Category Archives: Unemployment

Time is up: The buck stops now with the President on the issue of endo

NAGKAISA! Labor Coalition
28 February 2018

Contractualization was a top billing issue during the 2016 presidential election. And it was the President who made a campaign promise that the moment he becomes the Chief Executive, contractualization will stop. The trade union movement responded with enthusiasm and accorded the President the courtesy and latitude of managing his plans by participating in all the summits, workshops, and dialogues organized by the government on this issue.

Several times he asked leaders of Nagkaisa labor coalition that he be given more time to realize his pledge – the first was on February 27, 2017; then on May 1, 2017; and the last was on February 7, 2018 where he asked for another extension until March 15. On these occasions, President Duterte would always say that contractualization is anti-labor and anti poor as it brings in hardship and poverty upon millions of our workers.

Furthermore, it was also the President who asked Nagkaisa leaders during the Labor Day dialogue held in Davao last year to draft within 10 days an Executive Order (EO) that he can sign to correct the labor-rejected Department Order 174 issued by the Department of Labor and Empoyment (DOLE) in March last year and to rectify the more than two decades of failed framework of regulation. Nagkaisa religiously complied with all these processes and waited for the final response of the President.

Now, a few days before his self-imposed deadline and the President is no longer asking for time and more drafts but for a compromise. The buck stops now with President Duterte. The labor-drafted EO which seeks to bring back direct hiring and institutionalize prohibition as the general rule on contractualization but recognizes that there are types of jobs that can be contracted out as along as it passes through consultation with the National Tripartite and Industrial Peace Council (NTIPC) is the fairest middle ground or “compromise” that labor can take. A watered-down version of an EO is unacceptable.


Nagkaisa hails passage of Security of Tenure Bill

Labor Coalition Nagkaisa! is satisfied over the passage on third reading of HB 6908 on the Security of Tenure at the House of Representatives.

Nagkaisa! said that “the SOT bill is a great improvement to existing legislation as it gives more teeth to the government by providing penalties for those who will violate the security of tenure laws.”

“This is the farthest a proposed law on SOT has gone for decades,” said Nagkaisa! “Now, it’s time to get the Senate moving on their proposed SOT measure.”

“HB 6908 gives more flesh and blood to the guaranteed right to security of tenure,” Nagkaisa! said. “It’s not perfect or ideal, but we can live with it,” said Nagkaisa!, the largest labor coalition in the country.

Fear of employers allayed

Nagkaisa! also addressed fears of employers who went on record saying that they will have a “big problem” if the proposed measure was passed. “If the big problem employers have about HB 6908 refers to the potential cutbacks in the windfall of profits a number of employers have been amassing through the massive abuse of workers via contractualization for decades, the bill intends to do just that,” Nagkaisa! said. “Employers who do not abuse workers through contractualization have nothing to fear,” Nagkaisa! added.

“Never in the history of employment relationship in the country has workers enjoying regular employment and implementation of strict rules in labor contracting been detrimental to the economy and job generation,” Nagakaisa! said.

“Job generation is a function of the development of sectors of the economy influenced by economic policies of the government, and not by labor contracting practices,” Nagkaisa explained.

A “serious problem” employers noted is that if the SOT bill becomes a law, it will be detrimental to the economy and job creation. Nagksaisa! countered the argument. “Workers with regular employment generate more income, thus, with more purchasing power contribute to increasing demand in goods and services that lead to higher income taxes and VAT for the government. These are all good for the economy,” said Nagkaisa.

“The fear that the HB can lead to unemployment is only possible if they are not paying their contractual employees what the law currently demands. In other words, their argument is an admission that they are doing business at the expense of workers’ rights – and they want to continue doing so,” Nagkaisa! added.

The recent statement by the employers didn’t specify which provisions of the bill they strongly disagree with.

Nagkaisa! said it was grateful to Labor Committee Chair Rep. Randolph Ting who steered the discussions and Rep. Raymond Mendoza of TUCP Partylist and Rep. Tom Villarin of Akbayan Partylist who co-authored the SOT Bill and helped defend it together with Nagkaisa.

Isang Bigong Taon: A failed one year for Digong – labor groups

Contractualization did not stop; wages remained low and regionalized; the unemployment and underemployment problems continue to weigh down on a large number of Filipino workers. “In sum, it was “Isang B(D)igong Taon” on the labor front for President Duterte’s first year in office,” stated various labor groups in their one year assessment of the President’s performance.

It can be recalled that the President made a campaign pledge that contractualization will stop the moment he becomes the President. He also vowed to raise wages and abolish the system of provincial rates.

