Thursday, April 23, 2015

Labor group to Petilla: Ask KEPCO to grant workers demands to avert strike

Press Release
April 23, 2015

The labor group Partido Manggagawa (PM) called on Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla to ask the management of KEPCO-Salcon Power Corp. in Cebu to grant the demands of its workers in order to resolve the labor dispute. Petilla was quoted a few days ago as appealing to KEPCO workers not to proceed with a planned strike.

Yesterday KEPCO workers voted to hold a strike. PM announced its solidarity with the KEPCO workers and that the resolution of the labor dispute is among the demands for the coming Labor Day mobilization.

“If Secretary Petilla wants to solve the problem at KEPCO, he must focus on the cause not the effect. KEPCO workers’ legitimate use of the right to strike is simply a reaction to the union busting and unfair labor practice of its management. Petilla’s energy is better used exerting moral suasion on KEPCO to respect labor rights and start bargaining with the unions to improve workers wages and working conditions,” argued Rene Magtubo, PM national chair.

He added that “We ask KEPCO to moderate its greed. The power industry is the most profitable sector of the economy with the richest Filipinos and foreign investors like Korea’s KEPCO engaged in an industry that is structured in such a way that there is no possible way to lose money. Every cent of business expense is passed on to consumers, such as the middle class and the working poor, thus we have one of the most expensive electricity rates in world.”

Last week KEPCO workers together with supporters from PM and the labor center Sentro held a protest at the Naga, Cebu plant of KEPCO. The rank-and-file union KEPCO Cebu Employees Association and supervisors union KEPCO Cebu Supervisors Association, both affiliated to WSN-Sentro, filed notices of strike for unfair labor practice and union busting respectively last April 8.

PM avers that labor productivity in the power sector is the highest of all industries yet the fruits of labor appear not as wages for workers but as profit for capitalists. “According to the Census of Philippine Business and Industry in 2012, the power industry’s labor productivity is at PhP 4 million annually per worker. In contrast, KEPCO rank-and-file workers receive an average of just PhP 13,000 per month or PhP 169,000 per year. Thus workers wages at KEPCO amounts to just 4% of the industry’s labor productivity,” Magtubo explained.

He asserted that “The meager wages of KEPCO workers was the motive for them to unionize and bargain as a means of enhancing their working and living standards. But rather than respect labor’s right to self-organization and collective negotiations, KEPCO is busting the supervisors union and harassing rank-and-file workers whose union has already been certified as the sole and exclusive bargaining agent.”

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