By Erma Edera
Thousands of workers from different labor groups and associations will mark today’s observance of Labor Day with protest actions to reiterate their call for better wages, more jobs, and the passage of the Security of Tenure of Bill.
Joining this year’s Labor Day March are the Nagkaisa Labor Coalition, Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), Partido Lakas ng Masa (PLM), Church-Labor Conference (CLC), Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP), Federation of Free Workers (FFW), and labor federations under Pagkakaisa ng Uring Manggagawa (PAGGAWA), and other progressive groups.
There will be two programs for the broader alliance of labor groups in Metro Manila. One would be held at the Mendiola Peace Arch near the gates of Malacanang in Manila and the other at the Liwasang Bonifacio near the Manila City Hall.
According to Allan Tanjusay, spokesman of TUCP, they will a have a 7 a.m. nationwide prayer today “to thank workers for their contributions in the country.”
Rallies will be held in the Bicol region and the cities of Cebu, Davao, Baguio, Iligan, and Bacolod, among other areas.
Other working class issues will be raised in the nationwide rallies such as the presence of illegal foreign workers, high prices of goods and services, and unemployment.
According to KMU Chairman Elmer Labog, it was important to implement a national wage hike due to rising prices of oil products and the impact of the TRAIN law on the income of workers.
Security of Tenure bill
Nagkaisa chairman and Federation of Free Workers president Sonny Matula said that he was disappointed over the still unkept promise to pass the Security of Tenure (SOT) bill due to the opposition of the senators.
But TUCP President Raymond Mendoza said he was still hopeful that the bill will be passed into law after the Congress resumes it session on May 20.
The House of Representatives has approved the security of tenure bill on third reading. In the Senate, it is still undergoing interpellation in the plenary.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Tuesday said they expect the passage of the Senate Bill No. 1826, or the proposed Security of Tenure Law, when they resume sessions on May 20.
“Yes, it’s (approval in Senate) possible,” Sotto told The Manila Bulletin in a text message.
The measure, certified urgent by President Duterte, is awaiting approval on second reading in the Upper Chamber. Senators have nine session days to finish tackling the bill for its passage on third and final reading.
Sen. Joel Villanueva, author, and sponsor of the SB 1826, said he was optimistic that the Senate will send the Security of Tenure bill to the bicameral conference committee before the present Congress adjourns on June 7.
“The President certified this as urgent, and the entire institution would want to see this through. While there have been various positions on the nitty-gritty of the bill, we want a measure that will protect the overall welfare of our workers,” the chair of the Senate labor committee said in a statement.
Senators Joseph Victor Ejercito, Risa Hontiveros and Aquilino Pimentel III, co-authors to the measure, have also appealed for its passage.
Best gifts to workers
For Catholic prelates, the best gifts that the government can give to workers on Labor Day will be more jobs in the country, and an end to contractualization.
“For me the best gifts are: first to create jobs here so that they will never be forced to find work in foreign lands, be separated from their families and to avoid brain and manpower drain,” Balanga Bishop Ruperto Santos said in an interview.
“Second is to end contractualization which there would be stability, mutual benefits,” he added.
Bishop Santos said this is also to show our appreciation for the sacrifices of the country’s workers.
Meanwhile, more than 200,000 jobs will be made available to job seekers during the simultaneous job and livelihood fairs of the DOLE today.
Of the 122,560 jobs offered, 76, 257 will for local and 46,303 for overseas placement.
The Bureau of Local Employment (BLE) Director Dominique Tutay said the top 10 vacancies for local employment in the job caravan are for customer service representatives, production machine operators, call center agents, collection specialists, cashiers, retail/sales agents, account specialists, service crews, English teachers and utility staff.
For overseas employment, the top 10 occupations with most number of vacancies are professional nurses, construction workers, cleaners, technicians, factory workers, bakers, nursing aides, auto repair personnel, waiters and waitresses.
More jobs in gov’t
Government jobs topped the list of openings for the nationwide simultaneous job and business opportunities fair of the DOLE today.
According to DOLE, there are 18,000 job vacancies up for grabs in the government sector which include positions like officers and non-uniformed personnel of the Philippine National Police (PNP), Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP), Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), and other agencies of government.
Over 204,000 available local and overseas jobs are being offered by over 1,000 agencies.
The main site of the business fair will be at the Kingsborough International Convention Center in San Fernando City, Pampanga.
The Trabaho, Negosyo, Kabuhayan (TNK) job, and livelihood fairs will be held in 31 sites across the country.
The jobs caravan is a collaborative effort of DOLE, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), and the Build Build Build agencies – the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Department of Transportation (DOTr), Department of Finance (DOF), Department of Budget and Management (DBM), National Economic Development Authority (NEDA), and the Bases Conversion Development Authority (BCDA).
Other jobs and business fair sites are in Ayala Mall South Park, Muntinlupa City; Vista Mall, Tuktukan, Taguig City; and City Social Hall and Sports Complex, Paranaque City in the National Capital Region.
Proposed minimum wage hike
Senator Joel Villanueva on Tuesday said the government should not quickly turn down the possibility for an increase in the minimum wage as he urged concerned agencies to carefully look into the proposal.
Villanueva reacted to the reminder issued by Labor Undersecretary Ciriaco Lagunzad III that the Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board (RTWPB) should determine a supervening condition that would allow the granting of the P710-wage increase being pushed by the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) for Metro Manila workers.
“We should not immediately close our doors to the possibility of having a second wage increase in less than a year. The government must look into the supervening conditions to justify whether there is a need for another increase,” Villanueva told reporters.
“Examining this issue in our current social and economic context is also necessary,” he added.
The chair of the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development, said the RTWPB should “study well” the wage hike proposal as he stressed the prevalence of malnutrition among Filipino families.
Malnutrition, he said, was “a valid concern”, and the government should consider it “than just outrightly dismissing” the wage hike petition.
Senator Juan Edgardo Angara, for his part, believed that the RTWPB should take into consideration the surge in consumer prices as it reviews the proposed wage hike.
“If prices keep going up as a result of crude oil hitting $75/barrel then the wage boards should consider and study carefully the possibility of raising the minimum wage in the regions affected,” Angara said.
On Monday, the TUCP filed before the National Capital Region RTWPB a petition seeking to raise the minimum wage of workers to P1,247 from the current P537.
National minimum wage
As the Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board (RTWPB) is not expected to grant wage increase to workers in Metro Manila and other regions nationwide, KABAYAN party-list Rep. Ron Salo vowed yesterday to push for the passage of a measure seeking to raise the minimum wage nationwide to P600.
He described as “unfair” the minimum wage levels in the different regions, citing that it was about to provide financial security blanket to workers.
“It is time for the wage boards to make workers gain from the economic growth across the country, especially in the countryside,” Salo said in a statement.
“Our workers perform the same service wherever they’re located, and yet, we pay them different minimum wages,” he pointed out.
He noted that government employees were paid equally regardless of their area of assignment – whether they are in Metro Manila or in the far-flung provinces.
Salo sought the passage of House Bill 7527 to set to P600 the national minimum wage. (With reports from Vanne Terrazola, Charissa Luci-Atienza, Leslie Aquino, Mario Casayuran)