Thursday, June 25, 2020

Sports City workers’ demands to Adidas and other brands

Workers of the Adidas supplier Sports City conglomerate are asking the brand to mediate in their urgent demands in the light of the grave impact of the covid pandemic on their working and living conditions. Sports City’s factories are located in the Mactan Cebu Economic Zone, employ some 16,000 workers and at present manufactures for Adidas, Under Armour and Lululemon. The conglomerate is mainly comprised of Mactan Apparel, Metrowear, Feeder Apparel, Global Manufacturing, Vertex and Global Warehouse.

1.       Aid

Conversion of PhP 2,000 loan provided by Sports City into a grant and additional PhP 2,000 subsidy to workers. This will provide relief to workers who have become indebted due to the no work, no pay policy during the two-month lockdown. The 5 kilos of rice and several pieces of canned goods given at the start of the lockdown was an advance on the Christmas package. Thus Sports City has really extended assistance that it will not charge to workers’ existing benefits. But aid is urgently needed as until now a large number of Sports City workers are not working as the factory is not in full operation. Further some 80% of Sports City workers did not receive any assistance from government.

2.       Safety committee

Formation of a safety committee as provided for in the law with the mandate to ensure workers’ voice in the enforcement of occupational health and safety rules. The recent controversy in which the company threatened an anonymous worker with legal action reveals that lack of transparency naturally breeds issues. The anonymous worker made a post about two Sports City workers who returned to work but was found infected with covid.

3.       Production order

Commitment by Adidas to maintain production orders in Sports City to ensure jobs for workers. Workers of Mactan apparel are presently on rotation while Metrowear workers will on rotation starting in July. Workers in Global Wear Warehouse had been told that Adidas wants to relocate production to Cambodia allegedly because of less disruption due to covid. Workers will view any relocation of order by Adidas as condoning union busting by the Sports City.

4.       Freedom of association

The provision about Sports City respecting freedom of association in compliance with brand commitment has been deleted in the latest copy of the company rules and regulations (CRR). The statement of respect for FOA was previously included in the CRR distributed to all workers. Workers view this as a union busting maneuver by Sports City.

25 June 2020

Friday, June 19, 2020

DOLE asked to call labor,employers to dialogue on layoffs in airlines, other sectors

Baggage in the Airline Industry is a Good Stepping Stone into the Industry

The labor group Partido Manggagawa (PM) called on the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to convene conferences between the airline industry and union or worker representatives to formulate measures to preserve jobs. “Mass layoffs should be the last resort of employers and government must pro-actively act to prevent it. Unemployment is a real terror to workers than any threat from terrorist groups,” asserted Rene Magtubo, PM national chair.

He added that “DOLE, hoy gising, di pwedeng natutulog sa pansitan. DOLE cannot be a bystander looking at unemployment figures rise and content with asking employers to report retrenchments—which is what the agency is doing at the moment.”

PM is asking DOLE to immediately hold labor-industry dialogues in the airlines industry and other sectors where jobs are being shed. The group reports that factories in export processing zones are preparing to permanently or temporarily lay off workers in the next few weeks allegedly due to reduced orders from abroad. Expressway workers are also on the chopping block as toll operations are transitioning to cashless mode and will be fully automated.

“In these tripartite dialogues, various measures can be tabled for agreement. For example, as the economy is gradually opened then workers can return to work in batches and those not reporting for work shall be put in a labor pool instead of being retrenched. While in the labor pool, these workers shall receive aid from government and employers. After six months, employers can then decide if these workers will be retained or fired,” Magtubo explained.

The group also demands that government formulate emergency employment measures and expand unemployment insurance programs through tripartite dialogue. PM is appealing to Congress to revise the proposed stimulus bill so that aid to business is conditional on a no layoff, no endo commitment.

“MSME’s that will receive support from government should retain workers and make them regular. Taxpayer’s money should incentivize compliance with decent work and the new normal must be built on inclusive growth. Workers first in the new normal,” Magtubo insisted.

June 19, 2020

Friday, June 5, 2020

‘Terrorizing’ unemployment numbers say it all

The surge in the April unemployment numbers say it all. This unprecedented 17.7% unemployment rate is directly the outcome of the combined health and economic crises and the lackluster response from the government.

The coming months can only be hoped to be better or worse, depending on how the government will conduct its work. To us, the present crises require a major reboot and system upgrade as old devices will simply not work.

The April unemployment data show that a whopping 71% or 29.7 million out of 41.8 million labor force are collectively in a bind amid this pandemic. They are composed of 7.3 million unemployed, the 38.4% employed but not working Filipinos or equivalent to 13 million, and underemployed numbering 6.4 million. 

The urgent agenda therefore for this government is normalization in the minimum and a better normal for the maximum.

