Friday, June 27, 2014

Workers protest Brunei's labor, LGBT discrimination

Press Release
June 27, 2014

Members of the Partido ng Manggagawa (PM), the Philippine Airlines Employees’ Association (PALEA) and groups comprising the labor coalition Nagkaisa picketed the Brunei Embassy this morning as part of an “International Day of Action” in 13 cities across the globe against anti-LGBT laws in Brunei and to protest the anti-labor management of hotels owned by the Sultan Bolkiah.

PM chair Renato Magtubo averred that “We call for the repeal of the discriminatory law in Brunei and recognition of unions in the hotels owned by Sultan Bolkiah. Workers demand respect for labor and civil rights across ASEAN countries not just economic integration which will commence next year. ASEAN integration is iniquitous if only involves liberalization of trade in good and services and not standardization in adherence of universal human and labor rights.”

The day of action is timed for the 45th anniversary of the so-called Stonewall uprising which marked the birth of the gay movement for civil rights in the US. The international protests are being spearheaded by LGBT groups in the US, the hotel workers union UNITE-HERE and the international union IUF.

Brunei introduced draconian laws which include death by stoning for same-sex activity. In April the campaign went high profile with the support of Hollywood celebrities such as Ellen Degeneres, Jay Leno and even Kim Kardashian. LGBT and labor groups have joined hands to protest the Sultan of Brunei. The sultan owns the Dorchester Collection hotels which have refused to recognize the right to organize of its workers and have fired workers wholesale.

“Workers in the Philippines stand with our brothers and sisters in Brunei who are victims of anti-gay discrimination and in the US who are fighting for a voice in the workplace. Direct action by labor unions, the LGBT community and their allies can win the repeal of the discriminatory laws,” asserted Magtubo.

Nagkaisa vowed to continue solidarity actions until the campaign is successful.

Friday, June 13, 2014

ICCAW: 8 Steps to Protect BPO Workers' Rights

Protection of Workers’ Jobs and Rights, and Promotion of Just Labor Practices
in the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) Industry

The Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) business is one of the top industries in the country with the Philippines now positioned as the number one call center destination. However, just labor practices have not been widely practiced or observed, especially for small and medium scale enterprises and even the mid-size ones. The Philippines has no strict regulation when it comes to putting up a call center business, no government agency that acts for quick intervention and there are not enough programs designed to protect call center workers’ interests.

Thus we, the Inter-Call Center Association of Workers (ICCAW), advocates for strict regulation to protect workers in the BPO industry. Specifically we call for an end to business tactics used by some employers meant to avoid liabilities to their workers such as illegally closing down and forming another company with the same operations and accounts.

We will cite some violations of labor standards and unjust labor practices happening in the BPO industry based on our first hand experiences. Unfortunately there may be other illegal practices still occurring which we just have not come across.

1.      Sudden closure of operations without prior notice
2.      Creating a new company with the same operations and accounts/campaigns after the closure of old business
3.      Avoiding liabilities and responsibilities to workers after the closure of the business
4.      Non-regular employees are not covered with hospitalization and insurance
5.      Employees are forced to go overtime
6.      Sudden cancellation of planned leaves
7.      Paying minimal allowances (P150 for example) during the training period
8.      Salary often delayed with no sound reasons
9.      Overtime is not paid
10.   Terminating employees without due process

Advocacy for Change

To protect workers’ interests there should be standardization of practices and strict regulation of employers who will be putting up business-related BPO operations. This will avoid fly-by-night operations which are ill prepared to run a business.

Priority Demands for Standardization in the BPO Industry

1.      A bond should be imposed to pre-qualify a call center operation and should be a requirement in putting up such a business. The bond will be used in case of sudden closure and should amount to one (1) month basic salary of the total number of employees hired. This is highly applicable for outbound operation BPO companies.

2.      Non-regular employees should be covered with basic hospitalization and insurance since they are prone to sicknesses as they work most the graveyard shift.

3.      Above minimum salary standards should be set given the dollar earning nature of the BPO industry. We demand a basic wage of P12,000, and a transportation and meal allowance of P2,500. This proposal is lower compared to those offered by the existing top call center companies in Cebu. This is exclusive of health benefits and insurance. Establishing minimum wage and allowances in the BPO industry will advance workers’ rights and interests.

4.      Regular labor inspection of BPO/call center sites in accordance with the Department of Labor and Employment’s (DOLE) Labor Standards Enforcement Framework, and in coordination with ICCAW representatives. DOLE should train and deputize ICCAW representatives as labor inspectors to augment the meager number of government inspectors.

5.      Immediate activation of DOLE quick reaction team in response to sudden and illegal closures of BPO companies. This should be done in coordination with ICCAW representatives.

6.      Yearly tax break equivalent to two (2) months.  Exemption from income taxes of wages below P25,000, which is the cost of living in Cebu.

7.      Election of employee representatives within BPO companies with the mandate to negotiate with management on workplace grievances and complaints of workers.

8.      Regularize employees after maximum probationary period of six (6) months. Making employees contractual on basis of volatile accounts is a disguised form of employment. Moreover the Labor Code does not recognize account-based employees. Call center workers are also not project-based employees since such is time-bound depending on project duration. Regular call center workers with closed accounts can and should be redeployed to new accounts unless terminated with separation pay.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

PALEA: De Lima deserves to be confirmed

Press Release
June 5, 2014

The Philippine Airlines Employees’ Association (PALEA) expressed disappointment at the failure of Justice Secretary Leila De Lima to get the nod of the Commission of Appointments (CA) yesterday. “We believe that Sec. De Lima possesses the integrity and capability necessary for the job of heading the Department of Justice. We know this from an up close and personal experience of working with her in entrapping a rogue public prosecutor,” averred Gerry Rivera, PALEA president.

Assistant prosecutor Diosdado Solidum, Jr. was arrested in an entrapment in August 2013 when he attempted to extort P2.4 million in return for dropping of charges against members of PALEA. Solidum was the DOJ prosecutor tasked with handling a PALEA petition to review a Pasay fiscal’s finding of probable cause for violation of Section 81 of Civil Aviation Authority Act (CAAA) pertaining to disruption and destruction of airport services and facilities during a protest against outsourcing in September 27, 2011.

In De Lima’s opening speech to the CA, she mentioned that she had no “qualms about ordering investigations and even entrapment operations against employees and officials of the DOJ.” Rivera added that “Solidum’s arrest and suspension would not have happened without De Lima’s cooperation and sincerity in cleansing the DOJ of rotten apples. It is thus pity a that she failed to be confirmed by the CA.”

PALEA called on the CA to confirm De Lima in the new hearing scheduled next week. “Good governance needs honest public servants like De Lima to be in position in government side by side with the active participation of ordinary people in the administration of the state. We hope for the best for Sec. De Lima in the CA hearing next week,” Rivera asserted.

The case against PALEA members for violation of the CAAA has since been dropped as part of the settlement agreement forged between the union and the new management of Philippine Airlines (PAL) in November last year. The agreement provides for an improved separation package and the re-employment of PALEA members who will be given priority for hiring in regular positions at PAL.