Friday, August 7, 2020

Diversion, fake news should not distract Philhealth investigation

It is in the interest of the working class who are the real owner-beneficiaries of the health insurance fund that investigation into the whooping P15-B Philhealth scam proceed unhampered and result to the ultimate prosecution of its corrupt officials.  With the fund’s life threatened by billions of losses due to alleged corruption, so as the health security of our millions of workers especially during a pandemic.

It is for this reason that we call on Congress as well as the Executive to ensure that neither delay nor diversion affect the ongoing investigation as the Filipino people deserve truth and justice on this issue.

We are alarmed, however, that alongside the ongoing investigation is the resurgence of vicious attacks against Sen. Risa Hontiveros whose issues during her stint at Philhealth have already been cleared by the COA and the fund itself. Is it part of a diversion, or simply an increase in production of fake news from a host of click farms?

We are likewise concerned with the statements of several congressmen calling for the abolition of Philhealth by replacing it with a new one. A health crisis is certainly not a good time to kill a health insurance system. Justice and total cleansing, we contend, is what will save the system from ultimate collapse.

07 August 2020

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Nagkaisa! unveils Labor Agenda, calls for a wealth tax to fund recovery and development

After weeks of grassroots consultations and webinars with labor leaders, academe and some economists, the labor coalition Nagkaisa! has unveiled its “Labor Agenda sa Panahon ng Pandemya”, which contains proposals for the protection of labor rights during crisis, income and guaranteed employment for workers, support to key sectors of the economy, and a proposal for a wealth tax to fund economic stimulus, sustain development and address poverty and inequality. 

The presentation of Nagkaisa’s Labor Agenda came on the same day the House approved on second reading the Bayanihan to Recover as One and a day before today’s official announcement of the economy sinking deeper to a 16.5% contraction in the second quarter.   

“This Bayanihan 2, with its measly budget of P162-B bdudget, will neither stimulate a shattered economy nor heal an ailing nation,” declared the group in a statement, saying that a crisis of this magnitude requires a bigger stimulus and a secured, healthy labor force to prevent an ultimate collapse. 

Nakaisa’s Labor Agenda estimates not lower than a trillion-peso stimulus is needed immediately to prevent further collapse of key economic sectors; including our micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) which employ majority of our labor force; and to avoid millions of working people regressing back or sinking deeper into extreme poverty. 

The group’s accompanying proposal for a wealth tax is aimed at countering the official narrative about ‘lack of money’ hampering the delivery of aid, as well as the reluctance of economic managers to spend more for stimulus just to protect the country’s high credit rating. 

“Our wealth tax proposal once imposed upon obscene private wealth will ensure a steady funding stream of not less than P1 trillion per year. We can do so by just taxing the richest 650,000 individuals by 5%, the richest 160,000 individuals, or those with net worth of P10 million and up, by 7%, and the richest 40 individuals, or those with net worth greater than P10 billion, by 10%,” said Nagkaisa. 

“President Duterte has declared war against the oligarchy. Here is a just and winnable, whole of society struggle against poverty and inequality compared to personal attacks against a select group among the oligarchs,” added the group. 

The group said its wealth tax proposal is in fact the right way in putting flesh and blood on the constitutional provision that Congress shall evolve a progressive system of taxation (Sec 28, Art VI). “The adoption of the tax on wealth, Robin hood tax or solidarity tax is a step in the right direction as the country needs fresh sources of money to fund recovery and development.” 

Nagkaisa’s Labor Agenda has 5 R’s that represent Rights, Relief, Repair, Resilience, and Resource Refueling. 

On the protection of labor rights, the group reiterates its stand against flexible work arrangements such as endo and wage cuts, and for workers to enjoy full benefit in cases of layoff or retrenchment amid the pandemic. Nagkaisa also renew its call for #BalikTrabahongLigtas, which it claims the government has failed thus the resurgence in Covid-19 infections. Its demand includes PCR-based mass testing and safe transportation, strict compliance to OSH protocols, workers’ participation at workplace and tripartite levels, and the regular hiring of additional healthcare workers to the civil service, among others. 

