Friday, March 28, 2014

Militant labor group urges Supreme Court to uphold RH Law

28 March 2014

Women workers from Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) joined women from different sectors - government officials, civil society partners, young people, and celebrity supporters - in the march to urge the Supreme Court Justices to uphold the Reproductive Health Law.

The march will start at Anda Circle at 2pm, pass by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines’ office in Intramuros, and proceed to the Supreme Court in Padre Faura, and hold a program at Plaza Salamanca, Taft Avenue. Attendees will march in purple shirts and accessories.

“More pregnant women are dying with the delay in the implementation of the RH Law.  Teen pregnancies are increasing and girls getting pregnant are younger and younger with the delay in the implementation of the RH Law.  HIV/AIDS rates are likewise increasing, young men and women are denied of necessary services with the delay in the implementation of the RH Law,” claimed PM Secretary General Judy Ann Miranda.

PM also noted that a Bureau of Labor and Employment Statistics (BLES) study (Labstat Vol. 17, No. 8, May 2013) showed that most of the women inactive in the labor force are 20-39 year-olds, poor, and either elementary or high school levels/graduates.  They are inactive because besides spending most of their time in childrearing and domestic work, they are also those women with the most number of children born in fairly close succession.
Hence, these women are poor because right from the beginning, they have been denied by the government, with the Catholic Church’s influence, their right to reproductive health. 
“Too many lives and futures have been sacrificed.  We urge the Supreme Court to end the silent carnage and uphold the RH Law,” Miranda ended.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Workers want full prohibition not a compromise deal on power rate hike

20 March 2014
 Organized labor under Nagkaisa is insisting for no less than the full prohibition of the December 2013 and January 2014 rate hike, rejecting in effect the Philippine Electricity Market Corporation’s (PEMC) recomputed rate that is 80 percent lower than the approved market rate in December and January.
 PEMC, which operates the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM), said on Tuesday that it had finished its recalculation of market prices in compliance with the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) order of March 3.  For the December 2013 billing, it set the new spot market rates at P6.007 (76.35 percent lower) than the P25.404 per kWh, and P6.246 (77.98 percent lower) than the original P28.367 per kWh for the billing month of January 2014. 
 “The numbers are out and PEMC’s recomputed rates bared all the elements of market failure.  We insist that any residual cost coming from this failure must be deemed unjust and therefore should not be passed on to consumers,” said Wilson Fortaleza of Nagkaisa power team. 
 Fortaleza, who is also the spokesperson of Partido ng Manggagawa (PM), argued further that in this particular case, the market failure was also a result of regulatory failure the more it should not be borne by the consumers.
 He pointed specifically to the failures of the ERC and PEMC to regulate the market despite the expected tightness in supply due to the Malampaya shutdown and also being aware of official reports citing repeated occurrence of market abuse since WESM started operating in Luzon in 2006; and the failure on the part of the Department of Energy (DoE) to ensure reliable supply of power and impose sanctions on erring power plants. 
 Tomorrow, Nagkaisa and the Power to the People (P2P) network will stage a picket rally at the PEMC to call for the suspension of WESM operations, saying it is not the consumers but the rich owners of generation and distribution companies who profitably gain from this fraudulent trading scheme.
There are also reports that the PEMC Board, who are not independent but made up of the players themselves, receives fat compensations and other perks, including brand new service vehicles.

“We challenge the government to tell the people the truth that WESM won’t work in a very small and highly concentrated market ruled by certified predators in the power industry,” concluded Fortaleza.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Labor groups slams TRO on union elections in Toledo mine

Photo from Cebu Daily News
Press Release
March 13, 2014
Association of Genuine Labor Organizations (AGLO)
Partido ng Manggagawa (PM)

The Association of Genuine Labor Organizations (AGLO) and Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) today slammed the temporary restraining order (TRO) slapped on the conduct of a union certification election at Galeo Equipment and Mining Company, a contractor at the Carmen Copper mine in Toledo City. At the height of the casting of votes by workers whether to join a union or not, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) halted the elections pursuant to a TRO imposed by the Court of Appeals.

Edmund Canete, the president of Galeo Workers Union (GWU-AGLO) asserted that “The TRO was a last minute maneuver by union-busting and union-evading capitalists to subvert our freedom to choose a union and improve our working conditions.”

A total of 285 Galeo workers had already voted by the time balloting was stopped around 5:35 pm yesterday. Galeo is a contractor within the huge Carmen Copper site that hauls mine waste from the open pit mining site. Another 275 Galeo workers were unable to cast ballots and were disenfranchised due to the TRO.

The election dispute arose from an attempt by the Asiapro manpower cooperative to prevent the unionization efforts at Galeo. Asiapro is claiming that the Galeo workers are their members and thus exempt from unionization. The DOLE however had ruled that there union elections can continue despite Asiapro’s opposition.

“Asiapro is the biggest supplier of contractual employees to many companies thus evading employer obligations to workers. In this case, Asiapro is serving as an instrument to sidestep workers’ right to self-organization and collective bargaining,” Canete claimed.


Butch Pena, the national vice president AGLO condemned the TRO. “This TRO is a horrifying act by the second highest court of the land in curtailing workers constitutional right and freedom of association by declaring that Asiapro is an intervenor to the certification election case at Galeo.”

