20 September 2011
Organized labor groups under the Church Labor Conference (CLC) and the Koalisyon Laban sa Kontraktwalisasyon (Kontra) trooped to the historic Mendiola bridge on the eve of the country’s commemoration of its dark days under martial rule.
But more than keeping the fire of the famous “Never Again” call, workers came to denounce the present government under P-Noy, for perpetuating labor policies that are worse than martial law.
“During the time of Mr. Marcos, labor is not allowed to express itself freely because rights were suspended. Today, these freedoms to express and organize ourselves into union, collectively bargain with our employers, and get involved in concerted actions , remain dead,” said Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) chair and CLC co-chair Renato Magtubo.
Magtubo explained that in fact by comparison, many unions have actually survived the dark days of martial law than under this era of globalization, citing the case of the Philippine Airlines Employees Association (PALEA) which by coincidence is going to celebrate its 65th anniversary tomorrow. PALEA was formed in September 21, 1946.
“But after tomorrow, PALEA will be pushed into the brink of extinction if Lucio Tan succeeds in making the Philippine Airlines the flag carrier of P-Noy’s labor contractualization policy,” added Magtubo.
Under PAL’s outsourcing plan, more than 2,600 members of PALEA, including 70% of its officers, shall be terminated and rehired as contractuals by third party service providers. In effect, the outsourcing plan is union-busting hiding under the guise of company restructuring as claimed by PALEA.
Magtubo stressed further that, “By freeing the employers’ unlimited exercise of management prerogative which was affirmed recently by P-Noy in the case of PAL, workers have effectively lost all the rights to express and defend themselves since they can now be fired at will by their employers. And this is worse than martial law.” Another example, Magtubo said, is the case of Dusit Hotel workers who were fired at will by the management after they cut off their hairs in a show of protest against management policies. Magtubo said the government did nothing to defend the rights of these workers.
The case of Hanjin workers in Subic is another. Some 21,000 workers in this giant shipyard work as contractuals. They live in a very poor working conditions as manifested in many incidents of work-related deaths. Yet the government lifts no finger in ending this gross violations of labor rights in the shipyard and in all export zones (EPZAs) in the country.
“Labor is not happy with this situation. Unfortunately, the little space left where we can express ourselves is also becoming useless since like Marcos, nobody in Malacanang cares to listen or take the side of labor,” concluded Magtubo.
The groups said, however, that martial-law like represssion only strengthen the unity of labor and prepares them to embark on collective struggles against common enemies such as the plague of contractualization and even for a political battle against a pro-capitalist government.