Thursday, July 25, 2013

Workers warn of “Brazil-type protest” over MRT/LRT fare hike

Press Release
July 25, 2013

The labor group Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) expressed its opposition to fare hikes for the MRT and LRT as the Department of Transportation and Communications announced public hearings over the proposal. “The fare increases will be a burden on workers, employees, students and the poor who use the MRT and LRT daily. The government must take heed from Brazil where mass protests exploded last month over a similar hike in public transport fares,” averred Renato Magtubo, national chair of PM.

PM declared that it will be organizing protests against the proposed hike. The group also called on the DOTC to open the books of the corporations running the MRT and LRT, and make transparent the computation of the cost of ferrying passengers. The DOTC had said that it spends P40 and P60 for carrying one commuter from end to end at the MRT and LRT respectively.

“The low MRT and LRT fare is a small consolation for the hundreds of thousands who endure riding the biggest can of sardines in Metro Manila. The fare subsidy is a public service that the state must maintain. Environmentally-friendly public means of transport like the MRT and LRT are important common goods no different from government hospitals and public schools,” Magtubo added.

“Before passing the burden to working class and urban poor commuters, the MRT and LRT must first do housekeeping since the suspicion that these corporations are milking cows for favored political appointees is not unfounded. The complaint by the Czechs that there were asked for grease money for the contract to supply new trains remains pending. The alleged US$30 million bribe is enough to cover the cost of the P5 fare hike for 600,000 daily MRT users for 400 days or more than one year (at a P40 to 1 US$ rate),” Magtubo explained.

He also called the argument that people from the Visayas and Mindanao are subsidizing the fare of people from Metro Manila as “divide and rule.” “If that is a correct argument then how come nobody is calling for the abolition of the Philippine General Hospital even though it predominantly caters to the sick in Metro Manila and nearby areas? Instead of cutting back on subsidies on the MRT and LRT, the government must provide for public means of transport such as light rails in the key cities of Visayas and Mindanao.”

PM is demanding that government expand rather than cut back on provision for “common goods.” “Funds must be allocated to make Philhealth universal. The conditional cash transfer program must be reformed so that it is universal rather than targeted and be in the form of cash for work. Such a program is effectively a public employment scheme that puts the millions of unemployed to gainful and dignified work,” Magtubo ended.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Workers challenge to PNoy’s SONA: Address inequality

Press Release
July 22, 2013

In time for President Benigno Aquino III’s fourth State of the Nation Address, the labor group Partido ng Manggagawa called on the government to address the “central problem of inequality.” “We echo the Catholic bishops call to PNoy that he should do more for the poor even as workers specifically ask that government address the core issue of inequality. Despite GDP growth, mass poverty has remained unchanged and income equality has widened because only 40 wealth families are monopolizing the gains of economic development,” insisted Renato Magtubo, PM national chairperson.

PM together with allied labor groups under the umbrella of Nagkaisa! will mobilize this afternoon in a counter-SONA rally along Commonwealth Avenue. Workers and poor from Nagkaisa!, Freedom from Debt Coalition and Kampanya para sa Makataong Pamumuhay will assemble at 1:00 p.m. near Tandang Sora and then march towards the direction of the Batasang Pambansa.

“The next three years will just be more of the same if PNoy does not face reality. To address inequality, government must stop blaming the National Statistical Coordination Board’s data and instead fault the policies that exacerbate the gap between the rich and poor,” Magtubo asserted.

He added that “PNoy’s SONA will undoubtedly focus on proposals that serve as his legacy to the nation. But without measures to respond to the problem of inequality, PNoy’s legacy will be poverty amidst growth.’

“In his SONA, PNoy will pay lip service to inclusive growth but programs such as CCT are mere token reforms that are targeted and not universal. Workers demand comprehensive measures to solve mass unemployment, job contractualization, starvation wages and high prices of basic goods and privatized services such as water and electricity,” Magtubo elaborated.

Citing a study of Cielito Habito, Magtubo averred that “Just 40 rich families control 76% of the country’s GDP. Their combined wealth of US$ 57 billion is more than the current annual budget of government.”

He furthered that “They have not only monopolized the country’s wealth but have also taken control of our lives. They own the corporations that supply water and electricity to our homes, the biggest banks that command financial capital, the real estate businesses that have expropriated the land in the cities to the detriment of the poor, the providers of telecommunications services which everyone uses daily and even the media networks that shape popular culture and ideas.”

