April 12, 2009
The labor group Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) declared that the economic crisis must be transformed into an opportunity for reconstruction by making policy changes. “An economic resurrection can come about through a policy reversal and paradigm shift in the national development model,” asserted Renato Magtubo, chairperson of PM,
He added that “The policies of liberalization, deregulation and privatization must be stopped. The local economy must be developed by strengthening industry and modernizing agriculture based on agrarian reform. Since the beginning of the global crisis it has been Black Friday for workers. It has been like Calvary for workers who have lost their jobs and have sustained pay cuts due to reduced work days and compressed workweeks.”
As examples of the policy changes, the group cited the repeal of the EPIRA (Electric Power Industry Reform Act), Oil Deregulation Law and VAT. “Such reversals in policy will rollback the price increases that came about because of privatization and deregulation of basic services. Also tariff protection and quota restrictions must be imposed on foreign goods that compete with locally-produced products and services,” Magtubo explained.
He also mentioned the review and revocation of unequal trade agreements such as the multilateral GATT-WTO and bilateral ones like JPEPA and the proposed EU-ASEAN Free Trade Agreement. “These so-called trade agreements have favored multinational corporations to thee detriment of workers, farmers and local business,” Magtubo insisted.
The labor group also called on workers to challenge the government’s promises of assistance for the displaced. “The unemployment insurance proposal has been talked for weeks already. Workers cannot survive on news stories. It is high time that it be implemented. Workers should claim these benefits and protection through protest and struggle,” argued Magtubo.
For Labor Day, PM is demanding a bailout package for workers. The bailout includes subsidy for displaced workers from the SSS, GSIS and OWWA; tax refund for all wage earners; expansion and reform of the public employment program; extension of health care coverage for displaced workers; and moratorium on demolitions and evictions.
Magtubo clarified that “Bailing out the workers is just the first step. Reversing the policies that brought about the crisis itself is the next. But the ultimate solution is to replace moribund capitalism with a new society whose organizing principle is not prioritizing corporate profit but meeting people’s needs.”