LEARN Conducts Awareness Raising Seminar for Women Workers

Women workers from the metals and food manufacturing industries participated in LEARN’s Women Forum held last 24 August 2012 in Balibago, Sta. Rosa, Laguna. The forum served as a venue for raising the awareness of the Magna Carta for Women, sexual harassment, and the reproductive health bill.

Philippine Ratified ILO Convention 189, Decent Work for Domestic Workers

The Philippine Senate ratified on third reading ILO Convention 189 during its session last 6 August 2012.

An ILO convention requires at least two ratifications by member countries before it is fully enforceable.

Uruguay is the first country to ratify C189.

Now that there are two countries to ratify the convention, decent work for domestic workers is now within reach.

Statement of the Sentro ng mga Progresibong Manggagawa (Sentro) on the third State of the Nation Address (Sona) of Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III on 23 July 2012: ‘People’s patience might snap if real progress will not happen soon’

AS P-NOY wraps up his second year in office and enters the first half of his six-year term highlighted by his Sona today, the Sentro ng mga Progresibong Manggagawa, a new labor center launched last May Day, is now compelled to issue a terse warning for this government. Despite maintaining high approval and trust ratings across the country’s geographical areas and socioeconomic classes in successive surveys (including by the SWS), Aquino’s popularity will soon plunge sharply and his presidency will face the “wrath” of the people when their patience over the government’s superficial and ineffective “reforms” reach their breaking point.

In governance, two years in office is more than enough to receive either a thunderous accolade or a stinging rebuke. Indeed, the Aquino administration should not readily blame the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo regime for all the problems in the Philippines. While the incriminating “fingerprints” of Gloria and her cohorts are found in almost every major “crime scenes” of fairly recent corruption and political repression; but, at the same time, the shadows of omissions and transgressions of P-Noy and his acolytes are now also looming in the background.

In fact, Aquino’s electoral slogan of “Kung walang korap, walang mahirap” is now becoming an empty rhetoric or another comedic counterpart of Erap’s “Walang kaibigan, walang kamag-anak” braggadocio. The prosecution of Gloria and some of her coconspirators – many are still roaming scot-free, including her notorious husband, Mike Arroyo – deserves a cautious praise since they are not yet formally convicted and the possibility of them winning the cases later is very likely considering the serious flaws in the country’s “justice” system. Remember what happened to the mountain of cases filed against the Marcoses? No punishment was meted out and they are now back in power!

(Talking of dispensing with justice, both the New York-based Human Rights Watch and the US Department of State have scored the Aquino government for the persistent impunity of human rights violations in the country. Aside from the excruciatingly slow trial of the Maguindanao Massacre suspects and the failure to arrest ex-Gen. Jovito Palparan, known as “the butcher” and the brains behind many abductions and “salvagings” of activists, HRW also said that at least “10 cases of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances” happened since Aquino took office. Even Etta Rosales, chair of the Commission on Human Rights, has admitted that “two years into the Aquino administration, not a single human rights violator has been arrested and sent to jail.”)

More significantly, P-Noy’s slogan reveals the mindset of his administration and even the past governments – and, of course, the employers, especially the Big Business or top corporations. Granting that large-scale corruption can be effectively curbed, poverty will still be widespread as long as the grossly unequal distribution of wealth remains entrenched.

But the line of thinking of this government will definitely be echoed in P-Noy’s Sona. He will surely cite the continuing economic “progress” of the country as proven by the high 6.4 percent “growth” in the gross domestic product in the first quarter of this year – from an anemic 3.9 percent GDP last year. Backing this claim, the World Bank announced only last week that it has raised its growth forecast for the Philippines this year, from 4.2 percent to 4.6 percent. The International Monetary Fund quickly followed suit by declaring that it has lifted the country’s growth outlook from 4.2 percent to 4.8 percent this year, and from 4.7 percent to 4.9 percent next year.

The problem with these “growths” is that ever since they have fundamentally failed to reach the vast majority of the Filipinos. The worn-out capitalist “trickle-down” of wealth cliché has remained, well, a cliché. For instance, the government’s poverty reduction goals have miserably failed to keep up with the so-called “growths” in the GDP or GNP (gross national product) as shown in the continued wide income disparity and poor job creation and quality.

And since this “growth” has not created long-term and sustainable livelihood prospects, it is not surprising that during a recent SWS survey, poverty perception has further worsened to 55 percent in March this year compared to 45 percent last December. This is equivalent to about 2 million poor families more or a hike from 9.1 million to 11.1 million poor families. Similarly, in the same survey during the same period, unemployment also swelled from 24 percent or 9.7 million workers to a staggering record high of 34.4 percent or 13.8 million workers! Ironically, all these occurred while the economy purportedly shot up to 6.4 percent!

