Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Workers rights must be protected in a better BBL

Press Release
March 31, 2015

With calls mounting for a revision of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), the labor group Partido Manggagawa (PM) also called for amending the draft so that workers rights are better protected. “Along with our support for peace rather than war in Mindanao, we demand that the rights of workers, whether Moro, Christian or indigenous, in the Bangsamoro territory be respected and enhanced, and that these freedoms must be codified in the BBL,” asserted Renato Magtubo, PM national chair.

He clarified that “Specifically we call for amending the draft provision in Article IX, Section 9 stating that ‘The Bangsamoro government shall guarantee all the fundamental rights of all workers to self-organization, collective bargaining and negotiations, and peaceful concerted activities, including the right to strike, in accordance with law to be passed by Parliament.’ Making labor rights subject to laws to be enacted by the Bangsamoro parliament opens a loophole to diminish workers’ freedoms. This is a real threat since we know there is intense lobby from employers groups to degrade labor rights, among them security of tenure so as to promote contractualization in the Bangsamoro territory.”

PM is aware that foreign capital such as American and Malaysian investors are partnering with Filipino business for prospects in mining exploration and agricultural plantations in the Bangsamoro territory. “Capitalists, whether foreign or domestic, should not monopolize the benefits of the peace dividend on the backs of sacrificing the rights of workers, whether Moro, Christian or indigenous,” argued Magtubo.

PM also added its support for calls from indigenous groups in the proposed Bangsamoro territory for the recognition of the rights of the Lumad and the full inclusion of provisions of the Indigenous People’s Rights Act into the BBL. Indigenous peoples such as the Teduray, Lambangian, Dulangan-Manobo and Erumanen ne Menuvu live in the areas to be absorbed in the Bangsamoro.

Amidst the outcry over the Mamasapano incident, PM joined other groups in appealing for negotiating a peace settlement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and opposed cries for all-out war. “Peace and development in Mindanao is in the interest of the working class and indigenous peoples. But social justice must accompany social progress thus our call for protecting workers and indigenous rights in the Bangsamoro,” Magtubo elaborated.

Monday, March 23, 2015

BPO’s asked to provide work-life balance for women workers

Press Release
March 23, 2015
Inter-Call Center Association of Workers (ICCAW)

With women’s month about to end, the Inter-Call Center Association of Workers (ICCAW) called on the BPO industry to provide “women-friendly benefits in furtherance of work-life balance.” Rhejay Eusebio, ICCAW-NCR spokesperson, asserted that “BPO jobs are characterized by monotonous tasks, intense work and strict metrics. The competitive culture promoted in the BPO industry has led to work-life imbalance. This imbalance disproportionately impacts women employees who are breadwinners and with children.”

Specifically the group is asking BPO companies to provide child care facilities where employees can leave their children while at work. Also ICCAW is demanding that the industry take the lead in providing 120 days of pregnancy leave for women workers.

“My personal experience as a BPO worker for several years shows how family life is frequently sacrificed at the altar of work productivity,” Eusebio elaborated. She has a pending case at the National Labor Relations Commission for illegal dismissal. Eusebio is alleging she was fired without valid cause and due process after taking an emergency leave to take care of her sick daughter.

She insisted that “For sure, BPO companies will argue that these are costly benefits to provide. Yet BPO’s can very well afford these measures since it is a dollar-earning industry. BPO’s do not deserve to be called a sunshine industry if it cannot provide for above-average working conditions and labor standards.”

The BPO industry earns around USD 20 billion or almost PhP 1 trillion in revenues. Also it is estimated that there are more than a million BPO workers in the country. A survey in 2010 by the Bureau of Labor and Employment Statistics found that some 54% of BPO workers are women. “I believe that many of these women BPO workers are either breadwinners for their families or with children to take care of. Thus women-friendly benefits are an imperative for the BPO industry,” Eusebio emphasized.

ICCAW was founded in Cebu in late 2012 as a result of the fight of workers of Direct Access, a call center that unceremoniously shutdown leaving its 600 employees without jobs and with unpaid wages and benefits. It has since then expanded its membership nationwide even as it sits as the labor representative in the Cebu City tripartite body on the ICT industry.

ICCAW seeks to be an industry-wide organization for employees in the call center and business process outsourcing sector (BPO), and be a voice for industry workers’ concerns, grievances, demands and interests. Among ICCAW’s platform is the call 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.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

P15 wage hike is loose change that can’t cover MRT fare hike—labor group

Press Release
March 19, 2015

The militant Partido Manggagawa belittled the minimum wage hike for workers in the National Capital Region (NCR) as “loose change that cannot even cover the fare hike for MRT and LRT.” The NCR Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board announced a P15 pay increase for some 600,000 minimum wage earners in NCR.

Renato Magtubo, PM national chair, asserted that “How can inclusive growth be true and of what use is the Philippine economy being the star performer in Asia, when all that workers can receive as their added share in the fruits of their labor is a measly P15? With MRT fares increased from P15 to P28, a minimum wage earner riding to and from work is worse off than before even with the wage hike. And electricity bills are due to balloon in the coming days.”

Magtubo cited a study which reveals that 70% of MRT and LRT riders are people who earn less than the minimum wage. He said that he expected labor groups attending a meeting tomorrow of the Tripartite Executive Committee of the National Tripartite Industrial Peace Council to register their negative sentiments on the measly pay increase.

