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Sentro Celebrates Labor Day with NAGKAISA, Demands Protection of Worker Rights

1 May 2012

His Excellency Benigno Simeon C. Aquino
Republic of the Philippines
Malacañang Palace

Re: Labor Day calls of NAGKAISA!

Dear Mr. President,

We, leaders of NAGKAISA!, write to you to convey our collective calls and to request Your Excellency for a dialogue.

20,000 of us are gathered here today at the foot of the historic Mendiola bridge to commemorate the 109th celebration of International Labor Day in the country. Similar rallies are being held simultaneously in key cities around the country under the banner of NAGKAISA!

For the first time in more than 20 years, 40 labor centers, major federations, alliances and labor organizations have decided to work together and collectively respond to what we see as wholesale attacks on workers’ rights – workers’ constitutional right to security of tenure is flagrantly ignored as various types of precarious work continue to proliferate; with their inadequate minimum wages, many of our sisters and brothers find it impossible to make ends meet; some of them do not even receive the mandated minimum wage; social services remain inadequate for many of our members while their demands for decent and adequate housing is almost always met with violent demolitions. Meanwhile, our right to self-organization is trashed with impunity at every opportunity.

These are the pressing issues that forced us to convene NAGKAISA! and hold a historic “Unity March” from Welcome Rotonda to Mendiola with the theme,“Bawiin ang Dignidad ng mga Manggagawa! Magkaisa! Makibaka!”.

In this march, the coalition is calling on Your Excellency to:
1. Address the worsening precarious work in the country. To ensure that workers’ fundamental rights are not trampled by labor flexibility measures such as contractualization, outsourcing and other measures imposed by employers, we are urging the Your Excellency to certify as urgent the passage of security of tenure bill for the private sector (HB 4853) and for the public sector (SB 2875) that is now pending in Congress. At the same time, the rampant hiring of job-orders in the government sector must end.

2. Support the workers’ demand for across the board wage increases for both the public and private sectors. We welcome Your Excellency’s pronouncement regarding the early release of the public sector’s pay raise. There is, however, still a need to equalize pay between the employees of the National Government and those of local government units. This would be greatly facilitated by revising the Internal Revenue Allotment formula currently being used by government.

3. Address the failures of market-oriented policies in public utilities. Your Excellency, we are encouraged by your recent pronouncement to stay the privatization of Agus-Pulangi dam. We believe that this is a positive move that should be followed by other practical steps that your government can take to lower the cost of oil and electricity. This includes the following: removal of oil and power from EVAT coverage; stopping the indexation of/or pegging the prices of natural gas and geothermal steam to the international prices of oil and coal, respectively; stopping the incorrect implementation of the ERC’s performance-based rate (PBR) methodology as this allows power firms to increase rates in anticipation of future expansion and other capital expenditures; and, reforming the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC). In the long run, however, we believe that we need to scrap the EPIRA law and the Oil Deregulation law.

4. Prevent the violent demolitions of informal settlers by issuing an Executive Order that would stop the demolition of informal settlers and fast track the development of decent and adequate housing for the poor.

5. Provide solid guarantees for workers’ right to self-organization. This would include measures that would strengthen right to self-organization and collective bargaining for all types of workers such as: ensure the immediate ratification of ILO Convention 189 for Domestic Workers before the ILO convenes the 101st session of its International Labor Conference this June 2012 in Geneva; certifying as urgent the passage of the Magna Carta for Domestic Workers; revoking PSLMC Resolution on Registration and Accreditation of Public Elementary and High School Teaching Personnel Organizations in the Department of Education, which curtailed the right to organize of teachers in the public schools and Circular No. 2011-5, which undermines the public sector workers’ right to collectively bargain.

6. Protect and generate secure and decent jobs for all. Massive destruction of decent jobs through outsourcing and contractualization must be prevented. A clear directive to protect unionized jobs must be issued. Rampant smuggling must be stopped to prevent further de-industrialization. A moratorium on the Government Rationalization Program or EO 366, which would lead to massive job losses in the public sector, must be imposed.
These are the major issues that compound the current woes of the working people. We are aware of the complexity of some of the demands that we are making. This is the reason why we are requesting for a dialogue where we can elaborate on our views.

Thank you very much Mr. President as we anticipate your positive response in the soonest possible time.

Sincerely yours,

Signed by the Convenors of NAGKAISA!


New alliance unites Philippine labor

A new alliance of some 40 major trade unions and labor federations have united to advance trade union and workers’ rights in the Philippines.

Aptly called NAGKAISA (united), the newly-established network of labor organizations vowed to fight labor contractualization, advocate for security of tenure and fight for an across-the-board increase in workers’ pay.
“After a series of in-depth discussions, we, the leaders and members of major labor and trade unions and workers’ organizations in the country have mutually decided to be united by embracing our diversity,” said the group in a statement during a media conference in Manila today.

Philippine labor has been generally regarded as fragmented, but NAGKAISA is bent on changing that impression and ushering in a new era in Philippine labor.