Again, the railroaded terror bill will never suit  any of the strategy for the minimum and maximum agenda of restoring lost wages and creating more jobs, universal social protection, and most importantly, participation in crafting a new economic paradigm as normalization will simply bring the workers back to the endo nation.

Ang kailangan ng manggagawa ay tulong hindi kulong; union hindi represyon; regular na trabaho hindi endo; ayuda hindi diktadura.

05 June 2020

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Terror bill bumps off economic stimulus as a priority of Duterte administration – labor group

Yesterday’s railroading in Congress of the anti-terrorism bill ahead of stimulus packages pending before it is the latest manifestation of the Duterte administration’s misplaced priorities. It clearly showed that its hunger for extrajudicial authoritarian powers have become more urgent in this time of pandemic than its resolve to organize a massive recovery plan in preventing the economy and our people from sliding further into a deep recession and extreme poverty.

In short, the Duterte government is more inclined to becoming a reckless dictator during this period rather than a sensible marshal of a better normal.

In the Senate where the original Senate Bill 1083 (terror bill) came from, a measly P140B stimulus package was approved on second reading yesterday. This amount is way, way below the needed stimulus to shape new economic pathways and in shielding our workers from losing their jobs and incomes. The House has a P1.3T stimulus proposal, but it has come to our knowledge that the administration will never approve a stimulus package higher than P130B. Now we already have a preview of where this country is heading to.

Then why did a terror bill that has gotten out of the store was picked quickly by Congress like an instant noodle? There is no terrorist menace surrounding our country right now to press a panic button. What we have is chronic poverty made worse by the pandemic and the widespread sense of helplessness at home, in the streets, and in workplaces.

Moreover, the Filipino people have never demanded a terror bill as a solution to their plight. And under the present condition, their main concerns remain to be #AyudangSapatParaSaLahat and #BalikTrabahongLigtas, and of course a clear road map for a better normal.

In short, only those who are in power are interested in gaining more power that is totally useless in the war against the pandemic and the deepening economic crisis.

04 June 2020

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

More chaos if DepEd and ChEd open classes unprepared as DOLE and DoTr

Litrato ni Partido Manggagawa.

The labor group Partido Manggagawa (PM) expressed fear that the August opening of classes can be more chaotic if the Department of Education (DepEd) comes unprepared as the Department of Transportation (DoTr) and Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).

The start of General Community Quarantine (GCQ) regime was marred by chaos and confusion yesterday when DoTr implemented a mad experiment of denying safe and adequate mass transport system for thousands of workers who are called back to work by their employers. DOLE for its part failed to make provision of shuttle services mandatory to employers.

The group lambasted the government for the chaotic Monday that exposed thousands of workers to health and occupational hazards while those who failed to report to work were denied the much-needed income.

“Naniniwala kami sa kapasidad ni Sec. Liling Briones na ihanda ang pasukan pero kung ang hambog na si Tugade kung saan bilib na bilib ang Pangulo ay lumagapak sa malaking kapalpakan sa unang araw ng pasukan ng manggagawa, magiging delikado rin sa mga bata kung ang DepEd ay hindi masusuportahan ng maayos ng iba pang mga ahensya ng pamahalaan,” said PM Secretary General Judy Ann Miranda.

Miranda said the government may consider adjusting the calendar of School Year 2020 – 2021, now that the Senate is giving the President the power to adjust the school calendar.

“A new schedule will give the DepEd, teachers, parents and children more time to prepare for the blended modalities while the Department of Health (DoH) and health experts gather data and assess the impact of GCQ activities in the spread of Covid-19 virus,” explained Miranda.

The group presumes that a face-to-face mode will remain the dominant learning modality in schools as online and other distant learning modalities will be challenged by digital divide and readiness issues both for the public and private schools. If that becomes the norm, a multitude of workers and students out in the streets will make the GCQ regime more chaotic and unsafe.

“Mas nakaka-terrorize and ganyang sitwasyon kaysa sa kinatatakutang terorismo ng estado sa minamadaling anti-terror law,” added Miranda, referring to the proposed stronger version of anti-terrorism law that is being certified as urgent by President Duterte.

Partido Manggagawa also called on the government to come to the rescue of private schools to avoid mass layoffs of teaching and non-teaching personnel whose jobs and wages are dependent on the number of enrollees. “The government must consider a stimulus plan for them,” said Miranda.

PM received reports that teachers in many private schools will face reduced teaching loads while those in danger of shutting down has already started with their termination procedures.

2 June 2020

Justice for slain union organizer on his first death anniversary—labor group

The labor group Partido Manggagawa reiterated its call for justice for its union organizer who was brutally murdered last year. Dennis Sequeña, Cavite provincial chair of Partido Manggagawa (PM) and veteran labor organizer of ecozone workers, was shot and killed in June 2, 2019 while facilitating a union seminar among workers in the Cavite Economic Zone.

