Saturday, January 31, 2015

We won’t get justice by counting more dead; war is not the answer

30 January 2015

Partido Manggagawa (PM) joins the nation in mourning the death of SAF 44.  As breadwinners, husbands, and brothers to their families, their death is certainly a big loss, a pain that is hard and long to overcome.

And as soldiers who were trained how to survive under the most difficult situations, their undeserved deaths cry for justice.  Who were the officers in charge? Who were the people accountable for the Mamasapano debacle? Was there a foreign hand behind that operation?

We continue to ask the same questions as we join the people in demanding justice and accountability from both the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).  Their separate investigations must be done in good faith and in soonest possible time.  An independent fact finding body can also be organized to ensure fairness and objectivity in the conduct of investigations.

But in seeking justice, we express our strong disagreement to those who call for all-out war to exact retribution.   War is not the solution.  Justice, we believe, should not come as a consequence of another war.  We don’t get justice by counting more dead as what we have seen over many decades of war in Mindanao.  We don’t get the truth from hatred and established social and religious prejudices.

Lastly, despite this major setback, we remain supportive of the peace process between the government and the MILF.   Working for peace, however tough and tricky it is, remains to be the most effective and viable alternative in addressing the historic and new issues that created the conditions of war in Mindanao.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Wealth of PH 1% can feed entire nation – Partido Manggagawa

23 January 2015
Their number can hardly fill up a bus but the combined wealth of the country’s richest families can easily feed the entire nation.
This reality, the Partido Manggagawa (PM) said, can help explain the unreturned query of Glyzelle Palomar to Pope Francis on why only few people come to their help.
PM said Glyzelle was definitely not referring to the country’s 1% as the few good Samaritans but to the few likely neighbors that occasionally come to their aid. 
“Now it can be explained to Glyzelle that with just half of their estimated wealth of $74 billion (Php 3.2 trillion) in 2014, the country’s Richest 50[1] can actually provide 17 to 24 million families the basic minimum requirements of daily living for one year,” explained PM spokesman Wilson Fortaleza.
There are about 12 million Filipino families who consider themselves poor based on the latest survey by the Social Weather Station (SWS).  Government statistics, however, put the number of families in extreme poverty to only 4.2 million in 2012.[2]
The same report points out that in 2012, a Filipino family of five needed Php 7,890 to meet its basic food and non-food requirements every month.  For food alone it needs Php 5,513. 
Based on these estimates, a family of five needs at least Php 94,680 in one year to keep themselves above the poverty threshold or Php 66,156 to beat the food threshold. 
Fortaleza expounded that assuming the richest 50 gave up only half of their wealth which is equivalent to Php 1.6 trillion out of compassion for the poor, that can easily translate to 17 million families surviving poverty in one year or 24 million families surviving the food threshold. 
With an average size of 4.6 members, the Philippines has about 22 million families.
The labor group explained further that the combined wealth of the richest 50 is equivalent to five years salary for about 5 million minimum wage earners in the National Capital Region. 
But Fortaleza was quick to point out that this kind of scenario will never work out since in reality, it is the super rich that feeds on the hard labor and meagre income of poor Filipinos. 
The Forbes’ list of Philippines richest 50 showed families in oligopolistic control of the country’s vital industries such as power, water, telecommunications and transportation, banking and finance, farmlands and real estates, construction, highways, mining, hotels and restaurants, media and entertainment, and even in services like schools and hospitals.
Fortaleza pointed out that common issues against the capitalist owners of these industries include labor contractualization; high cost of their products and services; organized fraud with their capture of regulatory agencies; and their control of political power through sponsorship of political parties to actual bribery.
PM came up with its own assumptions also to echo Oxfam’s analysis that the richest 1% is gaining control of more than half of the world’s wealth by 2016.  The latter released its report on the eve of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland where world leaders talk mainly about business and other global concerns.
Fortaleza said that similarly, the richest 50 in the Philippines is getting a bigger slice (almost a third) of country’s gross domestic product as their wealth increased by 428%, from $14 billion in 2008 to $74 billion in 2014.   
The Philippine GDP, according to the World Bank, was estimated to value $272 billion in 2013. ###

Friday, January 23, 2015

Beyond in-flight exchanges and selfies with Pope, labor party reminds PAL of its Christian commitments on the ground

Press Release
January 23, 2014

There is no doubt the Philippine Airlines is reaping the benefits of a good press from the successful visit of Pope Francis to the country.  