“In the face of the prevalent anti-worker environment and given our diverse ideologies, methodologies and approaches, our unions have continued to champion workers’ right to organize, to collectively bargain, to hold strikes and to engage government in social dialogue, but with limited success. We believe that the Filipino workers can be empowered again by, first and foremost, united action among unions and workers’ organizations.” NAGKAISA said.

“We are forming the coalition called NAGKAISA, which will consistently and passionately work towards restoring the right to full protection and the chance to live a decent and dignified life for all Filipino working men and women—whether formal or informal, private or public, here or abroad,” the group added.

NAGKAISA is challenging deregulation and other policies that lead to perpetual increases of oil prices and cost of food, electricity and other utilities and basic services such as education, in order to provide immediate relief to the economic burden of workers.

“Workers’ struggle for decent work is being defeated by greedy employers’ blatant assault on their rights. Their chances to it are being deprived by the Philippine government’s labor, social and economic policies that always function in favor of local and foreign businesses,” NAGKAISA said.

The group is also pressing for the ratification of ILO Convention 189 or the Decent Work for Domestic Workers Convention.

NAGKAISA, as one voice of labor, will actively engage industry and all branches of government at all levels in meaningful and progressive social dialogue to improve the plight of workers.
“If necessary, NAGKAISA will be holding decisive mass actions to bring these issues closer to and wield support from the people,” the group said.

NAGKAISA is composed of the following trade unions/labor alliances/labor organizations:

Declaration of Unity Sentro ng Progresibong Manggagawa

The capitalist system had died, but it has risen once again like a profit-hungry zombie sucking the blood of the working class, especially of poor nations.

Neo-liberal capitalism and its twin elite democracy have died many deaths in the uprisings of the working class around the world – In the sandstorms of the Arab Spring, the cyclones of the Occupy Movement in First World countries, and the grassroots eruptions in Europe.

But in countries like ours, the marriage of capitalism and elite democracy, continues to wreak a century-old reign of poverty, misery and untold suffering into the lives of its poor citizens.

Capitalism is dead. The promises of progress and development shattered by its own implosions – the recessions and stock market crashes that have sent economies around the world into a deathly spin.

But it has risen, with virulent cruelty, and banal forms of exploitation — contractualization, decreasing real wages, and increasing costs of utilities and public services as a result of privatization and deregulation.

It has risen because the financial glitches that sent it tumbling down, and the economic mismanagement that continue to plague its global reign, are continuously rejuvenated thru State bailouts. Meanwhile workers are left with massive unemployment and the proliferation of low quality and migrant jobs. Women and the youth continue to swell the ranks of the unemployed and underemployed.

It has risen, and continues to haunt us like the horrific undead, not because they are strong. But because we, the workers, continue to be weak and fragmented. Workers have been forced to compete against poorer workers around the world thru the free traffic of cheap migrant labor. Workers have been pushed to fight against workers here in our country thru medieval labor laws and primitive institutions. This, and the incessant repression against organized labor, has decimated our ranks. And through the promotion of a new technologically-enhanced capitalistic dream world – new generations of workers refuse to see themselves as members of a working class, and thus, remain unorganized.
Yet, we, the downtrodden, battle weary, homeless and exploited, must now recognize that we are the many, made as batteries of the economy that feeds the greedy few.

We — by our toil in strange deserts and far away lands, bowed in farms and factories, employed in all kinds of services — are the true creators of our nation’s wealth.

And we must begin to effectively and consistently attack this systematic enslavement today, or the next generations, our offsprings, will suffer a heavier, more backbreaking and dehumanizing yoke.

We must begin to realize our powers as collective creators of wealth, who feed our families and send our children to school, and by that, we start to recognize that our power increases exponentially as we become more organized and swell our ranks.

We, the Filipino working class, must vow to reverse this reign of blood-sucking terror of a failed system, that only continues the concentration of wealth and political power amongst the elite big business, both foreign and local, and their political henchmen.

We must commit ourselves to the inclusion of non-employed working class, the unorganized in both the public and private sectors, the small entrepreneurs in the underground economy, the marginalized women who remain invisible, the growing ranks of young brainworkers in the digital industries and the migrant workers.

We must forge a new consciousness of working class identity and power through solid organizing and enlightened education.

We must be instruments of unity within our ranks, enhancing our skills as union managers and public leaders, and reach out beyond our organizational lines, to other workers’ groups, and to the unorganized. We must deepen democracy thru consensus and collaborative multi-form struggles.

We must not only defend, but also expand, our collective rights towards a more enhanced and pluralist democracy and greater economic power. We must recognize the different formations of power and exploitation in all levels of our lives – learn to utilize these powers thru collective action and vanquish all emanations of subordinations and dehumanization.

We must help rejuvenate the labor movement through industry and sectoral unionism and intensify our struggles, not only in every shop floor where we toil, in every community where we eke our lives, but also in every country where migrant workers grind away to earn a better life.

We must be leaders not only of our unions, but also of our communities. We must realize thru consistent action, that power, ultimately resides in the many. And we are the many.

