Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Foreign agenda is bad cha-cha – labor group

10 June 2015

The House of Representatives (HOR) is on the verge of making the biggest historical mistake and disservice to the country today once its members vote for the removal of economic restrictions imposed upon foreign interests by the 1987 Constitution, the labor group Partido Manggagawa (PM) said in a statement.

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Jr. indicated lately that the HOR is going to pass his pet Resolution, the Resolution of Both Houses (RBH1), once absolute majority of the House membership are present in today’s session. 

PM Chair Renato Magtubo stated that, “Although the mode that is being smuggled for approval today is an untested formula for charter change, the push for it appears to be so powerful it is able to marshal the big quorum and solid vote of both the smart and shabby politicians in Congress.”

Magtubo said powerful interest groups were behind the big push for economic cha-cha as disclosed by no less than the Speaker of the House himself.

Belmonte admitted last year that the biggest lobby groups behind the economic cha-cha were the foreign chambers of commerce led by the American Chamber of Commerce, Australian New Zealand Chamber of Commerce, Canadian Chamber of Commerce, European Chamber of Commerce, Japanese Chamber of Commerce, Korean Chamber of Commerce, and the Philippine Association of Multinational Companies Regional Headquarters Inc.

Magtubo said: “The primary mandate of Congress is to uphold the full protection of the country’s sovereignty, patrimony and social justice which exclusively pertain to our natural and human resources. Hence, a cha-cha with foreign agenda is a bad cha-cha.”

Full freedom for foreign capital 

According to PM, Belmonte’s economic cha-cha carries the same old agenda of giving foreign capital full ownership freedom and flexibility in doing business in the country. 

RBH 1 seeks to further ease restrictions on foreign capital by amending specific provisions of the Constitution particularly Articles XII (National Economy and Patrimony), XIV (Education, Science and Technology, Arts, Culture and Sports) and XVI (General Provisions), by inserting the phrase “unless otherwise provided by law.”

This phrase, Magtubo said, “is comparable to an aircraft carrier loaded with all sorts of lethal weapons and with our Congress people assigned the new role of launching these warheads to annihilate the constitutional barriers for the complete rule of foreign capital in the country.”

The former partylist representative explained further that while the current provisions restricting foreign ownership of land, corporations and public utilities will remain in the Constitution, Congress, under the RBH1 insertion, can anytime pass a law removing these. 

100% ownership

PM said the country have had enough of free trade and investments with other countries and the global community since the Galleon trade – the free trade agreements with America, the IMF-WB/WTO regimes, and under the latest BOT and PPP programs, yet the country has remained in the state of underdevelopment.

The group believes that foreign capital wanted full control of their businesses in the country, including 100% ownership of land and corporations as they eye the country’s booming real estate business as well as the lucrative industries in power, water, infrastructure, telecommunications, transport, and even in education and healthcare. 

The group said a good exhibit to this foreign drive for cha-cha is the case of PLDT where ownership of a big chunk of its shareholdings were found to be under the control of an entity which is neither a registered corporation nor a citizen of the Philippine Republic, violating in effect the 60-40 rule Constitutional restrictions on foreign ownership.

Reports indicate that these shares are actually owned by the Indonesia-based Salim group whose entry into the country was facilitated by PLDT Chair Manuel Pangilinan known in the industry as MVP.

Perhaps MVP does not want a ‘foundling’ tag attached to PLDT’s alien shares,” added Magtubo.  And the same is true for other businesses where foreign interests are concealed under the skirt of local dummies.

No guarantee to foreign investment

The claims that economic cha-cha would mean more foreign investments in the country remains highly speculative as there are major factors that hinder their entry into the country, according to PM. 

“During the last decades, China, Vietnam and Thailand received the bigger chunks of FDIs than us despite their more restrictive policies on foreign ownership. Aliens cannot own land in China yet it gets the biggest FDI in Asia.  In other words, there are other bigger factors such as corruption, poor infrastructure and high power rates that discourage the entry of FDIs into the country,” said Magtubo.