But the labor party, Partido Manggagawa (PM), reminded the flag carrier that in order to sustain its “blessed” flights, it has a Christian commitment to fulfill to which the Pope is also committed  – the reinstatement of its outsourced ground workers and the negotiations for a collective bargaining agreement that has been stalled for 15 years.

PAL blew its own trumpet during a press briefing the other day by taking pride of its role to the safe and comfortable airlift of Pope Francis in and out of Tacloban and to his journey back to Vatican.

“It was indeed a rare and fateful journey between the Pope and PAL.  We really hope, however, that beyond those in-flight exchanges of gifts and selfies, we both go back to the reality as the Pope had suggested.  Here on the ground oppressed workers are waiting not just for compassion but for concrete and immediate action,” said PM chair Renato Magtubo.

PAL has yet to finally comply with the last but most important item in the PAL-PALEA Settlement Agreement signed in November 2013 which ended the protracted labor dispute in the flag carrier. It also has to sit down with PALEA for the continuation of CBA negotiation, the last being in 1998.

An intense battle for management control between the Lucio Tan group and San Miguel, which ended with the former’s buyback of PAL, delayed the final implementation of the settlement agreement.

During the height of the outsourcing dispute in PAL, PALEA sought the help of Pope Francis through the Church Labor Conference and the social arm of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines. A letter was sent personally to the Pope through Fr. Edu Gariguez of NASSA-CBCP. 

Pope Francis is a strong advocate of labor dignity.  To him, there is no dignity without decent work and that human dignity comes from work and not from power and money.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Tobacco workers urged to fight mass layoff

Press Release
January 20, 2015

The labor party Partido Manggagawa (PM) called on the workers of cigarette giant Philip Morris Fortune Tobacco Corporation (PMFTC) to contest the legality of the retrenchment of almost half of the workforce at one of its plant even as it lambasted the mass layoff as “objectionable and unnecessary.”

PM announced that it is ready to support PMFTC workers who are aggrieved by the mass firing as it contended that the company has numerous ways of coping with declining sales short of sacrificing workers’ jobs.

News reports last week cited that PMFTC will fire 640 workers in its Marikina plant due to a 6% drop in market share that it lost to upstart Mighty Corp. “The numbers speak for themselves. Despite the drop in sales, PMFTC is undeniably profitable and continues to enjoy monopoly advantage, with 70% control over the cigarette market,” argued Renato Magtubo, PM chair and past union president of the erstwhile Fortune Tobacco Corp.

PM believes that the “hidden agenda” behind the mass layoff is to weaken if not bust the union. Magtubo averred that “PMFTC’s selection of employees to be terminated did not follow a fair and reasonable criterion as all of those affected workers in the unionized Marikina factory and none were in unorganized Batangas plant.”

He added “It is not done in good faith. The retrenchment should have been tabled by management during the negotiations for the collective bargaining agreement that was concluded just last December. And so the mass layoff a few weeks after came as a complete surprise to the clueless workers.”

Magtubo insisted that “The 1,000 unaffected workers in Marikina cannot sleep soundly as a further 10% drop in PMFTC’s market share would mean the termination of all the remaining positions, if we follow management’s twisted retrenchment logic.”

Finally the group criticized the PMFTC union and its labor federation for “surrendering to the mass layoff without even putting up a fight.” Magtubo explained that “The union PMFTCLU-NAFLU-BMP simply capitulated and then handcuffed itself by agreeing to management’s demand that it withhold assistance to workers who will contest the mass layoff.”