“We tried to rate the President’s performance as objective as we can, but the outcomes for labor over his first 365 days have been generally wanting, have given us false expectations and given us many unfulfilled promises,” said the workers groups in a joint statement distributed to media during a demonstration held at the Boy Scout Circle in Timog Quezon City, Friday.

The mass action was organized by the Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (Sentro), Partido Manggagawa (PM), Federation of Free Workers (FFW), National Federation of Labor Unions (Naflu) and the Philippine Airlines Employees Association (Palea). Members of the World March of Women and Ateneo University’s Union of Students for the Advancement of Democracy (USAD) also joined the rally.

No end yet to endo

In a meeting on Labor Day, President Duterte asked labor groups to draft an Executive Order that would use prohibition of all forms of contractualization as a framework. This was after the unanimous rejection of labor groups of Department Order 174 issued by Labor and Employment Sec. Silvestre Bello III sometime in March. He also instructed the labor department to resolve with dispatch the years of dispute between PAL and PALEA on the issue of contractualization.

In response the labor groups submitted a unified draft together with the formal labor sector of the National Anti-Poverty Commission. But almost two months from its submission, the President has done no executive action to address the rampant contractualization.

“We have always advocated for a prohibition of all forms of contractualization and a stop to the abusive operations of manpower agencies and manpower cooperatives. The President himself at his assumption to power and in his first meeting with labor groups early this year openly expressed disgust over these as they ‘abused workers,’ using his words,” said the groups.

According to labor groups, DO 174 continues to permit contractualization and allows manpower agencies and manpower cooperatives to take a cut from workers’ salaries each payday.

There was also no certification issued by the President on pending anti-endo bills filed before the Congress. The PAL-PALEA dispute is not yet resolved.

The only token victory they got on this respect, the groups said, is the planned deputization of trade unionists as labor inspectors, the first batch of which are now undergoing training at the labor department.

Freedom of Association is also one of the areas where the President has a failing mark from the groups as organizing remains extremely difficult particularly in Economic Zones as workers get harassed and get fired for trying to organize unions.

Wages, power, employment, OFW fees, new taxes

With the regional wage setting mechanism still in place, discrimination in terms of wages still persists across the country. The President said he was for a national minimum wage, but such policy pronouncement has not translated even to a working paper from DOLE that they can discuss with workers.

“In the meantime the real value of wages continues to drop, power rates and prices of basic goods and services continue to climb, making it more burdensome for the working class. Meanwhile, the collection of exorbitant placement and other fees for OFW have not been addressed sufficiently if at all,” added the group.

In addition, the planned imposition of excise taxes on oil and the expansion of VAT coverage on goods and services under the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN), the group feared, will lead to further erosion of workers purchasing power especially those earning the minimum wage and below.

ILO Convention 151 ratification, the saving grace

The President, however, got a passing mark for being the first chief executive to endorse for Senate concurrence International Labor Convention 151 on Labor Relations in the Public Sector. The treaty, once ratified by the Senate, would guarantee the right to organize of public sector workers and allow them to bargain for better working conditions, among others.

Wrong war

Asked why the President failed to satisfy workers’ clamor for change during the last 365 days, the labor groups said, “It is expected when a leader quickly descends into a wrong war that only resulted to thousands of unsolved killings. While surveys have consistently showed that inflation, wages, and employment remain the top concerns of every Filipino.”

Labor groups raise grave concerns over RCEP

Representatives from major trade unions in both the public and private sectors have raised serious concerns on the possible impacts of the Regional Economic Comprehensive Partnership Agreement (RCEP) which is currently being negotiated in Manila: According to their analysis, prices of medicines may increase, government revenue decrease and the government’s ability to regulate foreign investments, service providers and transnational corporations may be constrained.

The analysis of the labor groups are based on leaked draft texts of the RCEP as no official document has been made public throughout the four years of negotiations. Only negotiators and key business representatives had access to the official documents. Even Congress has been blindsided. This seriously constrains the democratic process.

RCEP is a mega free trade and investment agreement negotiated between 16 countries in the Asian region- the 10 ASEAN countries plus India, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand.

The proposal to have an international private arbitration process that ignores national laws and the Constitution and where investors can make multi-billion claims against governments was another concern raised by the groups.

At a meeting attended by major labor centers like SENTRO and the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP), affiliates of global union federations such as PSI, IndustriALL and BWI, solidarity support organization like SASK, and the Trade Justice Campaign – Pilipinas, held on May 5 2017 in Quezon City, Dave Diwa, of National Labor Union (NLU) called RCEP a “danger zone that governments should avoid at all costs. “Vicente Camilon, Jr of the TUCP added that “RCEP might constraint our government’s power to regulate, undermine national sovereignty, and limit it ability to pursue national development objectives.” Jullian Roque of Public Services Labor Independent Confederation (PSLINK) further added that the deal could diminish public funds that should be devoted to basic social services.”