The Labor Agenda likewise calls for various types of assistance, depending on the situation of those affected: guaranteed incomes for those still employed but are unable to work due to the lockdown, including returning and stranded OFWs; wage subsidies for those working in MSMEs that needed support to stay afloat; 100-day employment guarantee for those unemployed or 3-month paid trainings for those needing retooling or skills upgrading. Amelioration and income guarantee should also be extended to the informal sector as well as the elderly.

On support to MSME’s Nagkaisa is proposing for a bridging support, which include one-time grant of up to P500,000 depending on size, wage subsidy, soft loans, and even rental subsidy, with the condition that companies receiving subsidy from government do not only retain their workers but also comply with core labor standards.

On support to key economic sectors, Nagkaisa identifies agriculture and its forward and backward links to food production and other industry, garments with new emphasis on producing PPEs, chemicals and pharmaceutical industry, and construction to get immediate and strategic financing support from the government.

Nagkaisa! Labor Coalition
August 6, 2020

Education unions call for workers participation in covid plans of private schools

A coalition of unions of faculty and staff in the private school sector is calling for workers participation in the covid-related plans of private schools with the looming start of online classes.


CoTeSCUP lead convenor Rene Tadle said that "School administrators often renege on their constitutionally-mandated obligation to include labor unions in the decision-making process for school policies, especially with regard to adjustments due to the pandemic. This is one of the root causes of the confusion and dilemma experienced by the employees, despite union officers exerting all efforts to communicate with management to include them in crafting policy."


Tadle spoke at a Senate hearing yesterday on pending bills about online classes and assistance to private schools. He raised concerns about pedagogy such as online class size and labor grievances like retrenchments of faculty and staff. CoTeSCUP supports state aid to private education but insists that it must be conditional on a no-layoff commitment from school administration.


Tadle expressed apprehension about the looming retrenchment and wage cuts in the education industry. He said that “While we understand the adversities faced by administration in the private colleges and universities, we are nonetheless concerned at actual and threatened retrenchments of employees, reduction of wages and benefits, denigration of job security and lack of worker voice in the policies being crafted. Indeed private schools will incur losses due to the impact of covid. But these losses are not substantial as to cause any potential risk of financial distress, unless management can prove otherwise through an objective assessment of its financial condition.”


Meanwhile a youth and student group expressed solidarity with CoTeSCUP’s appeal. Jonel Labrador, coordinator of Partido Manggagawa-Kabataan declared that “We are one with teachers and staff of private colleges and universities in their demand for voice and protection. Similar to private school employees, students are also not being heard, including alarm at the continued imposition of internet, laboratory and electricity and lab fees. Thus we doubt the narrative that private schools need to shed jobs because they are in financial distress.” PM-Kabataan is the youth wing of the labor group Partido Manggagawa.


CoTeSCUP recently sent letters and position papers to the Senate, House of Representatives, Department of Labor and Employment, Commission on Higher Education, Department of Education and the Inter Agency Task Force asking for government intervention in the education sector amidst growing concerns regarding policies and readjustments to be implemented in the upcoming opening of classes.


CoTeSCUP is a coalition which consists of the Faculty Association of MAPUA Institute of Technology, Siliman University Faculty Association, Lyceum Faculty Association, Far Eastern University Faculty Association, Inc., Centro Escolar University Faculty and Allied Workers Union, St. Paul University-Manila Faculty Union, Union of Faculty and Employees of Saint Louis University, College Faculty Independent Union, University of San Carlos, Mapua Institute of Technology Labor Union; San Beda College Alabang Employees Association, Faculty Association of DLSU Dasmarinas Inc., De La Salle University Employee Association Union, De La Salle Zobel Staff Organization, and De La Salle Araneta Faculty Society.

August 6, 2020

Contact: Prof. Rene Tadle

Lead Convenor, CoTeSCUP


Monday, August 3, 2020

Workers call for ayuda during 15-day MECQ in Mega Manila

The labor group Partido Manggagawa (PM) called on government to distribute aid to workers who will be affected by the return of Metro Manila and nearby regions to a modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ).


