.

Among the main results are:

• The average daily turnover work is 41.46 minutes.

• Length of turnover work does not vary (statistically) whether or not a branch is in a mall, if it operates 24 hours a day or not, or if it is run by GADC or by an independent franchisee. This implies that turnover work is indeed a widespread practice.

• Based on an average of a 6-hour workday (McDonald’s is also notorious for having no fixed shift, especially the number of working hours in a day), turnover work constitutes 10.33 percent of the work of the crews.

• Based on the P466 minimum wage in NCR (during the survey), the average daily turnover work – or “foregone wage” – amounted to P40.25 or P1,006.23 per month or P12,074.74 per year. Thus, a branch employing 60 workers could realize a “savings” of P724,484.38 every year.

• The said figures will further increase if the current P481 daily minimum wage in the NCR is used. Thus, the wage lost per worker will be: P41.55 per day; P1,246.39 per month; and P14,956.70 per year. Likewise, the annual “savings” (or additional profits) per branch with 60 crews will reach to P897,401.70.

Taking cue from the survey result, the APL-Youth-SENTRO dubbed its street play held to celebrate today’s 15th IYD as “Quarenta y Uno” in reference to the more than 41 minutes of turnover work of each fast-food worker, majority of whom are in their teens or are young adults.

This year’s IYD will focus on the issue of wage theft – perpetrated by a company through the work rendered for free for the fast-food joints by their workers – in the highly profitable fast-food industry.

McDonald’s mascot, Ronald McDonald’s, will be symbolically tried in the street play for the “crimes” of wage theft, low wages and scarce benefits, contractualization and union-busting, the APL-Youth-SENTRO, said. A concert in the evening will follow at the Marikina Freedom Park, where guest singers, bands and other artists will perform to hundreds of youth activists.

APL-Youth-SENTRO affiliates in the provinces will also stage pickets, rallies and street plays, including those in Davao, General Santos and Batangas.

McDonald’s pioneered the widespread use and abuse of contractual labor in the multibillion-dollar global fast food industry – setting off today’s familiar hiring of mostly youthful workers with low wages, scarce benefits and no security of tenure, or derisively called “McJobs.” It also became infamous for its almost fanatical resistance to trade unions.

McDonald’s notorious anti-worker and anti-union practices are widely imitated in the fast food industry, especially by other fast food transnational corporations like Burger King, Pizza Hut, Wendy’s, KFC and many others, which all operate also in the Philippines.

The said practices are likewise followed by the local fast food firms, including the industry leader Jollibee, which is infamous too for its low pays and routine use of “endo” or “end-of-contract” workers with short-term and precarious work arrangements and also called “5-5-5” scheme where workers are endlessly hired and fired every five months to prevent them from becoming permanent or regular workers.


Aquino’s Sona report: Conveniently selected; eluding realities

FAILED. A grade given by SENTRO workers to Pres Aquino for failing to address the workers' needs

FAILED. A grade given by SENTRO workers to Pres. Aquino for failing to address the workers’ plight

GOODBYE P-Noy. Enjoy your retirement from the presidency.

But how about the workers and the vast majority of citizens you will leave behind who remain excluded from the much vaunted economic growth that your administration has supposedly achieved after almost six years in power? How about the proposed bills for various social programs – especially the Security of Tenure (SOT) and the Freedom of Information (FOI) bills – that would ensure the rights of the underprivileged as well as strengthen government transparency and accountability, but which Malacañang and Congress have continued to ignore?

Your economic team has trumpeted that your government has posted the highest five-year average hike in the gross domestic product during the past four decades, when the mean annual growth rate of 6.3 percent was registered from 2010 to 2014, one of the biggest in Asia. If the economy grows to at least 7 percent this year, it would also be the fastest six-year GDP average since the 1950s. Likewise, under your helm the Philippines has been granted recognitions by local and international pro-business institutions for its rising “growth” and “competitiveness,” including the much coveted global investment ratings.

However, reality from the ground attests that poverty is still pervasive if not worsening despite the “growths” and the cosmetic solutions to it, like the conditional cash transfer (CCT) dole-out under the 4Ps (Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program). The enormous wealth of the few top richest Filipinos included in the Forbes’ super rich list as well as the top Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE)-listed firms and the country’s Top 1000 corporations have further soared to hundreds of billions and tens of trillions of pesos – amid the hand-to-mouth existence of many Filipino families and the starvation wages of millions of Filipino workers. In fact, the mandated minimum wages are practically miserable to sustain a decent life; for instance, the NCR’s basic daily pay, the nation’s highest, has actually rose (real value) by a mere P17 or less than 5 percent since the start of Aquino’s term. We’re still not talking here of the yet rampant non-compliance of minimum wages and other labor standards.