A study also bared that the 1.1 million “jobs” the government has allegedly created as of April this year were basically “additional part-time workers.” The latter actually comprise about 43 percent (and counting) of jobs in the national economy – or 16.2 million of the 38 million said to be employed, which indicates that the job quality being generated is deteriorating.

Workers’ wages have remained pitiful. For example, a research shows that the latest P30 salary “hike” in the NCR last May is actually a mere 44 percent of the appraised P1,017 family living wage – a wide difference compared to the 53 percent ratio of the minimum wage vis-à-vis the FLW ten years ago.

While not discriminating against part-time workers and the burgeoning informal or contractual workforce in general, this escalating phenomenon of non-regular labor is a cause of serious concern. Their rapid growth is essentially a deliberate neoliberal tactic, which is consciously or unconsciously tolerated by P-Noy, with an end goal of creating a huge army of contract workers with cheaper or unstable wages and benefits, no security of tenure, as well as banned from joining or forming unions and having CBAs or CNAs. Thus, the “cheap and docile” as well as unorganized workers tag.

In the Hacienda Luisita issue, Aquino’s supposed “non-interference” could actually be seen as a ploy to subtly back the intransigence of his relatives to cling to their warped and feudal ownership claims to the over 6,400-hectare estate in Tarlac. In fact, a study says that among the post-Marcos governments, the P-Noy administration has the lowest land distribution record so far – 13,819 hectares per month as of September last year – which makes its current rate of land distribution “already over five-and-a-half years behind schedule” based on its June 2014 target under CARPER (Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reforms).

Meanwhile, further mirroring the character and tendencies of the Aquino government – amid the worsening poverty of the majority and the deteriorating plight of the working class – the few rich and powerful have in fact become tremendously richer and powerful since P-Noy assumed the presidency. According to Forbes, the 40 richest Filipinos, including five billionaires (in US dollars), in 2010 owned a combined assets of $22.4 billion or a little more than P1 trillion. Both figures more than doubled after only two years – 15 dollar billionaires in the 40 wealthiest Filipinos with a total mind-boggling incomes of $47.4 billion or almost P2 trillion or over one-fifth (21 percent) of last year’s GDP!

Truly, the filthy rich and powerful in the country and the world have immensely benefited neither from “luck or hard work,” but from the greed-induced programs of neoliberalism – all-out liberalization, deregulation and privatization of the economy; plus the ageless tactics of profiteering and suppression of dissent, including union-busting.

However, deprivation and repression, in all their forms, had always been and will always be met by protests and resistance. This could well be the scenario in the last four years of the Aquino government – if no meaningful social change will occur.

LEARN Sports Fest 2012

LEARN held a sports fest in celebration of its 25th anniversary. The sports fest was held between March and June 2012. Trade unions showed their spirit in participating in friendly competitions against other unions in sports events that include badminton, darts, billiards, bowling, chess, and basketball.

The chess competition was held after the opening ceremony of the LEARN sporsfest basketball tournament on 17 March 2012 at the LEARN Workers’ House. Century Park Hotel Employees Labor Union (CPHELU) dominated other unions and grabbed the 1st place. ABS-CBN Rank and File Employees Union (ABSCBNEU) finished second while Amalgamated Workers Union (AWU) was awarded with the 3rd place.

The badminton tournament was held on 24 March 2012. Toyota Motor Philippines Corporation Labor Organization (TMPCLO) bagged two first place awards in men’s doubles and mixed doubles events while placing second in the women’s doubles.

The Postal Employees Union of the Philippines (PEUP) snatched the first place in the men’s singles darts tournament while Peninsula Employees Union (PEU) secured the same spot in the women’s singles darts. Mitsubishi Motors Workers Union-Philippines (MMWU-P) landed in the top spot in the men’s doubles darts tournament.

The GMA Network Inc. Employees Union and the Century Park Hotel Employees Labor Union claimed the championships in the men and women bowling tournament, respectively. Randy Topacio and Lydia Medida were named Bowlers of the Tournament.

The billiards events were dominated by three unions, the Peninsula Employees Union (PEU), China Banking Corporation Employees Association (CBCEA), and the PCCEU-Camanava and PCCWU-Rizal, each grabbing the 1st place in men’s singles, women’s singles, and men’s doubles, respectively.

Toyota Motor Philippines Corporation labor Organization (TMPCLO) emerged as champions in the recently-held LEARN Sportsfest Basketball Tournament held from 17 March to 19 June 2012. NOVADECI finished second while Mitsubishi Motors Workers’ Union-Philippines won the third place.

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.