January 24, 2009
The militant Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) called for the convening of a tripartite conference between government, capital and labor on the impact of the economic crisis on the country. “The express aim of such a tripartite meeting would be to design a road map for economic recovery. Labor will push for a bailout package for workers as the cornerstone of a recovery plan,” stated Renato Magtubo, chairperson of PM.
He further explained “The bailout and stimulus package must aim to put money in the hands of the workers and the poor as a part of a set of solutions to counter-act the economic downturn. 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. Industry will collapse if it is squeezed by a tightening of commercial credit on the one hand and on the other by a contraction in consumer spending.”
PM also called for a reform of the DOLE’s retraining program. “We agree with the opinion of Prof. Rene Ofreneo that previous retraining programs have failed since displaced workers are distracted by concern over their families’ daily survival to concentrate on learning new skills for their future work. We have to adopt the Danish model, the most successful such program in the world, in which workers receive an unemployment subsidy while undergoing retraining. The P9.7 billion in pork barrel inserted by solons in the 2009 national budget, if it were instead allocated for workers assistance, would have been enough to fund the subsidy to complement retraining,” argued Magtubo.
The bailout package for workers being pushed by the PM includes a subsidy for displaced workers, tax refund for workers as an economic stimulus, and a reformed and expanded state employment program for the millions of unemployed Filipinos. “Workers are the last to benefit during an economic boom and will not agree to be sacrificed first amidst a global crisis. No retreat on labor standards, no surrender on workers rights,” Magtubo declared as labor’s bottomline position in a tripartite conference.
“The bailout and stimulus package in the Philippines must be different from that implemented in the US by Bush which was a rescue of the high rollers in Wall Street who engineered the crisis in the first place. It thereby rewarded the criminals and punished the innocent. The lessons from the present crisis are clear—expand the real economy and downsize the casino economy. Moreover it is time to put the Philippine economy on a rehabilitation program to cut its decades-long addiction on export orientation and overseas employment. The strategic solution to the crisis is to strengthen the domestic economy by promoting local industrialization and agricultural modernization anchored on agrarian reform,” Magtubo expounded.