On this day, the 12th of April 2012, the leaders and members of the following workers’ organizations and labor unions, vow to pursue these causes and collective missions, and by this, makes the first step among many, to forge, and strengthen the unity, goals and principles of the Sentro ng Progresibong Manggagawa hereby known as SENTRO.

Philippine Domestic Workers` Bill up again for Congressional Committee Discussions

Supported by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), the DomWork-TWG concluded on Monday a Writeshop on Kasambahay Bill otherwise known as “An Act Instituting Regulatory Policies for the Domestic Service Industry Thereby Establishing Standards of Protection to Promote the Welfare of Domestic Workers“ at The Bayleaf Hotel in Intramuros, Manila. The group is composed of the tripartite actors involved in the advocacy towards the immediate ratification of C189 in the Philippines that includes the domestic workers` association Samahan at Ugnayan ng mga Manggagawang Pantahanan sa Pilipinas, Inc. (SUMAPI), Visayan Forum Foundation, Inc., Center for Migrant Advocacy (CMA), DOLE, the Employers` Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP) and the three major labor centers and confederations namely, the Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL), Federation of Free Workers (FFW) and Trade Union Confederation of the Philippines (TUCP). These groups, together with the Labor Education and Research Network and Global Network-Asia, also played a major role in the holding of the 2011 Asia Regional Conference on Domestic Work, which had as its central theme the immediate ratification of C189 in Asia.

The fundamental subjects and issues discussed during the writeshop include the following:

• Inclusion of the “control test“ principle in the definition of an employer;
• Compromise on leave benefits or entitlements such as Service Incentive Leave (5 days annually), Sick Leave and Paid Annual Leave (14 days annually);
• Prohibition on hazardous employment;
• Prohibition on the employment of minors as domestic workers provided that all domestic workers below the minimum age presently employed shall continue their employment as such within a period of three (3) years from the effectivity of the act and shall be entitled to the minimum wage and all the benefits prescribed therein;
• Medical assistance and appropriate rest period during recovery from injury or illness;
• Setting of the normal hours of work based on a previous 10-hour civil code stipulation as opposed to an international standard of 8-hour work a day if only to define the terms of “overtime“;
• Professionalization of domestic work through skills upgrading and training as certified and facilitated by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA);
• Fixing of minimum wage at Php 3,500 per month for domestic workers based in NCR, Php 3,000 for those in chartered cities and first class municipalities and at least Php 2,000 in other municipalities;
• The role of the Katarungang Pambarangay and DOLE Regional Offices in the settlement of disputes regarding domestic work;
• Provision of a “one-stop shop“ or unified payment mechanism as to social protection remittances involving the Social Security System, Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (Philhealth), and Pag-Ibig (Home Development Mutual Fund);
• Granting domestic workers the right to join and form trade unions aside from associations, NGOs and CSOs;
• DSWD`s role in accrediting NGOs and associations representing domestic workers;
• Creation of a Domestic Workers Council that will be mandated to monitor and facilitate the implementation of the law;
• Allotment of a 50 Million-peso budget for the eventual implementation of the law; and
• Proposed additional contents or features of an employment contract such as termination of employment by employer in case of insolvency or financial incapacity, “productivity“ pay or increases in terms of additional skills and training, period of probation, “overtime“ rate and holiday entitlements.

The finalization of the consolidated version of the House Bill is a fitting follow-up after several congressmen made a promise to offer the “Kasambahay“ Bill as a Christmas gift and urged the DOLE to expedite the endorsement of C189 as a treaty. Seen in another light, it may well be considered as a response to the complaint of SB 78 main author and sponsor Senator Jinggoy Estrada that “the passage of the bill is already long overdue.“ The delayed process is definitely hindering the Philippine Senate`s ratification of the domestic work convention as the process requires the passage of a counterpart law at the national level.

Last year, the Senate version of the bill already passed on third reading. Now, as DOLE Undersecretary Hans Cacdac is saying, the DomWork-TWG has to work hard to fast track the process of sub-committee deliberations and immediately reach for the mother Committee on Labor and Employment. The TWG cautioned that significant safeguards might be altered fundamentally if the bill has to pass the sub-committee level in a prolonged period of time, which would take several meetings to finish.

In spite of the apparent concessions and compromises reached by the group, the APL however believes that domestic workers should not be forced to surrender the “equal treatment“ principle that they have fought for and earned with the passage of C189 last June this year. “Domestic workers as workers should enjoy the same rights and privileges as their counterparts in the formal sector have,“ Josua Mata, APL Secretary General said. For instance, the normal period of work should be made at par with those of formal sector workers, that is, a maximum of 8 hours per day.

Also, Mata believes that the P3,500 provided in the proposed bill is nowhere near the regional minimum wages even if board and lodging expenses for live-in domestic workers are accounted for. As such, that is another provision that needs improvement.

Today, there are more than 1 million domestic workers in the Philippines who are still regarded as part of the informally employed as the practice of domestic work is generally unregulated. Aside from their immediate families and loved ones, they are the ones who will greatly benefit from the eventual enactment of the “Kasambahay“ Bill into law.