“On the occasion of the first death anniversary of Ka Dennis, we call the attention of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) that justice has not been served and his unidentified killers are still at large. The unsolved murder of Ka Dennis highlights the new normal of impunity characterized by killings of rights defenders, double standard in the enforcement of lockdown rules, restriction of civil liberties and the looming danger of the anti-terror bill,” stated Rene Magtubo, PM national chair.

The murder of Sequeña was immediately condemned by local and international labor groups and led to a recommendation at the International Labor Organization conference in June 2019 for a high level mission to be sent to the country to investigate the killings of unionists and violations of freedom of association. Later the Technical Executive Committee of the National Tripartite Industrial Peace Council made a determination that Sequeña’s killing was extra-judicial and thus was under the purview of Administrative Order 35 (AO 35). In August 2019 the DOJ, as lead agency of AO 35, announced that a special investigative team was formed to probe the killing.

“We thus ask both the DOJ and DOLE: what is the status of the probe on the murder of Ka Dennis? Neither the family nor our organization has been updated of any development,” declared Magtubo.

He added that, “Relatedly, we also call on the DOLE to convene the technical working group for the review of the guidelines on the conduct of PNP, AFP and other security forces during labor disputes and the exercise of the freedom of association in the ecozones, the advocacy for which Ka Dennis gave his life for. The DOLE cannot make covid an excuse for inaction. On the contrary, a workers’ picketline in an ecozone in Cavite was dispersed using the lockdown as an alibi. Two workers of Sejung Apparel in the First Cavite Industrial Estate were threatened with arrest on Black Friday night, April 19, by Dasmarinas police, who refused to identify themselves, for alleging violating the curfew rules since they were manning the picketline.”

“Justice for Dennis also means justice for all workers. We ask the DOLE to investigate the dispersal of the Sejung picketline and for the reopening of the garments factory to produce much needed face masks not only to provide employment to the jobless workers and but also assist in the covid response,” Magtubo proposed.

June 2, 2020

Monday, June 1, 2020

End the madness of transport policy during GCQ! Nagkaisa bats for safe and free public transportation!

Nagkaisa assailed the national government, particularly the DOTr and the MMDA, for its massive failure to provide adequate public transportation on the first day of GCQ in Metro Manila.

Nagkaisa is highly disappointed with DOTr for its failure to perform its primary mandate to provide "efficient, and dependable transportation systems.” Chaos and confusion now reigns in the streets of Metro Manila as hundreds of thousands of workers scramble to get to work.

Contrary to MMDA’s arrogant claims of its full readiness for June 1, physical distancing was completely compromised as commuters waited for transport services. For many, the wait was in vain as the MMDA did not provide bus stops from Quezon Ave to Ayala Ave.

In its mad rush to jump start a stalled economy without due consideration to the safety and welfare of workers, the national government has once again succeeded in heaping more unnecessary burdens to the working class.

Worst, with this transport fiasco, the DOTr and the MMDA risks wasting all the sacrifices forced on everyone for more than 2 months of lockdown to stop Covid-19.

Nagkaisa believes that all these could have been avoided had the national government provided “safe and free” transportation by implementing service contracting of PUVs that could have augmented the limited public transportation that we have.

Proposed by Move As One coalition, service contracting of PUVs would not only ensure adequate public transportation in areas under the general community quarantine (GCQ), but also protect thousands of transport workers as they earn much needed livelihood.

Nagkaisa and its affiliates are members of the We Move As One coalition.

Under service contracting, the government pays the operators and drivers to run pre-determined routes to ferry workers. This is far different from the prevailing “boundary system,” in which earnings are based on the number of passengers ferried.

Nagkaisa calls on the DOTr,  the MMDA and the national government to immediately address this dangerous situation or risk worsening the continuous rise in Covid-19 cases!

1 June 2020

Monday, May 25, 2020

Open classes when truly safe, other modalities must be made universally accessible

Stocks Sink as Markets Open in China - The New York Times
Photo from NY Times

With the country’s PCR-based mass testing capacity not even available to all our workers, opening our schools this coming August is not only unsafe for our children but will also be very costly when alternative learning modalities are applied. The case of infected South Korean students and our own poor pandemic response raise many red flags on this issue.  

First, on mass testing. Without the vaccine and our mass testing capacity stuck at minimal level, sending their children to school is a choice which is exceedingly difficult to decide for poor families who cannot even get free mass testing and adequate subsidies to secure their own health and economic survival at home. On the other hand, not enrolling when schools officially open in August places unnecessary pressure on both parents and students whose dreams of getting out of the poverty trap the soonest time possible through education remain high despite the pandemic.

