Monday, August 24, 2015

PM to BOC: Balikbayan boxes contain labor and love; smuggled goods are in container vans

24 August 2015

Labor group Partido Manggagawa (PM) joined OFW groups and individuals around the world in denouncing the new policy of Bureau of Customs (BoC) to subject balikbayan boxes to inspection and to impose duties on their assessed values exceeding $500.

“The policy is anti-OFWs on two grounds. First, it begins with the sweeping assumption that OFWs are into technical smuggling. Second, it ends up with a new revenue scheme that can generate some P600 million/year from small articles being sent home by our OFWs,” said PM Chair Renato Magtubo.

Partido Manggagawa is asking the BoC and Malacanang to scrap the twin policy altogether as they smack with a veiled intention of making money out of the small and non-business articles coming from our OFWs.

The BoC came up with the memorandum explaining the new policy based on the findings that balikbayan boxes are being used for technical smuggling. The bureau said some P50 million are lost every month from technical smuggling and one way to address this problem is to subject balikbayan boxes to inspection.

But Magtubo said, “Stricter rules must be imposed against illicit trade, including imported goods that are meant for business and not against compressed articles that contain hard labor and deep love coming from our OFWs.”

He pointed out that this reform is also aimed at the wrong target since smuggled business articles are usually found in 40 ft.-long container vans and not in 4-cubic foot balikbayan boxes.

On the planned imposition of duties against articles exceeding $500 in value, Magtubo said the policy can be used arbitrarily and indiscriminately against OFWs who are unaware of custom’s valuation as well as the procedures on how values are determined on a mix of articles that are compressed inside the balikbayan boxes.

The labor group lamented the fact that OFWs have already been paying $0.05 cents per dollar in their remittances thus the new policy will be an added burden to them.

He also agreed with the view that the new policy may only create new forms of corruption in the most corrupt agency at the expense of hardworking OFWs.

Friday, August 14, 2015

BPO workers group challenges candidates on issues

Press Release
August 14, 2015
Inter-Call Center Association of Workers (ICCAW)

A BPO workers group today challenged presidential candidates to commit to a platform of demands and issues of employees in the sector. The challenge came a day after news came out on an hour-long meeting that Mar Roxas had with some BPO workers in Cebu City.

“We hope that candidates Mar Roxas, Jojo Binay and Grace Poe, even if she had not yet announced formally, will seriously engage with BPO workers on their demands and not be content with shallow photo-ops. And the dialogue with BPO workers should lead to a firm commitment to concrete policy and executive actions, rather than end in vague promises that will be easily forgotten once the elections are over,” argued Rosie Hong, Inter-Call Center Association of Workers (ICCAW) president.

ICCAW is one of only a few workers associations in the BPO industry. It was founded in Cebu in late 2012 as a result of the fight of workers of Direct Access, a call center that unceremoniously shutdown and left its 600 employees without jobs and with unpaid wages and benefits. ICCAW has since expanded nationwide with organizing groups in Metro Manila, Iloilo City and Bacolod. With a full-pledged chapter in Cebu, ICCAW sits as the labor representative in the Cebu City tripartite body on the ICT industry.

“A case in point is candidate Mar’s ‘charm offensive’ with BPO workers in Cebu City’s IT Park. He was very concrete in promising a ‘caravan’ of government offices for faster processing of work-related requirements but in contrast he was obviously ambiguous and non-committal on the issue of workers security of tenure,” Hong elaborated.

“Security of tenure is not contradictory to the volatile nature of outsourced accounts. Contracts with overseas clients may come and go but the BPO company remains so it cannot deny security of tenure to its employees whose skills are portable and usable to different accounts,” Hong insisted.

Among ICCAW’s platform is the demand for industry-wide standards for wages, benefits and entitlements that must be well above the minimum mandated by law and commensurate to profitable dollar-earning nature of the BPO industry. ICCAW seeks to be an industry-wide organization for employees in the call center and business process outsourcing sector, and be a voice for industry workers’ concerns, grievances, demands and interests.

Hong ended with “Instead of a charm offensive and photo-ops, we prefer to engage with candidates on a policy debate and issue discussions. For example, we are interested to hear if any of them believe that contractualization is good for the BPO sector and we are more than willing to discourse with them on such issues.”

Monday, August 3, 2015

Engage people’s organizations in Yolanda rehab

August 3, 2015
PM Region 8

Informal workers associations in Leyte are asking the government to engage with people’s organizations in the implementation of the Yolanda rehabilitation in the face of criticism of the pace and scale of work done.

“The delay in the release of funds for the Yolanda rehab is just part of the problem. The participation of the people themselves is vital in the success of the Yolanda rehab plan. Yolanda survivors should not just be passive recipients of aid but active stakeholders in the reconstruction process,” asserted Judy Torres, chair of the Tacloban City tricycle federation (TAFEMDO) and coordinator of Partido Manggagawa (PM) in Region 8.

Torres averred that “People’s organizations can also serve as watchdogs against graft and corruption in the rehab process. Even more than the problem of temporary shelter, the input of the people is crucial in the issue of permanent housing. We insist on in-city relocation and climate-resilient socialized housing program for informal settlers.”

PM and TAFEMDO had earlier criticized the overpriced and substandard bunkhouses when it was exposed in 2014. For two years, the groups have been campaigning for decent employment, social protection and people’s participation as pillars of Yolanda rehabilitation plan.

In December of 2013 TAFEMDO held in Tacloban a motorcade of a hundred tricycles which were garbed in tarp posters with the message “Make jobs a priority in Yolanda rehab.” Last year, the Tacloban tricycle federation together with drivers associations in Hilongos and Baybay, Leyte issued a manifesto calling for decent employment to be a priority in the rehab plan. It also held a motorcade

The demand echoes reports by the United Nations and the International Labor Organization that more need to be done to provide decent work in the Yolanda affected areas that includes ensuring minimum wages, sound occupational safety, skills development and social protection.

