Tuesday, July 28, 2015

State of Negros: The rise of ‘new sacadas’ belies SONA claim of PNoy on labor

Partido Manggagawa-Negros
28 July 2015

The rise of ‘new sacadas’ in Negros belie the claim of President Aquino during his State of the Nation Address (SONA) yesterday that the country is now moving from cheap labor to high-tech producer.

Fresh from the joint consultation-workshop on the state of sugar workers held in Bacolod City last Sunday, the Negros chapter of Partido Manggagawa (PM-Negros) and the Sentro ng Nagkakaisang Manggagawa (Sentro) described as ‘first world falsehood’ the assertion of the President that high-tech production is taking over cheap labor that for a long time characterized the Philippine labor force.

“What country are you talking about, Mr. President?  Negros is now home to BPOs yet the island remains a country of sacadas,” said the two groups in a statement.

It is clear, according to PNoy, “The Filipino can now compete.  Previously our only selling point was cheap labor.  Now factories for high-tech equipment are coming here, from airplane parts, electrical tricycles, printers, and other digital media products to high-quality medical devices.”

During their Sunday consultation, PM-Negros presented a study that pointed to the rise of ‘new sacadas’ in Negros resulting from the dismal failure of agrarian reform in the island as well as the massive contractualization of farm works in the Sugarlandia.

“The old dumaans (regular workers) were replaced by tens of thousands and contractual workers. And the migrant sacadas that mainly came from Panay and other neighboring provinces before are now replaced by inland sacadas -- a phenomenon that suggests a downside shift in labor relations in the island,” explained the group.

According to PM-Negros, the ‘new sacadas’ of Negros is represented now by tens of thousands of contractual farm workers who comprise at least 80% of the total workforce in sugar plantations in the island.  They receive not more than P150 per day working as planters, weeders, fertilizer applicators, harvesters and haulers.

“Until the late 90s, Negros sourced its shortage of sacadas from outside of the island but now the internal labor market is heavily populated with contractual, seasonal and mobile workers who perform work previously done by regular workers or the dumaans,” said the two groups.

For PM and Sentro, the combination of failed agrarian reform and the onslaught of contractualization schemes created this phenomenon as workers who were displaced due to massive retrenchments lost their employee-employer relationship (EER) and eventually their right to become land reform beneficiaries. 

“This condition left at least 100,000 hectares with no more agrarian reform beneficiaries to claim the lands, creating in effect an army of sacadas that hop from one hacienda to another around the island to find work,” explained the group.

This state of sugar workers in Negros, added the groups, is further threatened by the expected adverse impact of Asean integration on Philippine agriculture once the zero tariff regime begins to be implemented this year.

“We expect massive job loss once the country’s sugar industry fails to survive the intense competition with Thai and Vietnamese sugar,” said PM.

The saddest point, said PM and Sentro, is to hear the SONAs of the past and present Presidents, without any mention of the pressing problems in Negros, specifically the life of sugar workers.

“Ang problema namon, amon lang gid problema. Isa kami sa halimbawa sang SONA nga indi matalupangdan,” concluded the group.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Inequality, jobless growth are PNoy’s legacies—labor group

Press Release
July 27, 2015

With President Benigno Aquino III expected to dwell on his legacies in today’s SONA, the labor party Partido Manggagawa (PM) insisted that worsening inequality and jobless growth are the enduring legacies of his administration.

“Walang naituwid at walang naitawid si PNoy sa kanyang panunungkulan. Economic growth has not tricked down to the masses as unemployment, poverty, contractualization, low wages and lackluster social services persist. Worse, GDP growth has been monopolized by big capitalists as the wealth of the richest 50 Filipinos has ballooned in the last few years thus the chasm between rich and poor swelled even more,” explained Rene Magtubo, PM national chair.

Hundreds of PM members joined the SONA protest launched by the labor coalition Nagkaisa and various multisectoral groups. Ahead of the main afternoon counter-SONA rally, some 50 members of PM-Kabataan, its PM’s youth organization, held a flash mob in front of the TUCP/PGEA compound to dramatize the sorry state of the youth. Other PM-Kabataan members held giant placards that spelled the message: “5 Taon ni PNoy: Kabataan NGA-NGA!” Counter-SONA protests were also held by PM chapters in Cebu at downtown Colon and in Davao in front of the city hall.