“Even assuming the company’s assertions are correct, PMFTC stands to lose some revenue but it will indisputably remain profitable and a virtual monopoly. The 640 workers however stand to lose their regular livelihood with not much hope in this jobless growth economy,” Magtubo emphasized.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

BPO workers decry MRT rate hike for negating tax exemption

Inter-Call Center Association of Workers (ICCAW)
January 7, 2015

A BPO workers association added its voice to groups opposing the MRT and LRT fare hikes and avers that the rate increase will negate the expected benefit coming from tax exemption of de minimis benefits.
According to the Inter-Call Center Association of Workers (ICCAW), ordinary workers, BPO employees included, who make up the bulk of regular train riders in the MRT and LRT systems in Metro Manila will bear the brunt of the onerous rate.
“The new tax exemption on de minimis is welcome news to millions of low-waged workers.  But the impending MRT rate hike is definitely a spoiler,” said ICCAW-NCR spokesman Bryan Nadua.
He also lamented the fact that Malacanang has yet to sign the measure although it has already been announced. “The government is fast in imposing burdens on the workers but slow to act on benefits for the employees,” Nadua added.
An additional exemption of up to P10,000 can be availed by workers who enjoy extra economic benefits coming from collective bargaining agreements and productivity schemes.  The de minimis tax exemption has been a demand of labor groups grouped under Nagkaisa in dialogues with Malacanang.
Nadua said the amount of exemption is almost equivalent to the fare hike that will be imposed by the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) upon train riders beginning January 4.
A two-way adjusted rate of P28 per day in the MRT is equivalent to more or less P10,000 in one year, ICCAW stated, lamenting that the fare hike is cancelling out the benefits of the new tax exemption.
“Kung ano ang ibibigay ni Kim Henares sa kabilang bulsa, kukunin ni Joseph Abaya sa kabila,” insisted Nadua.
Labor groups like Nagkaisa are opposed to the planned rate increases in MRT and LRT, saying the railway system which is being enjoyed by millions of low-waged workers should remain subsidized by the State.

ICCAW, which was first organized in Cebu City in 2012, is calling for industry-wide standards for wages, benefits, and entitlements that must be well above the minimum mandated by law and commensurate to the profitable dollar-earning nature of the call center industry.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Cancel MRT contract if you have real political will, Palace urged

Press Release
January 6, 2015

The labor group Partido Manggagawa (PM) lambasted Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya for bragging about ‘political will’ in justifying the MRT and LRT rate hike, saying political will is best understood when imposed against a mighty force and not on the hapless poor.

Abaya claimed over media interview the other day that political will defined the major difference between the past and the present administration in dealing with the MRT and LRT fare hike.

“Political will do not differentiate the past and present regimes over this issue as they all bear the same class bias and more or less, the same failures.  PNoy is bolder to tread on the unpopular but that doesn’t mean a triumph of tuwid na daan.  If the President and the entire government cannot go after corporations and powerful people behind this railway scam, that political will assumes no effective meaning other than imposing the burden to the poor,” said PM spokesman Wilson Fortaleza.

PM and other labor groups under Nagkaisa! participated in yesterdays protest actions held at select MRT stations.  They called on the government to run after private contractors who messed up with the metro rail system rather than shifting the burden to the poor.

“Everybody knows that this crashing railway system, the MRT3 in particular, was a product of an onerous contract.  The test of political will, therefore, is in the cancellation of this contract and the prosecution of people and corporations behind the scam, not penalizing the people who are the rightful beneficiary of this social good,” argued Fortaleza.

Fortaleza argued further that the Palace is making gross misrepresentation in labelling government appropriations made for the maintenance and operations of the MRT as ‘subsidy’ to commuters when in fact it is a guaranteed payment to that onerous take-or-pay contract. 

