Labor group cautions gov’t about plans of hiring foreign workers for infra program, demands transparency on all the loans to be incurred

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The government should first ensure that the foreign workers it is planning to hire en masse for its ambitious infrastructure program would enjoy the same rights and welfare as any local worker.

“Mr. Duterte can’t even improve the rights of local workers by living up to his promise to end contractualization, now he wants to add more workers from abroad to be exploited by his friends among the oligarchs,” said Josua Mata, Secretary General of Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO).

The Philippine Labor Code does not allow migrant workers employed in the country to join and form unions unless the same rights are given to Filipino migrant workers in their respective countries.

“Unless migrant workers are allowed to join or form unions in the destination country, labor standards in their line of work would most likely deteriorate,” Mata said.

Last week, Legaspi Representative Joey Salceda said that the Philippines is considering importing skilled construction workers from Burma and China once the so-called “golden age of infrastructure program” of the Duterte administration or Build Build Build gets into in full swing.

“It is also grossly insensitive of this government to even think of getting foreign workers to build the country’s planned infrastructure projects when we have not even addressed our own growing unemployment problem,” Mata said.

According to Salceda, the government would need 3.9 skilled labor force which the country cannot supply and is facing labor constraints as the growing demand for laborers like welders, carpentry, masonry and related skilled work construction could not be provided due to lack of training, adding that the construction industry needs more workers for the government’s infrastructure program and the demand could not be addressed by the K to 12 graduates unless they undergo Tesda training.

“Just like what Salceda himself said, K to 12 graduates can be trained by TESDA so why not concentrate on this training in the TESDA centers across the country?” added Mata.

“At the same time, government should make the wages for skilled Filipinos more competitive so that the overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Kuwait and other parts of the globe who are skilled enough could have the option of coming home and take the challenge for themselves in the rebuilding and modernizing their own country,” Mata said.

According to Mata, to finance its [government] infrastructure program, “it would be spending huge amount of money squeezed from the taxes from millions of Filipinos augmented with foreign loans which in the end will be paid for again by Filipinos long after Mr. Duterte was out of office,” Mata said. “Hence the program should maximize utilizing local inputs including labor,” Mata added.

SENTRO warns government not to follow the footsteps of other countries who are now saddled with onerous loans from China, which as a condition, utilizes Chinese raw materials and labor.

“We urge Mr. Duterte and his economic managers and planners to disclose all conditionalities for loans to be used in this project and hold public consultations about plans on how to maximize these projects,” Mata said.

“Our country’s development is much too important for all of us to leave it in the hands of a few economic technocrats,” Mata concluded.

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