Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Militants demand bailout, stimulus package for workers and poor

Press Release
November 12, 2008

In reaction to the announcement by business leaders of a recession in the coming year, the militant group Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) called for a bailout and stimulus package for the workers and the poor to counter-act the economic downturn.

“We should put money in the hands of the workers and the poor not simply as a measure of social justice but as the solution to the economic recession. The consumers, the overwhelming majority of whom are the workers and the poor, should be able to continue buying their necessities and thereby keep the wheels of production rolling,” explained Renato Magtubo, chairperson of PM.

The group clarified that their bailout and stimulus package is different from that implemented in the US which it criticized as a “bailout of the rich capitalists who engineered the crisis in the first place thereby rewarding the criminals and punishing the innocent.” Magtubo argued that “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.”

In particular, PM is calling for the Social Security System (SSS), Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) and the Overseas Welfare Administration (OWWA) to set aside funds sufficient to subsidize all private sector workers, government employees and overseas Filipino workers (OFW’s) who will be laid off due to the economic crisis. The subsidy should last until they could find work up to a maximum of 6 months. The group is also demanding that the government must declare a tax rebate for all workers equivalent to 2 months wage, in effect giving them a 14th and 15th month salary.

Magtubo stated that “Big business is forecasting a recession next year but the initial effects of the perfect economic storm is already being felt by workers in the export-processing zones and OFW’s in the Middle East. We know first hand of furniture and garments factories in the export-processing zones of Cavite and Cebu who have reduced workers and hours of work because of reduced orders from the US. The export industry as a whole is collapsing with growth contracting from 6.6 % in August to just 1.2% this September. Workers are being made to bear the brunt of a crisis that is not of their own making.”

“As for the millions who were already unemployed even before the onset of the present crisis, a massive public employment program must be established. In form it will be similar to the ‘patrabaho ng gobyerno’ program the presently exists. But in substance it will be radically different. First, 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. Second, 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,” asserted Magtubo. ###

(The SSS and GSIS are the state-managed social security institutions for private sector and public sector employees respectively. The OWWA is a similar institution for overseas workers.)

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