Friday, November 14, 2008

Bailout package for workers pushed

Breaking News - NATION
Veronica Uy
November 13, 2008

MANILA, Philippines -- With the global financial crisis threatening to cut jobs in export-oriented industries, the government should look into a "bailout and stimulus package" for workers and the poor, the Partido ng Mangggagawa (PM or Workers' Party) said Thursday.

Greg Janginon, PM chairman for Cebu, said the government must also declare a tax rebate for all workers that would effectively give them the equivalent of two months' salary.

Eddie Jumao-a, secretary of the Neostone union, said the Social Security System, the Government Service Insurance System, and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration should also set aside funds to subsidize for six months private sector workers, government employees and overseas Filipino workers who will be laid off due to the crisis.

He said this would allow them to get back on their feet again, finding another job or setting up their own micro-enterprise.

Unlike the bailout and stimulus package in the United States, which puts money in the hands of the "rich capitalists who engineered the crisis in the first place," PM chairman Renato Magtubo said their proposals would put money in "the hands of the workers and the poor … short of an unemployment insurance."

He explained that doing so is not simply a measure of social justice, but a viable solution to the economic slowdown.

"This would enable the poor and the workers, who comprise the overwhelming majority of consumers, to continue buying necessities and keep the wheels of production going," he said.

The US package, he said, is like "rewarding the criminals."

"If there is a lesson to be learned from the present crisis, it is that it is time to strengthen the real economy and shutdown the casino economy," he added.

Noting that employees of export-oriented industries are starting to be laid off, the former party-list representative is upset that the workers are "being made to bear the brunt of a crisis that is not of their own making."

Magtubo welcomed the labor department's emergency employment program, which facilitates the hiring of workers for short government projects like building repair, and retraining. But he said this is not enough.

"There [were] already millions of unemployed even before the onset of the crisis. With the crisis, the unemployment situation will worsen and a massive public employment program must be established," he said.

"In form it will be similar to the 'patrabaho ng gobyerno' [jobs from government] program the presently exists. But in substance it will be radically different," he added.

For one, Magtubo said, the patronage system must be excised from the public employment program by putting it under the control of people's organizations instead of local politicians.

For another, he said the salaries, benefits, and working conditions should conform to labor standards instead of the present setup where contractual workers do the work for below minimum wages.

Magtubo warned of "labor discontent" if no labor safety net is forthcoming.

"As capitalists pass on the burden of the economic crisis to the workers, the simmering labor discontent will erupt sooner than later erupt into struggles and strikes," he said.

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