“Decent jobs are a necessity since it is a guarantee to a person’s long-term security and a life of dignity” Torres argued.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

State of Negros: The rise of ‘new sacadas’ belies SONA claim of PNoy on labor

Partido Manggagawa-Negros
28 July 2015

The rise of ‘new sacadas’ in Negros belie the claim of President Aquino during his State of the Nation Address (SONA) yesterday that the country is now moving from cheap labor to high-tech producer.

Fresh from the joint consultation-workshop on the state of sugar workers held in Bacolod City last Sunday, the Negros chapter of Partido Manggagawa (PM-Negros) and the Sentro ng Nagkakaisang Manggagawa (Sentro) described as ‘first world falsehood’ the assertion of the President that high-tech production is taking over cheap labor that for a long time characterized the Philippine labor force.

“What country are you talking about, Mr. President?  Negros is now home to BPOs yet the island remains a country of sacadas,” said the two groups in a statement.

It is clear, according to PNoy, “The Filipino can now compete.  Previously our only selling point was cheap labor.  Now factories for high-tech equipment are coming here, from airplane parts, electrical tricycles, printers, and other digital media products to high-quality medical devices.”

During their Sunday consultation, PM-Negros presented a study that pointed to the rise of ‘new sacadas’ in Negros resulting from the dismal failure of agrarian reform in the island as well as the massive contractualization of farm works in the Sugarlandia.

“The old dumaans (regular workers) were replaced by tens of thousands and contractual workers. And the migrant sacadas that mainly came from Panay and other neighboring provinces before are now replaced by inland sacadas -- a phenomenon that suggests a downside shift in labor relations in the island,” explained the group.

According to PM-Negros, the ‘new sacadas’ of Negros is represented now by tens of thousands of contractual farm workers who comprise at least 80% of the total workforce in sugar plantations in the island.  They receive not more than P150 per day working as planters, weeders, fertilizer applicators, harvesters and haulers.

“Until the late 90s, Negros sourced its shortage of sacadas from outside of the island but now the internal labor market is heavily populated with contractual, seasonal and mobile workers who perform work previously done by regular workers or the dumaans,” said the two groups.

For PM and Sentro, the combination of failed agrarian reform and the onslaught of contractualization schemes created this phenomenon as workers who were displaced due to massive retrenchments lost their employee-employer relationship (EER) and eventually their right to become land reform beneficiaries. 

“This condition left at least 100,000 hectares with no more agrarian reform beneficiaries to claim the lands, creating in effect an army of sacadas that hop from one hacienda to another around the island to find work,” explained the group.

This state of sugar workers in Negros, added the groups, is further threatened by the expected adverse impact of Asean integration on Philippine agriculture once the zero tariff regime begins to be implemented this year.

“We expect massive job loss once the country’s sugar industry fails to survive the intense competition with Thai and Vietnamese sugar,” said PM.

The saddest point, said PM and Sentro, is to hear the SONAs of the past and present Presidents, without any mention of the pressing problems in Negros, specifically the life of sugar workers.

“Ang problema namon, amon lang gid problema. Isa kami sa halimbawa sang SONA nga indi matalupangdan,” concluded the group.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Inequality, jobless growth are PNoy’s legacies—labor group

Press Release
July 27, 2015

With President Benigno Aquino III expected to dwell on his legacies in today’s SONA, the labor party Partido Manggagawa (PM) insisted that worsening inequality and jobless growth are the enduring legacies of his administration.

“Walang naituwid at walang naitawid si PNoy sa kanyang panunungkulan. Economic growth has not tricked down to the masses as unemployment, poverty, contractualization, low wages and lackluster social services persist. Worse, GDP growth has been monopolized by big capitalists as the wealth of the richest 50 Filipinos has ballooned in the last few years thus the chasm between rich and poor swelled even more,” explained Rene Magtubo, PM national chair.

Hundreds of PM members joined the SONA protest launched by the labor coalition Nagkaisa and various multisectoral groups. Ahead of the main afternoon counter-SONA rally, some 50 members of PM-Kabataan, its PM’s youth organization, held a flash mob in front of the TUCP/PGEA compound to dramatize the sorry state of the youth. Other PM-Kabataan members held giant placards that spelled the message: “5 Taon ni PNoy: Kabataan NGA-NGA!” Counter-SONA protests were also held by PM chapters in Cebu at downtown Colon and in Davao in front of the city hall.

Magtubo added that “Even as PNoy focuses on his unique achievements in his SONA, his administration is essentially no different from past regimes in sacrificing the workers and the poor in the altar of globalization. The state of the workers is best illustrated by the industrial tragedy at Kentex and the plight of OFW Mary Jane Veloso. Sweatshops and cheap labor are the norm not just in Valenzuela but everywhere. No wonder, Filipinos choose to go abroad in a futile search for greener pastures, only to fall victim to criminal syndicates, abusive employers and lack of labor rights and social protection in other countries.”

PM’s Magtubo averred that Aquino’s good governance record is at best spotty, as many critics have pointed out that the so-called anti-corruption campaign has only targeted well-known opposition leaders. The group also argues that poverty reduction is dependent on the massive funds allocated to the nationwide dole out program of CCT that remains hobbled by patronage system at the ground. Finally PM also claims that a big chunk of the jobs generated under Aquino is mainly due to the emergency work program.

“By itself, dispensing emergency work is positive but ours pales in comparison to similar programs in other countries. In the Philippines, emergency work in the form of DOLE’s TUPAD lasts only for 15 days for every year while in India, the law called NREGA guarantees 100 days of wage employment for every rural family annually,” Magtubo described.