Likewise, even the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), an international forecasting and advisory body to business groups, admitted that in spite of the rapid economic growth in the Philippines in the past years, the poverty rate would remain high due to the unabated and sharp income divide between the few rich and the majority poor, thus the country “will remain one of Southeast Asia’s poorest economies, with a lower level of GDP per head (merely $2,843 at market exchange rates) than the majority of the region’s other major economies.”

Your labor, economic and statistics team has boasted that the unemployment rate last year has substantially dropped to 6.8 percent, purportedly the lowest in 10 years. Really? But what’s the real score here? This preposterous claim has to be taken with a grain of salt. In fact, 66 percent of the jobs generated in 2013 to 2014 are either self-employed or own-account workers (38 percent) or working without pay in own family-operated business or farm (28 percent). Underutilized workers, on the other hand, or the unemployed and underemployed have been cut by only by over 149,000 and thus remain a high of 27 percent of the labor force. These are hardly “decent” jobs at all or those with fair wages and benefits and with security of tenure.

An independent research institution also disclosed that last year the ranks of jobless Filipinos have likely risen by at least 100,000, the underemployed by at least a million, and part-time workers by at least 1.5 million. In 2014 there were no less than 4.3 million unemployed and 7.9 million underemployed or a total of 12.2 million people without jobs or with precarious jobs, which mirrors the deteriorating job insecurity and contractualization.

These facts and figures revolve only in the income and employment areas that were heavily tampered with by Aquino and his speechwriters in his last State of the Nation Address (Sona) yesterday. But these areas effectively spell the present adversities and the bleak future being faced by the Filipino people – as long as neoliberal economic programs remain imposed in the country, and as long as the elites and their minions continue to rule and rob us.

Carry On Admin Hans! Your Way is the Right Way!

Nagkaisa! labor coalition throws support for POEA Chief Hans Leo Cacdac

Nagkaisa! labor coalition throws support for POEA Chief Hans Leo Cacdac

An Affirmation of Support to POEA Administrator Hans Leo J. Cacdac for making POEA truly fulfill its mandate to protect our OFWs through effective regulation and monitoring of recruitment agencies

We, migrant workers, CSOs, trade unions and migrants rights advocates, in the country and overseas, reiterate our firm support to Administrator Hans Leo J. Cacdac for making POEA truly fulfil its mandate to uphold and protect the rights of Filipino migrant workers through effective regulation and monitoring of recruitment agencies and deployment of our OFWs.

We recall how we advocated for 12 long years for the repeal of the deregulation provisions of RA8042, namely Sections 29 and 30 if only to emphasize the important role of POEA as a regulatory body that will ensure protection for our migrant workers at the point of recruitment and deployment. The Philippine Congress heeded our call and enacted RA 9422 amending RA 8042 in January 2007.

RA 9422 effectively strengthens the regulatory functions of the POEA. Section 1 of RA9422 states that the POEA “shall regulate private sector participation in the recruitment and overseas placement of workers by setting up a licensing and registration system. It shall formulate and implement, in coordination with appropriate entities concerned, when necessary, a system for promoting and monitoring the overseas employment of Filipino workers, taking into consideration their welfare and the domestic manpower requirements.”


POEA Administrator Hans Leo J. Cacdac

POEA, under the able leadership of Administrator Cacdac, fulfills its mandate to the letter, with due diligence but also with respect to due process, with the end in view of ensuring protection and promotion of the rights of Filipino migrant workers, particularly the more vulnerable amongst them –the migrant domestic workers and other low-skilled workers.

Some of the positive developments in the POEA under his watch include the following:

  • OFW-friendly front line service personnel that includes Admin Hans himself taking his turn to sit at the POEA information desk on the ground floor and in one of the counters at the Balik Manggagawa Division of the POEA.
  • Simplifying documentation processes and securing OECs for OFWs by setting up online systems
  • Fast and real-time verification of status of recruitment agencies through the POEA website
  • Indefatigable efforts to forge MOAs with LGUs for collective efforts to undertake pre-departure information and education campaigns at the community level, prioritizing communities far from city centers;
  • Enhanced visibility of POEA to the public through effective media engagements
  • Ensuring the consultative platforms with stakeholders are working like the Overseas Land-based Tripartite Consultative Councils and various bilateral forums as well; making readily available and accessible the POEA directorate no less for purposes of dialogue and consultations;
  • Conversely, making himself accessible and personally available to OFWs and families through social media and twitter
  • Reviewing POEA Rules and Regulations for overseas employment to make it more relevant to the needs of the times and how best to serve the interests of the OFWs and families
  • Promoting ethical recruitment and now re-opening debates on the Private Recruitment Agency Convention, ILO Convention 181, with the slant to ratification of the Convention
  • Implementing and monitoring more effectively POEA rules and regulations on private sector recruitment activities
  • Engaging more actively and effectively, with other agencies of government, in the campaign against illegal recruitment and in combatting human trafficking
  • Ensuring faster resolution of administrative cases at the POEA with firm resolve and meting out appropriate sanctions and penalties against erring recruiters and other violations
  • More visibility in carrying out on-the-spot inspections of recruitment offices and crackdowns against unscrupulous agencies
  • Improved facilities at the POEA from the elevators to the toilets, and general welcoming attitude and atmosphere at the POEA
  • Successfully chairing the ILO Committee that deliberated on the provisions of the landmark ILO Convention for Decent Work for Domestic Workers that sets the universally-accepted minimum standards of protection for all domestic workers–local and overseas– and is now recognized as work