Magtubo added that “Even as PNoy focuses on his unique achievements in his SONA, his administration is essentially no different from past regimes in sacrificing the workers and the poor in the altar of globalization. The state of the workers is best illustrated by the industrial tragedy at Kentex and the plight of OFW Mary Jane Veloso. Sweatshops and cheap labor are the norm not just in Valenzuela but everywhere. No wonder, Filipinos choose to go abroad in a futile search for greener pastures, only to fall victim to criminal syndicates, abusive employers and lack of labor rights and social protection in other countries.”

PM’s Magtubo averred that Aquino’s good governance record is at best spotty, as many critics have pointed out that the so-called anti-corruption campaign has only targeted well-known opposition leaders. The group also argues that poverty reduction is dependent on the massive funds allocated to the nationwide dole out program of CCT that remains hobbled by patronage system at the ground. Finally PM also claims that a big chunk of the jobs generated under Aquino is mainly due to the emergency work program.

“By itself, dispensing emergency work is positive but ours pales in comparison to similar programs in other countries. In the Philippines, emergency work in the form of DOLE’s TUPAD lasts only for 15 days for every year while in India, the law called NREGA guarantees 100 days of wage employment for every rural family annually,” Magtubo described.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

PNoy, past governments failed the youth in their transition to the world of work – PM-Kabataan

News Release
July 25, 2015

High dropout rates due to high cost of education amid the prevailing poverty in the country; unemployment; the prevalence of precarious working conditions; and poor state of public services have condemned the youth to a life of uncertainty despite the promises of tuwid na daan under the Aquino administration.
This was the assertion of the youth wing of Partido Manggagawa, PM-Kabataan (PMK), ahead of its pre-SONA “art attack” protest to be held tomorrow at the Quezon Memorial Circle as it railed against the lack of tangible legacy the youth sector has gained under the Aquino as well as the past administrations, specifically, for their failure to eliminate established roadblocks that limit opportunities for young people to secure a better future.
Youth is defined by the UN and ILO as those under 25 years of age.  The Philippine law (RA8044), however, prescribed the 15-30 age group to cover the youth sector.  There are 18.93 million Filipinos under the age group 15-24 and 27.84 million in age group 15-30 based on the 2012 census. Combined this sector represents millions of young people who are in school, in actual work, the idle and the unemployed.
According to PM-Kabataan, the youth’s pathway or transition to better future - from schooling to actual work – remained impeded by age-old problems such as high cost of education, unemployment, and precarious working conditions.
Dropout rate, added the group, remained at 6-7% in elementary and high school and much higher at the college level during the last five years.  “Those who cannot survive this transition end up as unskilled laborers which now comprise 32% of employed persons in the country, or into the world of unemployment which is highest, 52%, in age group 18-24,” said PM-Kabataan spokesperson Ryan Bocacao.
He added that this kind of situation produces the countless Mary Jane Velosos, full time and part time laborers in sweatshop enterprises, and the phenomenal rise in the number of batang ina and young parents in the country.
To address this problem the youth group said the government should have been decisive in formulating policies that would establish free education at all levels, bring down the cost of other social services, and in stopping the plague of contractualization in the workplace.
“Unfortunately we haven’t seen progress in policy levels both in education and in the world of work. Lilipas na naman ang isang administrasyon, nadagdagan na naman ang aming edad ng anim na taon, pero narito pa rin kami sa dating sitwasyon na kinalalagyan namin noon,” lamented Bocacao.

PM-Kabataan members come from the ranks of students, out-of-school youth and those who are at work.  The “art attack” protest was their form of expressing their sentiment against the prevailing system in the country and a buildup activity before joining other groups for Monday’s Sona protests.

