By Leslie Ann Aquino
On National Heroes Day, hundreds of workers and faith-based groups held a “Martsa ng Manggagawa” to protest President Duterte’s attack on wages, jobs, and rights and to raise the labor sector’s demands for a national minimum wage, an end to contractualization, and respect for trade union and human rights.
“Filipino workers are our everyday heroes laboring with their sweat, blood and tears to earn for their families and produce wealth for our nation. But instead of recognizing our toil, all we got from Duterte is worsening hunger, poverty and curtailment of our rights,” Elmer Labor, chairperson of Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), one of the protest organizers, said in a statement.
KMU cited the Duterte government’s failure to deliver its promise to end contractualization.
“Instead of regularization, the government’s Department Order 174 and Executive Order 51 led to mass retrenchment in big companies like PLDT where an estimated 12,000 agency-hired workers lost their jobs. Workers who fought to become regular employees were terminated. And as the government shields capitalist interests by continuously allowing subcontracting, the so-called solution to contractualization will remain ineffective and destructive for workers,” Labog said.
The Church-Labor Conference (CLC), a wide network of trade unions, workers associations and faith-based groups, also expressed frustration over the weakening stance of the President on the contractualization issue.
In a statement, the CLC, chaired by Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo said “contractualization has provided tons of profits for capitalists at the expense of contractual workers who are left with low salaries, inadequate benefits and no social protection while working under inhumane circumstances. Capitalists have gone around the law to avoid regularizing workers.”
“The President used to make bold threats aimed at oligarchs who abuse workers through endo and agency hiring. Yet he was only able to come up with DOLE Order 174 and Executive Order 51 that are slaps at the wrist at best. Now he is passing the responsibility to Congress to end contractualization,” Renato Magtubo, cochair for labor of CLC said.
The workers and Church groups also scored the President for failing on the promise to increase wages significantly and establish a national minimum wage.
The groups said the administration’s flagship employment program “Build, Build, Build” and revenue-generating TRAIN Law have made things worse for labor.
“The miniscule reduction of less than 1 percent in the unemployment rate is negated by the rise in underemployment at almost the same rate. This is indicative that jobs created are not necessarily decent work,” said Magtubo said.
“With the inflation rate hitting 6 percent this August and the TRAIN Law in full swing, coupled with the DTI’s weak enforcement of price control, workers have been left by government to fend for themselves,” Labog said.
The groups lamented that in the face of all these problems, the government’s solution is charter change to usher in federalism.
“We can’t agree to a new constitution that treats basic labor rights as an afterthought. We can’t accept a new constitution that does not recognize human rights. And we literally can’t afford a charter change as resources of government are better used to address poverty, unemployment and social protection,” they said.
Joining the protest action were CLC, Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino, Federation of Free Workers, Iglesia Filipina Independiente, KADAMAY, KAPATIRAN, KAYUMANGGI, Kilos Na Manggagawa, KMU, MIGRANTE, NASSA-CBCP, PALEA, Partido Manggagawa, RCAM-AMLC, SENTRO among others.