Second, on transportation. The government did not even make provisions of shuttle services for their employees mandatory to all employers. Students from poor families rely on public transport and we see them battered daily by the violence of our mass transportation system. Adjusting to the new and reduced capacity of our mass transport system will further expose children and their mothers to more hazards. On the other hand, requiring them to be shuttled by service vehicles which rates are more expensive is too much of a burden for parents whose economic future are threatened by manifold crises due to this pandemic.

Third, on the physical setup. Our overcrowded schools need to be re-modelled first to ensure physical distancing and we have not yet seen any plan on how to do this in the remaining few weeks. Will it mean dividing the number of sections and classes and therefore extending the working hours of our teachers?

Fourth, on alternative learning modalities. E-learning or distance learning is a sound idea as long as the infrastructure for it is ready and universally accessible to all students of all classes, public and private. In fact, the time for distance learning has come several years earlier than the pandemic but it did only serve a privileged class of students enrolled in high end universities.  Private schools may continue to offer this mode for capable students but for public schools, a universal online modality remains a wishful thinking at this point in time. To our knowledge, even our premier state university, the University of the Philippines, did not make online classes mandatory during the lockdown period because not all UP students and teachers have gadgets and access to reliable internet.

This online class divide can only be resolved if the state will provide free internet services to all barangays and online gadgets are made affordable to all households. Unfortunately, our national broadband capacity embedded in the power transmission lines is now under the control of the Chinese-run National Grid Corporation of the Philippines. To maximize its free use for educational purposes, the transmission system has to be re-nationalized, notwithstanding many other issues supporting the argument for its renationalization.

Education as a social good must be made universally accessible to all, including the new and advance systems of learning modalities. Otherwise, without system and infrastructure reforms, Philippine education in times of pandemics will stay as a model itself of social inequality that infected this nation for over a century now.

25 May 2020

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Workers losing ground from DOLE's wrong policy direction

Recent labor advisories, particularly Department Order (DO) No. 213 and Labor Advisory (LA) No. 17 and 18 issued by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) under Sec. Silvestre Bello are loosening up some well placed labor standards that protect workers from being exploited under normal conditions as well as during crisis situations.

Labor Advisory No. 17 is an example of how an emergency instrument can legitimize wage reduction at a time regular income and #AyudangSapatParaSaLahat are badly needed by no work-no pay workers.

The pre-Covid19 low wage regime that dominated industries for decades can only be negotiated up not down, but here is DOLE giving ECOP a wider latitude in making flexible work arrangements and diminution of wages and benefits a legitimate exercise of their prerogative. This policy will surely work in favor of the employers as workers are made to choose between jobs and fair income which, in the ideal world of Harry Roque, does not exist during this time.

LA 17 is no different from LA 18 which requires employers to cover the cost of PPE's and testing but did not make mass testing mandatory.

The same goes with the DOLE-DTI guidelines which required employers to provide shuttle services or near-site accommodation to their employees but without mandating their compliance.

Kaya nauwi lahat sa 'bahala na si batman.'

Employers of course can only be happy with any policy that is not mandatory yet allows flexibility on their side to shortchange workers without facing any penalty.

We maintain that in times of crisis, the role of the state is to defend the better standards from eroding and to further seek its better ideals in the practical world where the power of capital rules.

This loss of direction on the part of DOLE we believe is not due to developmental topographical disorientation (DTD) syndrome as getting out of line most of the time is a regular thing in the department.

19 May 2020

Saturday, May 16, 2020

DOLE, PEZA asked to strictly enforce covid protocols with reopening of ecozones

Operating Economic Zones | Cavite

The labor group Partido Manggagawa (PM) called on the Department and Labor and Employment (DOLE) and the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) to strictly enforce covid-19 health and safe protocols for workplaces as tens of thousands of workers are going back to work with the reopening of industrial zones in the Calabarzon.

“We demand balik trabahong ligtas. We know that ecozone workers are eager to go back to work since they have suffered from the no work, no pay policies of employers and the insufficient aid provided by the state. But workers should not be risking their lives just to avert death from hunger,” asserted Rene Magtubo, PM national chair.

He added that “In the new normal, the ecozones are again acting like independent republics with their own laws. The occupational risks for workers will be heightened by the silence of the DOLE-DTI guidelines on enforcement and monitoring of the protocols that it specified. The guidelines have no teeth!”

PM joined the labor coalition Nagkaisa in expressing concern that a second wave of covid infection may occur without mandating companies to institute robust health and safety measures for the workers the moment they leave their homes to report for duty.

Echoing Nagkaisa’s position, Magtubo said that “While the DOLE and the DTI issued joint guidelines on preventing covid-19 infection among the workforce, the guidelines fall short of ensuring a safe environment for workers. It doesn’t even prescribe penalties for any violations.”