In contrast, the labor unions pointed out the corporate-bias of RCEP. Glen Pastorfide of the Philippine Government Employees Association (PGEA) said that RCEP could strengthen the power of corporations while weakening policies that seek to protect and conserve our natural resources and ecosystems.”

Alan Tanjusay of Associated Labor Unions (ALU) pointed out that “RCEP has no social dimension. Our government will be prevented from instituting policies and regulations beneficial to working people.”

Wilson Fortaleza of the Partido ng Manggagawa concluded that “RCEP is a global corporate agenda of regional oligarchs.”

“Clearly, the RCEP is as bad as the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP),” Josua Mata, Secretary General of SENTRO, declared. “If Pres. Duterte rejected TPP, then he should, at the very least, be worried about RCEP as well,” he added.

SENTRO vows to continue the struggle against contractualization

Photo by JTMata

Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa joins the global working peoples in their 130th commemoration of International Labor Day. Filipino workers have been commemorating the International Labor Day and the continuing struggles of the working masses since 1903, inextricably tying it to the anti-colonial struggle. Faced as it is by monumental challenges and massive societal roadblocks, SENTRO remains undaunted and steadfast in its commitment towards organizing, fighting and winning on behalf of the working peoples of the Philippines.

In less than a year, President Rodrigo Duterte has seen his popularity and trust ratings erode by 7% and 11% among the working poor. While a number of the population remains unperturbed by this, this development is an indicator that a significant section of our people is beginning to fear for their lives— and perhaps even regretting their complicity to the election of an unrepentant violator of human rights and democratic institutions.

The working people gave Pres. Duterte the benefit of the doubt on his promise to end the oppressive policy of labor contractualization. We hoped that Pres. Duterte will dismantle and replace the much-criticized Department Order No. 18-A. But our hopes were met with grim disillusionment with Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello’s release of Department Order No. 174 last March 19, 2017.

This policy will perpetuate contractualization by: a) allowing businesses to hire workers through agencies; b) allowing cooperatives to engage in labor contracting and subcontracting; c) no longer requiring the principal employer to provide unions a copy of the service contract; and d) allowing contracting agencies to further downplay the price of labor costs—guaranteeing even lower salaries and benefits for workers across industries. Clearly, DO 174 widely differs from what Pres. Duterte has promised.

Truth is, the Duterte regime is only consistent in one thing: it wants to kill, and the freedom to kill who it wants to kill. The spate of extrajudicial killings occurring all over the country—ostensibly sponsored and abetted by the Philippine National Police’s Oplan Tokhang and Oplan Double Barrel—has claimed anywhere between 8,000 to 10,000 lives already. This has worsened the situation of poor women, leaving them in trauma, isolation and greater vulnerability to further abuse such as prostitution. In addition to this,the Philippine Congress reintroduces the death penalty,and was passed by the House of Representatives last March 7, 2017, awaiting advancement in the Philippine Senate—despite the Philippines’ international commitment to treaties not to do so. Another legislative bill intends to lower the minimum age of criminal liability to nine (9) years of age, pushing back the victory in the past of children’s rights groups.

It is probably not without reason that this culture of death has been roundly condemned by the international community. The “War on the Poor,” as it is, has made a mockery of its initial propaganda to rid us of the menace of drug dependence and promote a secure, living society. While the poor is being killed, the drug profiteers like Peter Lim are left scot-free.

As expected, the elites are in no hurry to oppose or even modulate the Duterte regime’s reign of terror and death. Many of these politicians have kowtowed to Malacañang, probably in anticipation of the impending push for charter change, which may see the Philippines parcelled around longstanding political dynasties and the further dismantling of the country’s economic infrastructure through their hard-selling of Federalism.

Once again, it is up to the working people and their labor movement to defend our rights, even as we continue to deepen democracy in the country. It is for this reason that SENTRO, together with its allies amongst the progressive forces, is calling on all freedom-loving Filipinos to stand up and be counted in the fight to stop the killings, block Duterte’s Death Policies – the reimposition of the death penalty and the lowering of the age of criminality – and to resist moves to amend the constitution to institute “constitutional authoritharianism.” SENTRO believes that workers’ and trade union rights cannot genuinely exist if human and democratic rights are compromised and thrown to the gutter.

We call on the working people to continue the struggle against contractualization and the precariousness of living sustained by the Duterte regime’s neo-liberal policies. Let us assert our basic right to a dignified and genuinely safe society—not the selective security of the privileged that preys on the massacre of the poor.

Organize! Fight! Win!

Download FIlipino version of the statement