“The government bleeds heavily from this and congressmen from Visayas and Mindanao complain about inequalities created by this subsidy. We never see them complain, however, against powerful forces behind this mess whom they certainly know and perhaps worked hand in hand with,” concluded Fortaleza. ###

Monday, January 5, 2015

Workers to PNoy on MRT, LRT fare hike: ‘Penalize private contractors not us’

05 January 2015

The government must penalize the private contractors who messed up the operation of the MRT system instead of running after the meager income of workers who use the metro rail system regularly. 
 Labor groups under the coalition Nagkaisa! made this call as they kicked off the first working day of the year with protest actions against the MRT and LRT fare hike implemented by the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) last Sunday. 
 Philippine Airlines Employees Association (PALEA) President and Partido Manggagawa (PM) Vice Chair Gerry Rivera, who led the protest action today at the MRT-Pasay Taft station said, “Liabilities borne out of an onerous contract should not be passed on to consumers penalizing them in effect as in the case of the Build-Lease-Transfer (BLT) contract with the Metro Rail Transit Corporation (MRTC) that built the MRT3 in 1997.”
He added that an ordinary worker who use the MRT will have to shell out at least P8,000 to cover the rate increase in one year. 
Rivera lamented further that instead of penalizing the private concessionaires for messing up with its contract to efficiently operate and maintain the system, “the government is rewarding them with steady flow of income from the fare hike shouldered by lowly-paid workers.”
On his part, Josua Mata, Secretary General of Sentro ng Nagkakaisang Manggagawa (SENTRO) who led the protest action together with Public Services Labor Conferederation (PSLINK), PM and other members of Nagkaisa! at MRT’s North Avenue station, said the government should finally rescind the contract and take over the operation of the entire system so that the concept of ‘subsidy’ does not become a misnomer anymore for the take-or-pay contract. 
Mata argued, “When the government takes money from commuters through a fare hike and transfers that money to fraudulent hands of private companies, that is not subsidy. That’s malady.”
He noted that the fare hike is not meant for service upgrade but for debt payments to a private concessionaire.
The Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP) which led the protest action at MRT-Cubao station likewise believes that the fare hike is the bitter fruit of a failed privatization program of the country’s mass transport system.

Nagkaisa! vowed to conduct more protest actions this month against the fare hike.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Workers up against ‘assault on labor’ on first working day of 2015

04 January 2015
Labor groups under the coalition Nagkaisa! are set to welcome the first working day of 2015 with a protest against what they consider as government’s assault on workers’ living condition – the implementation of fare hikes in the MRT and LRT system.
The Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) proceeded with the implementation of the rate hike yesterday, amid oppositions from labor, commuter groups and legislators. 
Based on surveys, lowly-paid workers and students make up the bulk of regular train riders.
Members of Partido Manggagawa (PM), Philippine Airlines Employees Association (PALEA) and The Federation of Free Workers (FFW) will be leading the protest at the MRT Pasay-Taft station while the Sentro ng Nagkakaisang Manggagawa (SENTRO), Public Sevices Labor Independent Confederation (PSLINK), PM and other members of Nagkaisa are taking the MRT North Avenue station. The Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP) is taking the Cubao station.
Aside from the mass action, Nagkaisa! will be distributing leaflets explaining why commuters should reject the fire hike and how they can express their protest.
In opposing the fare hike Nagkaisa! contends that:
·      Fare hike is not meant for service upgrade but for debt payments to a private concessionaire;
·      Most of train riders belong to lowly-paid workers;
·      Government cutting MRT/LRT subsidy but hiking travel budget of public officials;
·      Fare hike is a move towards privatization
The group said commuters can express their opposition in various forms  including:
·      Making selfies or group pics holding mini posters and posting it on their social media accounts accompanied by #MRTprotest hashtag;
·      Joining online petitions addressed to the DOTC, Malacanang and Congress;
·      Seeking remedy from the courts; and
·      Joining scheduled mass actions
“The fare hike is the first oppressive policy of the year, the first assault by government on workers’ living condition.  Workers were first to pay their taxes but they were also the first to carry the burden of budget cuts and other unjust policies by government,” said PM spokesman Wilson Fortaleza.
He added: “Sa daang matuwid, manggagawa ang tinitipid.”
On his part PALEA President Gerry Rivera, lamented that while fares in other modes of transportation, including airlines, are dropping significantly because of the sharp drop in oil prices, but fares in the MRT and LRT are rising by as much as 87%.
SENTRO Secretary General and Nagkaisa! convenor Josua Mata said, “The true logic of removing the MRT subsidy is the government shifting to the role of shameless facilitator to the transfer of public money to private hands. In this particular a case, the commuters subsidizing the guaranteed returns of private investors.”
The Nagkaisa in a series of dialogues with the President has called for a cost-effective and efficient mass transport system since the heavy traffic has been eating up a lot of productive hours of workers. 
“The PNoy administration has not only failed to address the traffic mess, it is shamelessly adding a three-fold burden to workers who will have to shell out more for their own train fare and that of their children who go to school,” said Julius Cainglet of the Federation of Free Workers (FFW).