“Instead of guidelines, a Department Order should have been issued to compel employers to negotiate with their workers a comprehensive set of protocols to prevent covid and deal with it effectively should it occur,” Magtubo explained.

Nagkaisa identified other major lapses of the joint DTI and DOLE Guidelines as:
> Failure to identify Sars-Cov-2 as an occupational hazard and Covid-19 as an occupational disease.
> No mandatory inspection of companies to ensure their compliance, especially in terms of providing physical distancing.
> No provision for paid 14-day quarantine leaves for workers who may end up being suspected of having Covid-19.

“For the sake of the hundreds of thousands of ecozone workers in the whole Calabarzon region, we ask that the DOLE-DTI Guidelines be revised to make it more effective and with penalties for violations,” Magtubo insisted.

May 16, 2020

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Subsidy to airlines must have pro-labor conditionalities

Philippine Airlines to pay $117m fees after Duterte threats ...
Photo from Asian Nikkei

The labor group Partido Manggagawa (PM) asserted that any subsidy for the airline industry must be tied to conditionalities. “Public aid to private corporations, especially big business like airlines, should enhance social justice and workers’ rights. We demand that taxpayer bailout of the three local airlines must be conditional,” declared Rene Magtubo, PM national chair.

He added that “Specifically, these conditions should include no layoffs, reinstatement of those already retrenched this year and institution of worker representation in the corporate boards of the airline companies. The airlines’ demand for P8.6 billion per month would easily surpass in two months the P3 billion spent for DOLE’s CAMP and P10 billion for SBWS that benefited workers. Withholding taxes levied on workers constitute the biggest portion of the tax revenues and thus labor is a stakeholder in any disbursement of people’s money.”

Last February 28, Philippine Airlines (PAL) announced a mass layoff of 300 regular employees allegedly due to the impact of covid. Then in March 19, Cebu Pacific let go of 150 cabin crew on probationary status because of covid travel bans. Finally on April 3, the 1Aviation Groundhandling Services Corp. retrenched 400 workers who were due to be regularized. The company services Cebu Pacific and is a joint venture of the Gokongwei-owned Cebu Air Inc. and another ground handling corporation.

“These 850 fellow airline workers deserve to have their jobs back as part of the recovery of the airline industry. No one must be left behind as the airline industry gets back on its feet with the help of taxpayer’s money,” insisted Eugene Soriano, former treasurer of the union PAL Employees Association (PALEA).

He demanded that PAL, before it receives any government subsidy, must implement the 2013 settlement agreement forged between the airline and PALEA to reinstate 600 employees retrenched in 2011 due to a controversial outsourcing program.

Magtubo argued that if the airlines would reject conditionalities on state aid for the airlines, the industry might as well be nationalized. “If the three airlines can only survive on taxpayer support, then nationalization is another option. Three private airlines competing for reduced passenger demand is an inefficient utilization of capital,” he averred.

PM’s demand for pro-labor conditionalities on government support is part of its call for “workers first in the new normal.” Part of its workers first platform are calls for ayudang sapat para sa lahat, balik trabahong ligtas, ayuda lagpas sa ECQ and makataong tugon hindi militarisasyon.

12 May 2020

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Loopholes in DOLE-DTI guidelines will imperil workers

Coronavirus: Philippines' Luzon lockdown hits domestic helper ...
Photo from SCMP

The labor group Partido Manggagawa (PM) stated that loopholes in the DOLE-DTI workplace guidelines on covid will put masses of workers in danger when they return to work. “Weak enforcement instruments and the lack of penal provisions in the guidelines will incentivize non-compliance by employers and thus imperil the health and safety of millions of workers and of the population as a whole,” asserted Rene Magtubo, PM national chair.

He explained that “The government has imposed an iron fist policy on ordinary people violating quarantine rules on the streets but in contrast is using kid gloves on capitalists. This is a stark double standard or social distancing in a bad sense. Compliance with occupational health and safety is an expense for employers and thus a deduction on their profit. Thus penalties on non-compliance will deter employers from their default behavior.”

Last Labor Day, one of the main demands in the online protest was for #BalikTrabahongLigtas. PM also announced its support for the proposed bill by Sen. Risa Hontiveros entitled the Balik Trabahong Ligtas bill which seeks to augment health care coverage for all workers regardless of employment status.

The group insisted that with more than 90% of establishments comprised of MSME’s which even before the covid pandemic are notorious for violating labor standards, strict monitoring and enforcement is needed to ensure occupational safety and public health when millions of workers return to work.

“Employers cannot be relied upon to voluntarily comply with labor and safety standards while the DOLE is sorely lacking in its record of enforcement. We propose that a mechanism be setup comprised of representative of DOLE, DTI, employers and workers to monitor compliance and enforcement, and to propose amendments to the guidelines,” Magtubo elaborated.