Advisory: Pre-SONA youth event

Partido Manggagawa - Kabataan

                                        (A Pre-SONA Protest)
·    High dropout rate in school               6-7% elementary and high school, higher rate in college
·    Unemployment                                  52%  in age group 18-24
·    Precarious working condition            outsourcing/contractualization, informalization
·    Teenage pregnancy/young parents    14% of Filipino girls aged 15-19
                                                                 Date: July 26, 2015
                                   Place: Gazebo 2, Quezon Memorial Circle
                                   Time:  7AM - 6PM 

Activities done through art protest by members of PM-Kabataan

        AM Activities:
o   mural and face painting
o   mask/poster making
o   Flash Mob Dance
o   Boodle Fight
        PM Activities
o   workshops on issues
o   candle lighting for victims of injustice like Mary Jane Veloso and Kentex workers
                                             THANK YOU VERY MUCH!

For inquiries please contact Ms. Judy Ann Miranda @ 09228677522 or Yuen Abana @ 09162811934

Thursday, July 23, 2015

P700/plate for SONA merienda highlights persisting inequality in the country

News Release
July 23, 2015

The menu for merienda and the cost per plate is out in the news.  It’s P700 per plate for 2,750 guests. So perhaps the last State of the Nation Address (SONA) of President Aquino is best graded according to this practical subject, the labor group Partido Manggagawa (PM) said in a statement.

PM is one of the many groups joining the anti-Sona protests on Monday.

According to PM, food is a good benchmark in measuring poverty and inequality and therefore is a solid indicator on whether inclusive growth had been achieved by the Aquino administration.  Food makes up more than 50% of household expenditure.  And many Filipinos are considered as “food poor.”

In the first semester of 2014, the monthly average food threshold for a family of five is estimated at PhP6,125 and a total of PhP8,778 to cover the non-food requirements.   In other words, a poor family needs at least PhP204 per day or PhP41 per capita to meet their food requirements alone.  Poverty incidence (the measure of population who cannot meet their food and non-food requirements) among Filipinos during this period was estimated at 25.8%, according to the Philippine Statistics authority.

“For lawmakers and VIP guests, the SONA menu for merienda may look ordinary or even cheap. But for a jobless person and for the many families living in subsistence level, a P700/plate merienda made of black angus and shrimp rolls, among others, is lavishly alienating and, of course, insulting,” said PM Chair Renato Magtubo.

This is just for the government side alone, said the group.  The country's Richest 50 got the biggest and juiciest slice of our GDP.

Magtubo, who is a former partylist representative, said workers in sweatshops who earn P200 a day, like in the case of Kentex, can squeeze that PhP700 for a week’s survival.  It can also cover a life liner’s monthly electricity bill of 70 kWh, or at least 25 day of crushing MRT ride.

He added that there are many other issues that can be raised against the failure of the Aquino administration to address the fundamental problems that really block the road towards inclusiveness.  But there is no more time to argue these things in the remaining last two minutes of his term.

“At least here in the P700/plate merienda, the persisting inequality in Philippine society is best understood.  And it will be good for the people to know that for those who will be inside the Batasan Complex on Monday, fine dining is most memorable than listening to PNoy’s last SONA,” concluded Magtubo. ###

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Update: Faremo worker complaint resolved

The complaint of Faremo worker Edwin Senica was resolved yesterday at a hearing presided by the DOLE-NCMB. The Faremo management presented a company memo which stipulates that the suspension of Senica has been cancelled, his alleged infraction has been annulled and he will be compensated for the seven days that he was not able to report for work due to the dispute.

Moreover, Faremo management expressed that it respects the right of workers to freedom of association and will not engage in union busting.

Senica welcomed the presentation of management and his complaint was thus amicably settled.

Finally, according to first hand accounts of Faremo workers, later in the afternoon it was announced at the public address system of the company that management recognizes the right of its workers to unionize.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Unionists harassed at big Cavite garments factory

Press Release
July 10, 2015

Workers who are building a labor union at the biggest garments factory at the Cavite economic zone in the town of Rosario are complaining of harassment and interference by management. One worker of Faremo International Inc. has already filed a formal complaint for harassment, unfair labor practice and illegal suspension.

“Despite alleged reforms initiated by the Department of Labor and Employment in the wake of the International Labor Organization High Level Mission in 2009 to investigate extra judicial killings of unionists and violations of the freedom of association, union busting and management interference in the workers right to organize is a reality in the Cavite ecozone and beyond,” asserted Rene Magtubo, Partido Manggagawa (PM) national chair.