“Now President Duterte has imposed MECQ on Mega Manila, the millions of workers to be affected need a wage subsidy. The medical frontliners’ call for a timeout included the distribution of aid as part of a package of measures to win the war against covid,” stated Rene Magtubo, PM national chair.


He added that “Together with wage subsidy, workers should also be given a voice in the recalibration of the covid response, specifically on workplace safety and public transportation. For example, the IATF’s controversial no shield/barrier, no back ride policy must be rescinded for being both illogical and unsafe. Likewise the service contracting of PUV’s, including PUJ’s, by employers for safe transport of employees must be allowed and be made mandatory as proposed by the advocacy group MoveAsOne.”


PM supported the protest yesterday of the motorcycle riders’ group KAGULONG at the freedom park of the Commission on Human Rights. The group is also a member of the MoveAsOne coalition.


The group however slammed Duterte’s criticism of the medical frontliners call. “While the frontliners are relieved by the imposition of MECQ as it allows them a time out, we are concerned that Duterte has threatened them with repression or ‘counter-revolution’ as he called it,” Magtubo explained.


He furthered that “With Duterte himself grossly misinterpreting the appeal for a timeout as inciting to revolution, what prevents the Anti-Terrorism Council from similarly treating activism as terrorism and thus protestors subject to warrantless and extended arrest? This episode clearly exposes the clear and present danger of the Anti-Terror Law with its draconian provisions.”


PM is reiterating its demand for ayudang sapat para sa lahat. “The no work, no pay policy during the start of the MECQ tomorrow will mean hunger for millions of workers in Mega Manila. All of them should receive a wage subsidy. But since the DOLE and SSS already has the contact details of workers who have received the CAMP and SBWS, then there is no reason for them to immediately be beneficiaries for the duration of the MECQ. The mechanism for distributing aid to the rest of affected workers should be worked out in consultation with organized labor.”

August 3, 2020

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Youth group supports frontliners’ call for timeout

The youth and student group Partido Manggagawa-Kabataan (PM-Kabataan) expressed solidarity with the call of medical frontliners for a two-week “time out” in the Mega Manila area in order to arrest the spread of covid and recalibrate the response to the pandemic. PM-Kabataan is the youth wing of the labor group Partido Manggagawa.


Jonel Labrador, PM-Kabataan coordinator, said that “We stand with doctors, nurses and other medical frontliners in their demand for a time out before the health system is overwhelmed and so that government can devise an effective strategy. Workers will support this appeal as long as there is ayudang sapat for the duration of the time out and there will be balik trabahong ligtas once the ECQ is lifted. In fact, included in the frontliners’ demands are precisely the provision of aid, public transportation and compliance with workplace safety.”


He added that “Medical frontliners are right that they should not be put in a situation where they decide who will live or die once the health system is overwhelmed. Similarly workers should not be forced to choose between contracting covid at work and dying of hunger while jobless.”


PM-Kabataan also slammed the opposition of Sen. Cynthia Villar and Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez to the time out call. “In dismissing the call of medical frontliners, Villar and Lopez are being the voice of big business. For them, profit trumps public health. In contrast, PM-Kabataan asserts that if public health and workers’ safety are not secured then there will be no economic recovery for all,” Labrador insisted.


He asserted that government should not just consult with medical frontliners but put epidemiologists not generals in charge of the covid response. “Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea’s reply that the IATF will discuss the call of medical frontliners is not enough. The generals at the helm of IATF should be put on time out and replaced by epidemiologists and medical experts. The battle against covid is a public health concern not a peace and order issue,” Labrador elaborated.


He also expressed solidarity with the protest today by motorcycle riders who are opposing the IATF’s policy of no barrier/shield, no back ride policy. “This is not only illogical but also unsafe as proven by transportation experts. But the IATF is monopolized by generals so their vision is tunneled by their peace and order perspective. If you are a hammer, everything looks like a nail,” explained Labrador.


He concluded that “The labor movement, medical frontliners, motorcycle riders, mobility advocates and all affected groups and sectors must ally to push for the right policies to win the war against covid.”

Partido Manggagawa-Kabataa