Further the group proposed the following changes to the guidelines:

1.      Coverage by Philhealth of the full cost of hospitalization of workers infected with covid.
2.      Provision by employer of wage subsidy for workers who are put on 14-day quarantine.
3.      Payment of hazard pay for workers in workplaces with imminent danger.
4.      Right to refuse by workers if working conditions are unsafe.
5.      Consultation with unions in enterprises that are organized.

3 May 2020

Saturday, May 2, 2020

Workers First in the New Normal

N95 Face Masks Are Giving Nurses Bruises On Face

The covid pandemic has exposed all the ills and contradictions of capitalism. The state has intervened massively in society to contain the infection and maintain the social fabric. Still the workers and the poor are disproportionately bearing the burden of the pandemic.

The lockdown has put millions temporarily jobless on a no work, no pay policy. The poor cannot earn a living as everyone is forced to stay at home. Assistance to the poor was not enough for everyone so political patronage and wanton discrimination reigned supreme. The health system is overwhelmed by the scale of the contagion since public health provision has suffered from budget cuts while private hospitals are out of reach of the masses.

Women are key frontliners as they comprise the overwhelming number in the care economy in general and the health sector in particular. And among working class families, women face an even heavier task just because of their gender. Even during the lockdown, the toil of domestic chores falls on the shoulders of women while a big part of the responsibility of provisioning for the family’s daily bread is also theirs. Violence against women and abuse of girls and children will increase with male breadwinners temporarily out of work and the family stressed to the limit due to financial hardship. Women will be forced into prostitution in the extreme of cases just to stave off hunger.

Finally, the government has exploited the pandemic to further restrict civil liberties and suppress democratic rights. An iron fist policy has dominated over a public health response. Thus the number of people arrested for violating the lockdown has far exceeded the number of people tested for covid. The situation in the Philippines is no different from other countries where authoritarianism is gaining ground.

A global recession, if not a depression, is looming. As in all episodes of capitalist crisis, the working class will be hard hit as the capitalist class will pass on the sacrifices to the poor.

The plight of the working class is deteriorating as capitalism struggles to recover from the covid pandemic and the economic crisis. But the present conjuncture is also an opening to reimagine a radical restructuring of society where the needs of people not profit come first.

Workers hold no nostalgia for the old normal of neoliberal capitalism characterized by insecure work, cheap wages, permanent joblessness, privatized services and lack of protection. Instead the working class must spearhead the framing of the new normal as a system where workers are valued for their wealth-creating labor and the people enjoy by right the things necessary for a decent life—full employment, a living wage, universal health care, quality education, social protection and a clean environment, a voice in their workplaces and society as a whole, among others.

A proper response to the covid pandemic should put the needs of the workers and poor first. The following four demands are just the most immediate but are necessary to transition to a new normal of workers first.

1.      Sufficient Aid for All

An income and employment guarantee for all. All jobless workers, formal and informal, should receive a wage subsidy at the prevailing minimum wage or P10,000, whichever is higher.

Aid delivery must be universal not targeted and discriminatory. This will solve the slow, confusing and bureaucratic targeted system of delivering government assistance to formal and informal workers. Support must be raised from the present level of P5,000.

2.      Aid beyond the period of the lockdown

Aid should not stop when the lockdown is lifted, especially since not everyone will be able to return to work immediately. Assistance should be extended to at least six months. This extended support must form part of the proposed stimulus package for the purpose of recovery from the crisis.
The stimulus must also provide a robust emergency employment program for workers who will become permanently unemployed due to the impact of covid and for returning migrant workers who will be displaced in their host countries. Likewise, the stimulus aid for businesses must be tied to compliance to labor rights and standards, and to grant of a voice for workers in their workplaces.

3.      Safety for workers returning to work

Workers returning to their jobs are key to restarting the economy. But the government and capitalists are more concerned more with the return on investments and less on the safety of workers. Unfortunately, even workers are tempted to risk their health and safety rather than face hunger due to joblessness.

Health and safety in the workplace and in transit must be ensured before workers are asked back to work. Mass testing must be done through the reliable Reverse Transcription-Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) not the erratic Rapid Diagnostic Test (RDT) preferred by the government and capitalists. Personal protective equipment or PPE must be given free to workers. They must be remunerated with additional hazard pay. Full healthcare coverage for workers who will be hospitalized due to covid. Workers must have the right to refuse to work without penalty if health and safety is not guaranteed.

4. Humane not militarized response

Enforcement of the lockdown has been characterized by violence by state authorities, arrests of the poor and suppression of protests by the hungry. Duterte has repeatedly threatened to impose martial law even if the situation falls outside of the purview of the law.

