Monday, September 21, 2009

Labor party calls for changes to martial law-era labor code

Press Release
September 21, 2009

On the anniversary of the declaration of martial law, the labor group Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) called for major changes in the labor code in the interest of advancing workers rights and welfare. “It is ironic that even as we vow never again to repeat the tragedy of martial law, the 1974 labor code remains in force as an enduring legacy of the dictatorship and a tight chain on the hands of the workers. The 1986 Edsa revolution dismantled many ramparts of the Marcos dictatorship and revived the trappings of elite democracy but it retained the labor code in order to restrict the freedoms of workers,” argued Renato Magtubo, chairperson of PM.

PM together with other labor groups under the KONTRA coalition formed to campaign against contractualization mobilized today several hundreds of workers. Theme of the workers rally was “Wakasan ang Batas Militar sa Paggawa.” The KONTRA mobilization assembled around 9 am at Morayta in Manila before proceeding to Mendiola by 10 am.

“The urgency of revising the martial law-era labor code comes to stark relief as the International Labor Organization starts its High Level Mission on the government’s enforcement of the Convention 87 and 98 on the right to organize of workers and bargain collectively,” Magtubo explained. The ILO High Level Mission (HLM) arrives today and starts if investigation officially tomorrow.

Magtubo also issued a challenge to the presidentiables to make put in their platforms the labor issues. “For the coming election to truly be a fight between good and evil, the presidentiables must specifically commit to changes in the labor code and jurisprudence on labor in the interest of promoting workers rights and welfare. Any presidentiable who claims to be fighting for good instead of evil must be an advocate of labor,” Magtubo insisted.

PM also appealed to the ILO HLM to investigate the “no union, no strike” policy in the export zones and the contractualization of labor both of which the group claims as a hindrance to the exercise of the right to unionize and bargain. “For example, Philippine Airlines will spinoff by November 15 its catering, passenger and cargo handling operations thus affecting an estimated 2,000 workers, about half its workforce. But this is just a retire-rehire tactic to weaken the PAL union. Lucio Tan owns the companies which will continue the spun off operations but with workers who are non-union with cheaper wages, less benefits and no security of tenure,” Magtubo described.

He also clarified that in the Mactan Export Processing Zone in Cebu workers are complaining of unfair labor practices by management designed to interfere in the workers exercise of the freedom to organize. “A clear case in point is Alta Mode, a garments factory producing world famous brands like Abercrobie and Fitch and Hollister, that put on forced leave all of the union members on the day of the election for workers to decide on having a union. And several days after the union won a majority of the votes, the management put the factory on temporary shutdown in order to intimidate the workers,” Magtubo added.

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