PM organizers are assisting the Faremo workers in the exercise of their right to unionize. The workers started forming a union in May this year and by late June management had reacted by harassing active unionists and intimidating other workers against joining. More than a dozen workers were interrogated individually in management offices, asked to stop the unionization effort and offered money in return for “voluntary resignation.” Some four workers were forced in this way to resign.

Faremo worker Edwin Semeca was subjected three times to this “modus operandi” by management and after his third interrogation—in which he was virtually detained about eight hours in the company showroom and later in the human resource office—he decided to file a complaint last July 2. After the complaint reached management, he was then suspended for seven days for absence without leave. His complaint is due to be heard on Monday, July 13, at the DOLE office in Imus.

Faremo, with some 1,500 workers, mostly female and of which 800 are regular, is the largest garments manufacturer at the Cavite ecozone. It is a subsidiary of the Korean multinational Hansoll Textile Ltd. which operates other factories in Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Guatemala and Nicaragua. Faremo produces apparel for famous American brands Gap, JC Penney and Kohl’s.

Apart from harassing active unionists, Semeca also stated that “Since June regular workers and contractual workers who are being regularized, are asked not to join the union and sign papers pledging to refuse unionization. This intimidation continues to this day. Also we also have reliable information that management is preparing to offer separation to a big number of workers to stop the unionization dead in its tracks.”

Magtubo challenged the DOLE to act immediately on union busting case at Faremo and called on the labor movement for solidarity. “The union at Faremo—and the dream of better life for workers—is a David fighting a Korean multinational Goliath. The Faremo workers want to form a union so as to improve their low pay and have a voice in the workplace but the greed for profit conflicts with labor’s inherent rights,” he insisted.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

PH labor hails Greek vote against IMF bailout

Partido Manggagawa
06 July 2015
Left groups in the Philippines, including the Partido Manggagawa (PM), greeted the jubilant Greeks for casting a historic vote against the third austerity package that is going to be imposed upon them by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the European Central Bank (ECB) and the European Commission (EC) or what is commonly referred to as the “Troika”. 
“The Syriza government should be congratulated for subjecting a major economic agenda to a political decision via a referendum where people can directly express their position to the issue.  And now that the great majority of the Greeks voted in clear defiance of the troika, the European Union (EU) is faced with a fundamental question on whether to push further with austerity measures decided by the banks and a small circle of UE technocrats, or yield down to democracy which principles also formed the basis of European integration,” said PM spokesman Wilson Fortaleza.
Fortaleza said the Greeks voted “no” despite their full knowledge of the consequence that there shall be no IMF/EU rescue money coming to Greece after their rejection of the bailout package, “Yet they have solidly defied the blackmail as they believed the new bailout package imposes the same program of deep budget cuts and more taxes while the country plunges deeper under the mountain of unpayable debts.”
The Greek people have been fighting the Troika-imposed austerity measures since 2010 as the country battled against the highest unemployment rate in Europe and the collapse of its welfare system.  At least 25% of the labor force is unemployed, with more than 50% belonging to the youth.  The price of education also soared, the cost and quality of healthcare significantly suffered, while the elderly keep a long wait for unreleased pensions.
The general rejection of anti-austerity measures led to last year’s election of a left coalition party Syriza under the leadership of Alexis Tsipras.
But for Partido Manggagawa, the Troika’s unyielding stand against Tsipra’s counter proposals for debt condonation, no new taxes and the revival of basic public spending programs, is not meant for the Greeks alone as it also showed how the EU would deal with other EU countries facing the same debt problems such as Italy, Spain, Ireland and Portugal. Anti-austerity movements are also growing fast in these countries and in other parts of Europe.
“Clearly the Syriza victory last year and the Greeks’ popular rejection of IMF bailout is something that the Troika wouldn’t consider as a triumph of democracy but more as a threat to their hegemony,” said Fortaleza.
The Philippine left could easily connect with the issued faced by the European people as the country had also been battered by IMF-imposed policies since the 80’s.  It was the IMF that imposed the policies of deregulation and privatization of public utilities which led to the escalation of prices of basic services in the country.