“With their sorry track record of propping up the cheap labor policy, the regional wage boards deserve to be abolished,” Magtubo declared. PM is advocating the abolition of the wage boards and its replacement by a National Wage Commission. The mandate of the Wage Commission will be to fix wages based on the single criterion of cost of living.

“Despite the huge gap between the present minimum wage and the current cost of living, the Wage Commission can achieve equalizing the two by a host of mechanisms among which are direct wage increases, tax exemptions, price discounts at social security subsidies for workers,” Magtubo explained.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Government, private power to blame for expensive and unreliable power

18 March 2015
There is no principle of chain of command in the privatized and deregulated power industry yet President Aquino, acting as the country’s Chief Executive, should be blamed for his failure to address the country's decade-old problem of escalating rates and diminishing supply.
The labor group, Partido Manggagawa (PM), expressed this indignation in reaction to the impending spikes in power rates beginning this month due to the shutdown of the Malampaya gas platform,  the expected forced outages (FO) during summer, and the implementation of a palliative yet costly emergency measure called the Interruptible Load Program.
“We could have evaded the recurrence of another power crisis had the Aquino government, upon assumption to power in 2010, formulated a ‘war plan’ to address the twin crisis of high cost of power and energy security,” said PM spokesman Wilson Fortaleza.
Fortaleza noted that as early as 2011, the 19th Status Report on EPIRA Implementation already raised the red flag signaling the recurrence of energy crisis as the private sector failed to install additional capacity to the national grid.
Also as early as 2008, Fortaleza added, the Joint Congressional Power Committee (JPCP) then headed by Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago has declared EPIRA as a failure.  All Congressional hearings on this issue up to this time has also led to the same conclusion.  Yet the response is ‘business as usual’.
Fortaleza added that labor groups under the Nagkaisa coalition has been pressing the Aquino government to address the crisis of high cost of power by removing the indexation of natural gas to international oil and geothermal steam to international coal; the scrapping of Performance Based Rate methodology; removal of power from VAT coverage; and reforming the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC), among others.
“The crisis of escalating rates and unreliable supply is a lingering crisis that needed a battle plan where consumers will see themselves as winners.  What the government has on hand, however, is an old menu where consumers, whom the Chief Executive declared as his bosses, were treated as foot soldiers assigned to do the ultimate sacrifice,” said Fortaleza.
The implementation of the Interruptible Load Program (ILP) to address the power emergency is a clear manifestation on how consumers are being penalized by assuming the responsibility of footing the bill of expensive ILP power.
Fortaleza said that under ILP guidelines, the incremental cost of de-loading from the system during red alerts shall be borne by consumers.  This is to incentivize industries with embedded generators to participate in the program.  The incremental cost has already been pre-determined such as the fuel rate and maintenance cost.
“The ILP is merely a demand-side management strategy. It doesn’t solve the power crisis.  But why are consumers going to be penalized even temporarily when Henry Sy switch on his generator for own use?” lamented Fortaleza.
Fortaleza argued that poor families who use kerosene for light and cooking do not get subsidy from government, so why subsidize ILP players when their generators are for own use to run their business that earns profit even during crises?
He added that it is the ILP players who should bear the sacrifice since they have the capacity and the wealth to burn during crises.  The ILP players, he added, are also the big players in the power industry such as Henry Sy (NGCP), John Gokongwei (Meralco), and the Ayalas and Aboitizes, to name a few.
“They are the richest Filipinos in the latest list of Forbes Magazine. They have a combined net worth of $73 billion and one of the sources of their fortunes is the country’s very lucrative power industry,” concluded Fortaleza.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Over firing and suspension of union members: Workers of Korean-owned factory in Cavite restive anew

Workers strike at Tae Sung last February
Press Release
March 17, 2015

Workers of a Korean-owned metal factory in the Cavite economic zone, the biggest in the country, are restive once more because of a series of dismissals and suspensions of union members. The Tae Sung Employees Association, the labor union at Tae Sung Philippines Co. Inc., filed a notice of strike last Friday as it alleged unfair labor practices of the management.

In the three weeks since the settlement of a previous strike by the Tae Sung union, management has dismissed two union members and suspended six more, including one union officer. The Tae Sung union is alleging that the terminations and suspensions of active unionists are retaliatory acts and thus a violation of a settlement agreement that no such actions should be undertaken.

The National Conciliation and Mediation Board of Region IV-A has called for a meeting tomorrow between union and management in a bid to settle the new labor dispute. Just last February the Tae Sung workers launched a two-day strike over a deadlock in collective bargaining negotiations that has lasted for six months without an agreement between the union and management. The strike was settled with workers winning a wage hike and added benefits.

The Tae Sung union is citing the case of three workers in the spray department who were all charged with a case for eating in the production area. Two of them, who are active union members, were fired as a result but the third worker, who scabbed during the February strike, was given a “slap in the wrist” of just a five-day suspension.

The union is arguing that minor infractions by workers have been meted the maximum of 30-day suspensions thus constituting discriminatory acts. A 30-day long suspension means the loss of a month’s wage for the concerned workers.

Further, the union is complaining that management has delayed by a month the signing of the collective bargaining agreement even though the settlement provided it shall be finished in just one week.

The Partido Manggagawa warned of protests to support the embattled Tae Sung workers in case there is no breakthrough in the mediation meeting tomorrow. The union is also planning to hold a strike vote among its members.