The issue is framed as lack of individual discipline when in fact insufficient aid and repressive rules force the masses to desperately break the law. The order for people to stay at home will be problematic since people are going hungry for lack of assistance and they are treated as beneficiaries of philanthropy instead of claim holders of the right to aid in a time of crisis.

Partido Manggagawa
May 1, 2020

Friday, May 1, 2020

Workers slam “Balik Probinsya” scheme in online Labor Day protest

As locked down workers in the Philippines and the world celebrated May 1 in online actions, the labor group Partido Manggagawa (PM) slammed Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello’s push for a “Balik Probinsya” scheme.

“The ‘balik probinsya’ plan of Sec. Bello and the ‘balik trabaho’ proposal of Presidential Adviser Joey Concepcion are both hare-brained pro-capitalist schemes. Labor was not consulted in Bello’s rehash of Bong Go’s plan while Concepcion’s GoNegosyo proposal will endanger workers’ lives. Workers will be sent to the provinces where wages are dirt cheap and will be sent back to work since they are allegedly immune so capitalists can earn bigger profits immediately,” stated Rene Magtubo, PM national chair.

Both proposals are in direct contradiction to the demands being put forward by organized labor in today’s online protest. PM and the labor coalition Nagkaisa are asking workers to make selfies while holding placards with demands and to post it in social media accounts using the hashtags #AyudangSapatParaSalahat, #BalikTrabahongLigtas, #MakataongTugonHindiMilitarisasyon and #MayDay2020.

“A proper response to the covid pandemic should put the needs of the workers and poor first not the interests of capitalists in front and center,” Magtubo averred.

The group is also alarmed at the rise in the number of cases involving cruel treatment by security forces against violators of quarantine protocols and warns against a new normal of impunity. PM cited the police dispersal of a workers’ picketline in Cavite during Black Friday night. Dasmarinas police who refused to give their names threatened two strikers—at the Sejung Apparel Inc. factory in the First Cavite Industrial Estate—with arrest for allegedly violating the quarantine rules.

“Labor rights are not suspended during the ECQ and this incident breaks all the rules of engagement, especially the guidelines on the conduct of security personnel during labor disputes,” Magtubo insisted.

He added that “Workers hold no nostalgia for the old normal of neoliberal capitalism characterized by insecure work, cheap wages, permanent joblessness, privatized services and lack of protection. But we will fight any plot by capitalists and the government to shape a new normal where workers are in worse conditions than before.”

“Instead the working class imagine the new normal as a system where workers are valued for their wealth-creating labor and the people enjoy by right the things necessary for a decent life—full employment, a living wage, universal health care, quality education, social protection and a clean environment, a voice in their workplaces and society as a whole, among others,” Magtubo concluded. 

May 1, 2020

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Labor group to government: Is cruelty becoming a new normal?

The rise in the number of cases involving cruel treatment by security forces against violators of quarantine protocols has alarmed the labor group Partido Manggagawa (PM) which sees this pattern as tolerated impunity that is becoming a new normal.

“Can’t our security forces in dreadful military uniforms act humanely before their fellow humans? Have they been instructed to apply brute force against anyone they perceive to be pasaway? There must be a new culture for a new normal being created here for these inhumane actions to be tolerated,” said PM Chair Renato Magtubo.

The labor group reminded the government that human rights and labor rights guaranteed by the Constitution have never been demolished by President Duterte’s emergency powers under the Bayanihan Act.

According to police reports, there are more than a hundred thousand ECQ violators who have been apprehended or arrested since the lockdown has been imposed.  The most recent among them were the Makati (Parras) and Quezon City (Ragos and a fish vendor) incidents that have gone viral in the social media. There was also a PUP student leader among them, Rexlon Aumentado, who was illegally detained for 3 days.

The group also cited the police dispersal of a workers’ picketline in Cavite during Black Friday night. Dasmarinas police who refused to give their names threatened two strikers—at the Sejung Apparel Inc. factory in the First Cavite Industrial Estate—with arrest for allegedly violating the quarantine rules. “Labor rights are not suspended during the ECQ and this incident breaks all the rules of engagement, especially the guidelines on the conduct of security personnel during labor disputes,” Magtubo insisted.

PM is concerned that had there been no anonymous people posting their videos of those incidents, these human rights violations in thousands of unreported circumstances will just go unnoticed and perpetrators go unpunished.

“Bakit ba naging habit na ang pananakit? Bakit ba mayroon nang nalikhang malaki at maliit, malupit at mahina dito sa paglaban sa Covid-19,” lamented Magtubo.

“Makataong Tugon Hindi Militarisasyon” is one of PM’s “Apat na Dapat” Labor Day demands. The other demands include “Ayudang Sapat Para sa Lahat”, “Balik Trabahong Ligtas”, and “Ayudang Lagpas sa Panahon ng Lockdown.”