Renato Magtubo, PM national chairperson, argued that “Galeo and Asiapro’s connivance in evading unionism and use of legal maneuvers is not an unusual thing. This happens all the time. No wonder there are so few unions organized. Workers are not averse to unionism but capitalists do everything in their power to sabotage the freedom to organize.”

“We call on organized labor to unite in a campaign to defend the right to organize and job security. Asiapro must be exposed as a capitalist tool to defraud workers of their rights and benefits. Ang laban ng Galeo union ay laban ng lahat,” Magtubo insisted.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

ERC asked to fully void rate hike, suspend WESM operations


Labor groups under the Nagkaisa coalition is asking the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) to fully void all pending rate hikes in Luzon that were affected by ‘market failure’ during the maintenance shutdown of Malampaya gas platform from November to December last year. 

In addition the group is also calling for the suspension of the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM) operations to protect consumers from predatory pricing to one of the most essential of human needs – electricity. 

The call came after the ERC, invoking police powers, ordered the Philippine Electricity Market Corporation (PEMC) to ‘recalculate’ the WESM prices during the said period.

“Now that the ERC begins to invoke police powers in dealing with market failures we then demand that it utilizes them to the max.  If not then its order for recalculation of WESM prices in December can be viewed as mere publicity stunt,” said Wilson Fortaleza of Nagkaisa power team. 

The group is particularly cautious about a recalculation that may result to mere reduction in rate rather than in complete prohibition of the amount applied which in the case of Meralco totalled P4.15/kWh. ERC Executive Director Saturnino Juan has already indicated that the recalculation may result to the reduction of rates by more than half.  

Fortaleza, who is also the spokesperson of Partido ng Manggagawa (PM), reminded the ERC of the principle stated previously by Malacanang that unjust prices resulting from wrong commercial decisions or market failure cannot be passed on to or borne by the consumers.

“We are glad that at last the ERC has finally found the elements of market failure that it chooses to ignore during EPIRA’s 12 years of implementation,” said Fortaleza.

According to the group, WESM itself is a failure since it began operating in 2006.  By concept it is supposed to be at WESM where we can buy the cheapest electricity since the product is sold here at marginal cost of declared excess capacities of power plants. 

In July 2006 the inaugural price at WESM was P2.00/kWh.  During the Malampaya shutdown between November and December last year prices at WESM breached the maximum offer cap of P62.00/kWh.

Kung hindi ito krimen ano ang tawag dito?  The market is supposed to be ‘reasonable’, ‘rational’ and ‘competitive’, to borrow words from ERC.  But it is not. It never was under EPIRA,” said Fortaleza, explaining that a highly concentrated electricity market in the country can never be reasonable as trading is controlled by pivotal plants owned by certified predators in the power industry.

Tomorrow Nagkaisa is organizing a picket at the offices of the ERC in Ortigas Center to press for the full voiding of Meralco and other pending applications for rate hike within the Luzon grid.  It will also call for the suspension of WESM operations.

Friday, March 7, 2014

VAW victim calls for respect for women’s rights in BPO’s

Press Release
March 7, 2014
Inter-Call Center Association of Workers (ICCAW)

On the eve of International Women’s Day (IWD), a VAW (violence against women) victim is calling on the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry for respect for women’s rights. Cheryl Anne Francia, a call center agent, was dismissed from her previous job due to absence from work after suffering physical abuse from her husband. “BPO’s should be a modern workplace not because of the hi-tech gadgets but because of regard for working women’s dignity,” she said.

Francia was on her way to work last 24 August 2013 when she had an argument with her spouse and was beaten. After recovering from the abuse, she reported for work after five days but was unceremoniously retrenched despite her appeals. She has since then filed a case against her former BPO employer for illegal dismissal and moved on to another call center company.

“I commemorate women’s day by coming out to appeal to my sisters that we should not suffer in silence but stand up for our rights,” Francia averred. She is optimistic of a favorable decision in her illegal dismissal case at the National Labor Relations Commission. Francia also has a pending VAW case against her husband at the regional trial court level. At 30 years old, she has worked at four call center companies in the last four years.

Francia was assisted in her labor and criminal cases by the Inter-Call Center Association of Workers (ICCAW), an industry-wide organization for the rights and welfare of BPO employees. Rosie Hong, a Cebu-based call center agent and spokesperson for ICCAW, asserted that “If BPO’s are truly empowered workplaces then concern for labor and women’s welfare should be a priority. Sadly reality still falls short of the ideal as Francia’s case reveals.” Hong also has a pending illegal dismissal case against a call center company in Cebu.

A National Statistics Office census in 2010 found that females comprise 55% of BPO workers. Hong, a single mother, cites from experience that while sleep disorders are common in BPO workers in general, women workers are especially burdened because they have household and parenting duties during daytime.

ICCAW is celebrating IWD with a round table discussion on the afternoon of March 29 at the University of the Philippines School of Labor and Industrial Relations (UP Solair). The UP Solair dean and a female professor will interact with a group of BPO workers. “I invite fellow BPO workers to join us at the UP Solair forum and let us inspire change in our workplaces, homes and society,” Francia stated as she echoed the theme of this year’s IWD.