Monday, July 28, 2014

Workers join counter-SONA rally to slam inequality despite growth

Press Release
July 28, 2014

Workers led by the militant Partido ng Manggagawa (PM), the fighting union Philippine Airlines Employees Association (PALEA) and the labor coalition Nagkaisa joined the counter-SONA rally this afternoon. The workers contingent merged with the mobilization of groups Freedom from Debt Coalition and Kontra Pork that marched along Commonwealth Ave. from Tandang Sora at 1:00 p.m. to the Batasang Pambansa. PM chapters in Cebu, Bacolod, Davao and General Santos City held similar actions today.

PM slammed government policies that exacerbated social inequality amidst economic growth. “PNoy’s inclusive growth is rhetoric without results, just like ‘daang matuwid’ that has been exposed as a myth by the persistence of pork barrel and the controversial DAP,” asserted Wilson Fortaleza, PM spokesperson.

As proof of growing inequality, Wilson Fortaleza pointed to the undiminished number of jobless Filipinos in contrast to the inflation in wealth of the rich under the five years of the Aquino administration. “In January 2010, unemployment and underemployment rates were 7.3% and 19.7% respectively and they basically remained unchanged at 7.5% and 19.5% in January of this year. Meanwhile the wealth of Henry Sy, the richest Filipino, ballooned from USD5 billion in 2010, when Aquino came in, to USD11.4 billion this year according to Forbes,” he elaborated.

“How can there be inclusive growth when PNoy allows contractualization to run rampant and the prices of basic commodities and services like rice and electricity to rise unregulated?,” Fortaleza argued.

PM also called for a citizen’s audit of the DAP to investigate any anomalies and patronage in the disbursement of the billions in people’s money and workers taxes.

PM members brought makeshift cutouts of the number “5” to symbolize inaction on worker demands for the last five years. The raised by the group rallyists include: “Ika 5 taong SONA ni PNoy: Busabos pa rin ang Boss!” and Sa 5 SONA ni PNoy: Walang naituwid na patakaran, Walang naitawid mula sa kahirapan!”

Mga manggagawa, lalahok sa kontra-SONA rally para batikusin ang inekwalidad sa gitna ng pag-unlad

Press Release
July 28, 2014

Lalahok ang mga manggagawa sa pangunguna ng Partido ng Manggagawa (PM), unyong PALEA at ang koalisyong Nagkaisa sa kontra-SONA rally ng mga grupo mamayang hapon. Magmamartsa sila mula sa Tandang Sora hanggang Batasang Pambansa simula ng ala una ng hapon. Ang chapters ng PM sa Cebu, Negros, Davao at General Santos City ay magkakaroon din ng kahalintulad na pagkilos.

Planong batikusin ng grupong PM ang pananatili ng ekwalidad sa kabila ng ipinagmamalaki ng administrasyong Aquino na pag-unlad ng ekonomiya. “Puro salita at walang gawa ang islogan ni PNoy na inclusive growth. Paano matitikman ng mga manggagawa ang kaunlaran kung ayaw ni PNoy na tutulan ang kontraktwalisasyon at hinayaan lang ang pagtaas ng presyo ng mga pangunahing bilihin at mga gastusin gaya ng kuryente,” paliwanag ni Wilson Fortaleza, tagapagsalita ng PM.

Kaugnay ng kontrobersyal na DAP, panawagan ng grupong PM na maglunsad ng special audit sa mga pinaglalaan ng pondo sa pamamagitan ng isang independent people’s commission kasama ng COA.

Magdadala ang mga miyembro ng grupong PM ng mga cardboard na numerong “5” upang maging simbolo ng limang taong kawalang aksyon ng administrasyon ni Aquino sa mga kahilingan ng manggagawa. “Sa ika-5  SONA ni PNoy, busabos pa rin ang mga boss. Sa ika-5 SONA ni PNoy, walang naituwid na patakaran at walang naitawid mula sa kahirapan,” pagdidiin ni Fortaleza.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Labor group seeks special audit for DAP

4 July 2014

The labor group Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) today added its voice to the mounting call to have the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) subjected to a special audit after the Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional.

PM said MalacaƱang’s defense that there was nothing wrong in it since it was done in good faith is flatly self-serving as DAP’s worth needs to be proven beyond the realm of motives or intentions.

Likewise the claim that DAP boasted our economic growth is even more fallacious.

“We leave the legal issues to lawyers, the moral intentions to priests, and the political flavor of it, for a while, to rival politicians.  Our main and immediate interest here is to know whether DAP money had gone in the same manner PDAF had been squandered,” stated PM chairperson Renato Magtubo.

Magtubo said the political context when DAP was concocted and eventually released has overly been discussed. “What we want to know now is whether a DAP released to a lawmaker’s left hand is better spent than a PDAF released to his/her right hand.”

The former partylist representative said a special audit for used and unused DAP funds may either clear many issues or uncover the same pattern of fraud committed under PDAF. Or may be worse.

“Assuming the crime was repeated, the political discussion should therefore lead to a conclusion that the whole system is terribly wrong,” said Magtubo.

The group believes that funds released under DAP and received by the same hands that made PDAF their personal piggy banks are tainted with corruption. Thus the need for a special audit, perhaps deeper and wider than the audit made on PDAF. 