Friday, January 2, 2015

A tale of two subsidies: Amid cuts in MRT/LRT subsidy, travel budget of public officials hiked by 90%

02 January 2015

The labor group Partido Manggagawa (PM) has found another reason to oppose the impending fare hike in the metro rail system upon learning that government obligations to subsidize the travel budget of public officials has been increasing by at least P1.5 billion every year since 2011.

Fares in the MRT/LRT systems shall increase by up to 87% beginning Sunday, January 4.

“Clearly, there is a tale of inequality in this issue.  First, the fare hike, as admitted by Sec. Abaya himself, is meant not for service upgrade but mainly for debt payments to an onerous contract with a private concessionaire.  Second, the budget cut is imposed against poor commuters while travel budget for public officials keeps on increasing,” said PM spokesman Wilson Fortaleza.

Fortaleza said that based on available data the MRT and LRT systems carry an estimated load of 500 million rides every year mostly from the working class.  A market survey done by Nielsen in 2009 showed blue collar workers comprising 41% of train riders; 15% white collar; 19% non-working; 16% students; 4% professionals; and 5% proprietors.

According to Fortaleza, while Malacanang has uncaringly decided to remove the P7 to P10-B subsidy to millions of train riders, purportedly to re-channel the freed budget to other social services, it resourcefully kept on increasing the travel budget of public officials by at least P1.5-B every year.

He explained that based on the Summary of Obligations of the National Government, CY 2013-2014 posted at the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) website, travelling expenses in 2011 amounted to P7.8-B; P9.3-B in 2012 and P11.8-B in 2013. 

Under the general provisions of the General Appropriations Act, Travelling Expenses is defined as payment of claims for reimbursement of travelling and related expenses incurred in the course of official travel by officials and employees of the government. They may include free air, land and sea travel, fuel subsidy, hotel accommodations, and even parking fees. 

Fortaleza added that based on the proposed National Expenditure Program for 2015, travelling expenses amounts to more or less P15-B, hence an increase of 92% from P7.8-B in 2011 to P15-B in 2015.

“Compared to a daily crushing ride at MRT, the billions of pesos of taxpayers’ money appropriated for travelling expenses provided safe and comfortable travel to our public officials, many of whom do not utilize the mass transport system,” said Fortaleza.

The labor group disclosed further that VIP’s in government shall enjoy a good amount of privileges from the more or less P15-B of travelling expenses allotted for 2015.  They include the following: 

Office                                        Travel Budget 2015                         Daily Equivalent

Office of the President                        308,764,000                                           846,000
Office of the Vice President                  23,900,000                                              65,000
House of Representatives                   624,291,000                                        1,710,000
The Senate                                           280,672,000                                           769,000
The Supreme Court                             285,474,000                                           782,000

Likewise the heads of government agencies enjoy big amounts of travel budgets this year.  Fortaleza cites, for instance, the Office of Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), the agency that oversees the operations of the MRT and LRT system enjoying a travel budget of P69.9 million or P192,000 a day.

Meanwhile the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), a small office under the Office of the President, is getting a 38% increase in travel budget amounting to P123,410,000 or P338,000 a day.

Travelling expense, according to PM, is a major part of the government’s maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) and forms part of the many perks and privileges public officials enjoy in the performance of their duties and responsibilities.

“Workers cannot ask for the same privileges unless we ourselves run this government.  It is absolutely just and fair, however, to demand better treatment amid the comfort and affluence of our rulers,” concluded Fortaleza.

The group called on train riders to express their opposition to the fare hike in various forms such as official petitions, social media campaign, and direct actions.