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Labor group calls on PH and Taiwan to resolve row ASAP

Press Release
July 11, 2013

The labor party Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) called on the government of the Philippines and Taiwan to resolve the row over the killing of a Taiwanese fisherman in the interest of OFW’s. “Whether 3,000 or 10,000 OFW’s are becoming jobless because of the continued freeze hiring policy of Taiwan, that still means thousands of workers and their families losing their means of livelihood. Let us not quibble over numbers but act fast to solve the problem,” insisted Renato Magtubo, national chair of PM.

PM and unions such as Philippine Airlines Employees Association (PALEA) held a peace rally last May 22 at the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Makati in the face of harassment by Taiwanese of OFW’s. The groups called for resolving the dispute without sacrificing the welfare of some 80,000 OFW’s in Taiwan.

PM asked the Taiwan government to immediately lift the ban on OFW’s as it averred that Filipino migrant workers should not be held hostage to the row. The group also criticized Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) for giving “false hopes” of reintegration to the thousands of affected OFW’s.

“If the government’s reintegration program is effective then how come more than 3,000 Filipinos daily choose to leave their families for the promise and perils of working abroad? The row with Taiwan and the repatriation of OFW’s in strife-torn Egypt are wake up calls to the government to stop promoting labor export and start developing domestic industry to provide local jobs,” argued Magtubo.

He added that “A decent reintegration scheme is an initial step but the strategic goal is domestic employment for millions of Filipinos. For that the country needs an industrial policy that reverses the model of liberalization, deregulation and privatization. The growth of domestic manufacturing and local agriculture must be led by the state since the private sector has historically defaulted on the challenge. An inclusive growth strategy must be anchored on an industrial policy and the domestic economy.”

“What use is GDP growth to the workers and poor when only 40 capitalist families monopolize increased wealth in the Philippines?,” Magtubo quipped. The call for policy of wealth redistribution and inclusive growth is part of the demands to be raised by PM in the forthcoming State of the Nation Address (SONA) by President Benigno Aquino III on July 22. The group is planning pre-SONA protests as a buildup to the big counter-SONA rally by militant groups.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Group challenges Miriam to investigate BPO sweatshops

Press Release
July 7, 2013
Inter-Call Center Association of Workers (ICCAW)

A newly formed group of call center workers called on Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago to investigate what it called “BPO sweatshops” in the interest of protecting workers rights in the industry. Santiago had refiled a bill seeking a Magna Carta for Call Center Workers.

“We welcome Miriam’s proposed bill for call center employees and we are willing to engage her on its provisions. And as step towards its refinement we ask her to hold hearings in aid of legislation about the proliferation of sweatshop labor conditions in the BPO industry. Sweatshop conditions not just stressful work are a problem of BPO employees,” averred Sylvio Dorig, spokesperson of Inter-Call Center Association of Workers (ICCAW).

ICCAW is a DOLE-registered workers association for mutual aid and protection. Dorig cited as concrete examples the plight of employees of Cordia Philippines, a call center based in Cebu City’s Asiatown I.T. Park. Earlier this year some 76 Cordia workers filed cases of illegal closure, non-payment of salaries and non-remittance of their mandated benefits at the Region 7 branch of the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC).

He also recalled that a group of call center workers in Metro Manila recently complained of underpayment of wages and non-payment of benefits against their former employer. Six ex-employees of the Ortigas-based E-Global International Communications Inc. owned by Mr. Eugene Go filed cases at the NLRC last May 20 for violations of labor standards including illegal dismissal.

“We were paid only P200 a day for the five months that we worked at E-Global. Further we received no overtime pay, holiday pay, rest day premium, service incentive leave, 13th month pay and cost of living allowance,” averred Jiaffy Domingo, one of the E-Global call center agents.

With the assistance of the Partido ng Manggagawa (PM), the E-Global workers were able to verify with the Social Security System that the company was not remitting deductions. A notice was sent to E-Global to comply within a month’s time after which a case can then be filed against the company.

PM national chair Renato Magtubo averred that “A sunshine industry and dollar earning sector like the BPO should have no room for sweatshops. The government must strictly regulate this fast growing industry in the interest of more than 600,000 workers since E-Global and Cordia are not the only BPO sweatshops around.”

In July last year, some 600 employees were laid off overnight when the Cebu City-based Direct Access abruptly shutdown. After a few months of protests, the Direct Access workers got their money claims and separation pay. As a result of that labor dispute, ICCAW was formed to be “a voice for BPO workers regarding specific grievances and general concerns.”