At the height of the pork barrel scam PM had pushed for, as part of reforms in the budget system, the concept of a universal social protection fund with a clearly defined social purpose yet completely isolated from the hands of corrupt politicians.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Workers protest Brunei's labor, LGBT discrimination

Press Release
June 27, 2014

Members of the Partido ng Manggagawa (PM), the Philippine Airlines Employees’ Association (PALEA) and groups comprising the labor coalition Nagkaisa picketed the Brunei Embassy this morning as part of an “International Day of Action” in 13 cities across the globe against anti-LGBT laws in Brunei and to protest the anti-labor management of hotels owned by the Sultan Bolkiah.

PM chair Renato Magtubo averred that “We call for the repeal of the discriminatory law in Brunei and recognition of unions in the hotels owned by Sultan Bolkiah. Workers demand respect for labor and civil rights across ASEAN countries not just economic integration which will commence next year. ASEAN integration is iniquitous if only involves liberalization of trade in good and services and not standardization in adherence of universal human and labor rights.”

The day of action is timed for the 45th anniversary of the so-called Stonewall uprising which marked the birth of the gay movement for civil rights in the US. The international protests are being spearheaded by LGBT groups in the US, the hotel workers union UNITE-HERE and the international union IUF.

Brunei introduced draconian laws which include death by stoning for same-sex activity. In April the campaign went high profile with the support of Hollywood celebrities such as Ellen Degeneres, Jay Leno and even Kim Kardashian. LGBT and labor groups have joined hands to protest the Sultan of Brunei. The sultan owns the Dorchester Collection hotels which have refused to recognize the right to organize of its workers and have fired workers wholesale.

“Workers in the Philippines stand with our brothers and sisters in Brunei who are victims of anti-gay discrimination and in the US who are fighting for a voice in the workplace. Direct action by labor unions, the LGBT community and their allies can win the repeal of the discriminatory laws,” asserted Magtubo.

Nagkaisa vowed to continue solidarity actions until the campaign is successful.

Friday, June 13, 2014

ICCAW: 8 Steps to Protect BPO Workers' Rights

Protection of Workers’ Jobs and Rights, and Promotion of Just Labor Practices
in the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) Industry

The Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) business is one of the top industries in the country with the Philippines now positioned as the number one call center destination. However, just labor practices have not been widely practiced or observed, especially for small and medium scale enterprises and even the mid-size ones. The Philippines has no strict regulation when it comes to putting up a call center business, no government agency that acts for quick intervention and there are not enough programs designed to protect call center workers’ interests.

Thus we, the Inter-Call Center Association of Workers (ICCAW), advocates for strict regulation to protect workers in the BPO industry. Specifically we call for an end to business tactics used by some employers meant to avoid liabilities to their workers such as illegally closing down and forming another company with the same operations and accounts.

We will cite some violations of labor standards and unjust labor practices happening in the BPO industry based on our first hand experiences. Unfortunately there may be other illegal practices still occurring which we just have not come across.

1.      Sudden closure of operations without prior notice
2.      Creating a new company with the same operations and accounts/campaigns after the closure of old business
3.      Avoiding liabilities and responsibilities to workers after the closure of the business
4.      Non-regular employees are not covered with hospitalization and insurance
5.      Employees are forced to go overtime
6.      Sudden cancellation of planned leaves
7.      Paying minimal allowances (P150 for example) during the training period
8.      Salary often delayed with no sound reasons
9.      Overtime is not paid
10.   Terminating employees without due process

Advocacy for Change

To protect workers’ interests there should be standardization of practices and strict regulation of employers who will be putting up business-related BPO operations. This will avoid fly-by-night operations which are ill prepared to run a business.

Priority Demands for Standardization in the BPO Industry

1.      A bond should be imposed to pre-qualify a call center operation and should be a requirement in putting up such a business. The bond will be used in case of sudden closure and should amount to one (1) month basic salary of the total number of employees hired. This is highly applicable for outbound operation BPO companies.

2.      Non-regular employees should be covered with basic hospitalization and insurance since they are prone to sicknesses as they work most the graveyard shift.

3.      Above minimum salary standards should be set given the dollar earning nature of the BPO industry. We demand a basic wage of P12,000, and a transportation and meal allowance of P2,500. This proposal is lower compared to those offered by the existing top call center companies in Cebu. This is exclusive of health benefits and insurance. Establishing minimum wage and allowances in the BPO industry will advance workers’ rights and interests.

4.      Regular labor inspection of BPO/call center sites in accordance with the Department of Labor and Employment’s (DOLE) Labor Standards Enforcement Framework, and in coordination with ICCAW representatives. DOLE should train and deputize ICCAW representatives as labor inspectors to augment the meager number of government inspectors.

5.      Immediate activation of DOLE quick reaction team in response to sudden and illegal closures of BPO companies. This should be done in coordination with ICCAW representatives.

6.      Yearly tax break equivalent to two (2) months.  Exemption from income taxes of wages below P25,000, which is the cost of living in Cebu.

7.      Election of employee representatives within BPO companies with the mandate to negotiate with management on workplace grievances and complaints of workers.

8.      Regularize employees after maximum probationary period of six (6) months. Making employees contractual on basis of volatile accounts is a disguised form of employment. Moreover the Labor Code does not recognize account-based employees. Call center workers are also not project-based employees since such is time-bound depending on project duration. Regular call center workers with closed accounts can and should be redeployed to new accounts unless terminated with separation pay.