Tuesday, February 10, 2009

GMA’s employment program promotes cheap contractual labor

Press Statement
February 10, 2009
Renato Magtubo

What could have been a good start to alleviate mass layoffs instead became a bad precedent when the government’s employment program promoted the exploitation of cheap contractual labor.

Truly it is imperative to give jobs to the thousands who will be laid off and the millions who were unemployed even before the crisis struck. Since the private sector apparently is not interested in hiring them, then it is the responsibility of the government to establish an employment program.

The government is however joining hands with the capitalists to exploit the economic crisis to institutionalize cheap labor and contractual work, and thereby tear to shreds the already tattered protection for workers.

The NARS program illustrates this clearly. An P8,000 monthly salary for nurses mean paying professionals a minimum wage, if not less. And giving deploying them for two six-month tours of duty instead of a straight one year contract is a deliberate maneuver to avoid making them regular employees. The government is now no different from Henry Sy of SM, or even worse since it is promoting contractualization among professionals.

There are few details on the so-called green collar jobs but we have no doubt that they will any different from the “kamineros” and “oysters” that are hired on a contractual basis for below minimum wages. White collar and green collar labor will now be at par with the worse pay given to blue collar workers. Government is fomenting a race to the bottom in wages and working conditions amidst the crisis instead of raising the bar for labor standards and workers rights.

Militant workers demand a radical reform of the government’s employment program. Minimum labor standards at the very least must be guaranteed. No matter that it is a dirty job as long as it is decent work.

Funneling billions of taxpayers’ money into big-ticket projects and mass employment programs opens the floodgates for plunder and patronage. As a check and balance, the employment program must be placed under the co-ownership if not control of people’s organizations.

Of course GMA will counter that they are no funds to pay higher wages and benefits to untrained nurses and tree planters. But there are hundreds of billions automatically appropriated for debt payment (interest alone is equivalent to 30% of the national appropriations and together with the principal amounts to 70%) which can instead be better used it to finance a reformed employment program. Not paying the banks for the debt, legitimate or otherwise, that we ostensibly owe them is a light punishment for the high crimes of sparking the global crisis.

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