He added that in terms of employment, for 40 years jobs, in the most liberalized EPZAs, which now include the BPOs, hardly reach 4% of total employment.  Meanwhile employment benefits in mostly foreign firms can never offset the social costs of destructive mining operations in the country.

“If these were the only gains we got from more than a century of dancing with foreign agenda, then perhaps the country, on the contrary, does not need more of them,” concluded Magtubo.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Labor group dares PNoy to certify bill criminalizing OSH violations

Press Release
May 29, 2015

The labor group Partido Manggagawa (PM) today challenged President Benigno Aquino III to certify as priority legislation of his administration the bill providing for criminalization of violation of occupational safety and health (OSH) standards. “PNoy’s declaration that there needs to be an ‘integrated multi-disciplinary approach’ in response to the Kentex factory fire are highfalutin words good for bureaucrats but abstract to workers who want to see concrete action and political will from the government,” averred Rene Magtubo, PM national chair.

It was reported that last Wednesday that President Aquino met officials from the Labor Department and other agencies regarding the government’s response to the Kentex fire. Even earlier Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz pushed for the enactment of pending bills that mandate stiffer fines and jail terms for employer breach of workplace safety standards.

“We welcome Secretary Baldoz’s support for bills criminalizing OSH violations but until her boss PNoy certifies as urgent such pending legislation, they remain so much noise signifying nothing,” Magtubo insisted.

PM had been vocal in calling not just for justice for workers killed and injured in the Kentex fire but for labor inspection and enforcement reforms. As an immediate reform, Magtubo called for deputizing labor leaders as additional labor inspectors. PM is also pushing for criminalization of  OSH violations as a potent deterrent.

Magtubo said that “Workers can forget PNoy’s slight of not even visiting the Kentex factory after the fire or the wake of workers killed, but we cannot forgive if in the coming State of the Nation address he will not certify as urgent the bills providing for criminalization of OSH breach and for protection of security of tenure.”

Labor groups have been campaigning for passage of security of tenure bill that will regulate the rampant practice of replacing regular workers with contractual laborers. In the wake of the Kentex fire, it was found out that Kentex not only violated OSH standards but also labor laws, including using an illegal contractor to hire agency workers in the factory.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Labor group challenges business sector to speak on Kentex tragedy

Press Release
May 21, 2015

The labor group Partido Manggagawa (PM) today challenged the business sector to speak on the fire at Kentex Manufacturing Corp. that killed at least 72 people, almost all of whom were factory workers and many of whom were women.

“Compared to the prominent role of employers in support of the controversial Bangsamoro Basic Law, they are noticeably absent in the calls for justice and reform in the wake of the tragic Kentex fire. Would Jaime Zobel de Ayala and Manny Pangilinan link up arms with labor leaders to call for jailing the immoral owners of Kentx and the criminalization of workplace safety violations?,” asserted Judy Ann Miranda, PM secretary general.

Yesterday, PM together with labor groups affiliated to the coalition Nagkaisa! trooped to the Kentex factory to hold a site inspection and spray paint the gutted factory and nearby establishment with the message “Sweatshop ito: NAKAMAMATAY!” The action was part of PM’s campaign to seek justice for the Kentex workers and demand labor reforms.

“Employer groups have been deafeningly silent on Kentex in contrast to their noisy opposition to wage hike demands. We dare them to denounce Kentex for its violations of workplace safety and labor standards. We call on them to support calls for criminalization of breach of occupational safety and health,” Miranda argued.

She noted that the recent statement by Employer Confederation of the Philippines that it does not condone labor law violations and it supports penalizing Kentex if found guilty is “too little, too late given the concrete facts that have been uncovered about the sweatshop conditions at the factory.”

PM is demanding that business groups spell out detailed mechanisms for self-regulation among it employer members to ensure compliance with labor rights and standards.