Very seldom that we see such example of a public servant as Admin Hans with all sincerity and passion to serve the people. Very rare that we witness a selfless public servant who does not mind being the target of unscrupulous elements simply because he is doing the right thing.

His efforts may not be enough to shake up the system. Maybe even his days at the POEA are numbered until the end of President P-Noy’s term, but to see him doing what he should and must do to ensure protection to OFWs and their families, that for us, is enough.

Carry on Admin Hans!
You are on the right track. The POEA way, under your watch, is the Right Way!


26 individuals including 3 government officials; 20 migrant organizations, 11 women and other organizations, 10 trade unions, federations and internationals from 11 countries

Walden F. Bello, former chair of House Committee on Overseas Workers Affairs
Angelina Ludovice-Katoh, Congress Representative, Akbayan Party List
Imelda Nicolas, Cabinet Secretary/ Chairperson, Commission on Filipinos Overseas
Atty. Raymond DC Mendoza, Congress Representative, TUCP Party List
Leah Pacquiz, Congress Representative, Ang NARS Party List
Center for Migrant Advocacy
Ateneo De Manila Political Science Department Working Group on Migration
Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL)
Sentro ng Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO)
Progressive Labor Union of Domestic Workers Hong Kong (PLUDW-HK)
Migrant Forum in Asia
Patnubay Online- Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Patnubay Online -Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
Patnubay Online -Eastern Province, Saudi Arabia
Patnubay Online – Hail, Saudi Arabia
Patnubay Online – Jizan, Saudi Arabia
Patnubay Online – Kuwait
Patnubay Online – Qatar
Patnubay Online – United Arab Emirates
Patnubay Online – Manila, Philippines
Apostleship of the Sea Manila
Atikha Overseas Workers and Communities Initiatives, Inc (Atikha)
Coalition Against Trafficking in Women Asia Pacific (CATW-AP)
World March of Women Pilipinas
Building and Woodworkers International (BWI)
PS Link
Partido ng Manggagawa (PM)
VisMin Active Migrants Association Hong Kong
Unlad Kabayan Migrant Services Center
WomanHealth Philippines
Akbayan Citizens Action Party
Samaritana Transformation Ministries
Economic Resource Center for Overseas Filipinos (ERCOF)
Federation of Free Workers (FFW)
Kaagapay ng Bawat OFW Advocacy Group
Alliance of Progressive Labor Hong Kong
Domestic Workers Union Hong Kong
Deo Volente Hong Kong
United Workers for Mutual Advancement and Development (UniMAD) Malaysia
Women’s Crisis Center (WCC)
Women and Gender Institute (WAGI)
Pambansang Koalisyon ng Kababaihan sa Kanayunan (PKKK)
Pagtinabangay Foundation
WomanHealth Philippines Leyte
Business and Professional Women Ormoc
Coalition for Ormoc Women
Textile Clothing Footwear Ormoc
Filipino Migrants In Nigeria
Public Services International (PSI)
Marlon Quesada, migrants rights advocate
Eunice Eunice Barbara Novio, Thailand
Mike Bolos, Jr., Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Ronnie Abeto, Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia
Joseph Henry Espiritu, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Rex Varona, Migrants rights advocate
Carlo Vargas, Migrants rights’ advocate
Sabrina Gacad, Migrants rights’ advocate
Mariquit Kit Melgar, Migrants rights’ advocate
Josua Mata, Secretary General, Sentro
Lolita Farmer, OAM Global Filipinos Australia
Edwin Bustillos, Representative, National Anti Poverty Commission Formal Labor and Migrant Workers Sector
Terence AG Osorio, Migrants rights advocate
Alex Veloso Bello, President, OFW Congress Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Ellaine Fuentes, Migrants Rights Advocate
Eden See, Migrants Rights Advocate
Maria Elizabeth Embry, Migrants Rights Advocate, Alaska
Benjamin Nadado, Migrants Rights Advocate, Nigeria
Ronald Concha, Chair, Kaagapay ng Bawat OFW Advocacy Group
Joanne Barriga Quintana, Migrants Rights Advocate
Leila Rispens-Noel, WIMLER Foundation Philippines
Norman Dondi Grecia, Migrants Rights Advocate

[See complete list of signatories on CMA facebook page