Miranda explained that “Even big companies and multinational corporations, which are generally compliant with the minimum standards set by law, benefit from sweatshop labor because small companies are subcontractors in their supply chains. For example, global garment brands even employ homeworkers toiling under the exploitative piece rate system not as direct employees but as laborers in layers upon layers of subcontracting arrangements. No wonder the business sector is quiet and absent in the outrage over Kentex since the capitalist class benefit as a whole from sweatshop labor.”

Monday, May 18, 2015

“Jail Kentex, subcon owners!”—labor group

Press Release
May 18, 2015

The militant Partido Manggagawa (PM) is calling for the criminal prosecution of the owners of Kentex Manufacturing and its subcontractor CJC Manpower Services. To highlight this call, some 50 PM members will troop this morning to the main office of the Department of Labor and Employment as Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz summons the representatives of Kentex and CJC for a mandatory conference.

“Workers who are caught jaywalking can be jailed. The owners of Kentex and CJC deserve no less a penalty for the massacre of some 70 workers and injuries to dozens more. The owners of Kentex and CJC are not just immoral but criminal. Justice for Kentex workers cannot be served by giving P13,000 in assistance to the families,” declared Wilson Fortaleza, PM spokesperson.

In the rally today, PM members will carry placards with messages like “Kentex, CJC: Kriminal di lang immoral,” “Contractualization kills” and “Labor rights violations kill too.”

PM vows to continue pressing for justice for Kentex workers who were killed and injured in the factory fire last week. Earlier, PM together with the Nagkaisa labor coalition held a candle lighting protest at the Kentex factory. More actions are slated for the coming days.

As Secretary Baldoz called on Congress to put “teeth to the law” by passing pending legislative bills providing for criminal penalties for violations of occupational safety and health standards, PM challenged the DOLE to use its existing visitorial and enforcement powers to inspect establishments to prevent another workplace tragedy.

“Obviously we welcome criminalization of the breach of workplace safety. Still what the DOLE lacks is political will not enforcement powers Article 128 of the Labor Code already empowers the Labor Secretary or her representative to investigate any fact, condition or matter which may be necessary to determine violations or may aid in the enforcement of labor laws,” Fortaleza insisted.

He added that “In the very same industrial compound where Kentex is situated are other factories that we believe are similar sweatshops and possible firetraps. Secretary Baldoz and the DOLE’s labor law compliance officers should waste no time inspecting these Kentex-like sweatshops and firetraps.”

“Kentex and its illegal subcontractor CJC are both small fry. As far as illegal and immoral forms of contractualization is concerned there are bigger fish out there. We have been campaigning already against Asiapro, the biggest supplier of contractual workers in the guise of a labor cooperative. And everyone knows the endo system at SM. But the DOLE has not lifted a finger in these cases,” Fortaleza ended.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Advisory: Workers rally today: “Jail Kentex, CJC owners!”

May 18, 2015
Contact: Wilson Fortaleza @ 09053732185, 09225261138
WHAT: Rally by PM members to call for criminal prosecution of owners of Kentex and its subcontractor CJC
WHEN: Today, May 18, 2015; 10:00 a.m.
WHERE: DOLE Intramuros
DETAILS: Some 50 members of PM will hold a rally this morning at DOLE main office in Intramuros as Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz calls the representatives of Kentex and its subcontractor CJC Services in a mandatory conference. PM is calling for the criminal prosecution of the owners of Kentex and CJC even as the DOLE probes the culpable violations by the two companies.

PM vows to continue pressing for justice for Kentex workers killed and injured in the factory fire last week. Earlier, PM together with the Nagkaisa labor coalition held a candle lighting protest at the Kentex factory. More actions are slated for the coming days.

“Workers who are caught jaywalking can be jailed. The owners of Kentex and CJC deserve no less a penalty for the massacre of some 70 workers and injuries to dozens more. The owners of Kentex and CJC are not just immoral but criminal. Justice for Kentex workers cannot be served by giving P13,000 in assistance to the families,” declared Wilson Fortaleza, PM spokesperson.

He added that “Unfortunately it took the death of dozens of workers to make it as clear as daylight: Contractualization kills! Labor rights violations kill too!”