The group is with Nagkaisa! labor coalition which, together with Kilusang Mayo Uno, will be holding home and community protest online on Labor Day.

29 April 2020

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Workers ask factory to be reopened to make facemasks

In reaction to the statement of Trade and Industry Ramon Lopez yesterday that several companies are repurposing their facilities to produce personal protective equipment (PPE), workers of a garments firm that has been shuttered for the past four months are asking the government to reopen the factory to produce facemasks. In yesterday’s address by President Rodrigo Duterte, Lopez announced that at least 10 manufacturing companies agreed to repurpose and produce PPE’s, face masks and ventilators.

“We call on Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello to facilitate a social dialogue for the reopening of Sejung Apparel so it can produce wearable facemasks and also put hundreds of workers back to gainful employment,” Jopay Odchimar, president of the labor union of Sejung workers.

Sejung Apparel Inc., a Korean-owned firm in the First Cavite Industrial Estate (FCIE) in Dasmarinas, shutdown in December last year. Last April 10, officials of the FCIE padlocked the factory gates.

“Reopening the factory will put 315 employees back to work to make PPE’s that are desperately needed at this time. We want to help others even as we lift ourselves by our own efforts. The government should not think twice about our appeal to reopen the factory and retool it for making washable facemasks,” Odchimar explained.

The DOLE has rejected the application for assistance to Sejung workers since the factory closure was not due to the covid quarantine. Ironically, the Sejung workers are also not qualified for the social amelioration for informal workers since they are technically still employed by the company.

Sejung workers have been embroiled in a long-running dispute since last year. The labor dispute is due to non-payment of 13th month pay, last salary and union busting.

Sejung declared temporary shutdowns several times. The first shutdown in October last year occurred just one week after the union submitted a collective bargaining proposal and just three weeks after the union won a certification election. The company reopened but once more closed in December 12 and has remained shutdown since then.

“For more than four months, the DOLE provincial and regional offices did not act on a clear case of labor standards violation despite undertaking an inspection in December 19. The case has dragged on for so long that the covid pandemic and the resulting quarantine further aggravated the sufferings of workers,” Odchimar explained.

April 25, 2020
Contact Jopay Odchimar @ 09755769603

Friday, April 24, 2020

ECQ extension should mean extended and expanded aid

Coronavirus: Philippines quarantines island of 57 million people ...

Because ECQ has been extended, it follows that government aid must not only be extended but also expanded to cover all in millions who are left behind by CAMP and SAC due to its non-universal approach and bureaucratic gridlock. The amount should also be raised approximating the level of minimum wage, or P10K whichever is higher.

The extension should also be utilized in preparing the best protocols for workers' safe and protected return to work, including enhanced capacity for conducting the most effective method of mass testing and industry compliance to OHS law and other labor standards.

As to financial difficulty facing the our covid-19 response, we call on the government to consider imposing higher taxes on private wealth of big businesses and richest families.

24 April 2020

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Mass testing gamit ang RT-PCR, full coverage ng Philhealth sa kaso ng Covid-19

Mamamatay ang ekonomiya kapag hindi nakabalik sa trabaho ang mga manggagawa. Pero kapag mahawa ng Covid-19 ang maraming manggagawa, mahahawa ang buong bansa.

Kung nais ng pamahalaan na unti-unti nang luwagan ang ECQ, bumalik sa trabaho na ligtas ang mga manggagawa, muling umandar ang ekonomiya at manatiling ligtas ang buong bansa sa Covid-19, ang kailangan ay mabisang paraan ng mass testing, hindi ang mabilisan ngunit walang katiyakan na rapid antibody test.

At para mabigyan ng dagdag na kumpyansa ang mga manggagawa na bumalik sa trabaho sa kabila ng panganib, kailangan silang bigyan ng kasiguruhan na sakaling maging biktima ng Covid-19 ay sasagutin ng Philhealth ang full coverage ng kanilang pagpapagamot at pagpapagaling. Ibig sabihin, dapat baguhin ng Philhealth ang patakaran nang bumalik ito sa case rate sa kaso ng Covid-19.

Mahigpit naming sinusubaybayan hindi lamang ang mga ayudang ipinangako para sa kabuhayan ng manggagawa kundi maging ang mga hakbang medikal sa bansa at sa buong mundo upang epektibong malabanan ang virus.

Kung kayat kami ay nabahala sa naging pahayag ng Pangulo kamakailan, kasama ang kinatawan ng mga negosyante na si Joey Concepcion, na magpapatupad ng malawakang rapid antibody test sa lebel ng mga pagawaan bilang kondisyon sa pagbabalik sa trabaho ng mga manggagawa.

Mahigit apatnapung milyon (40M) na manggagawa ang babalik sa paghahanapbuhay sa ibat-ibang paraan sakaling alisin na ang lockdown. Sa kanilang ligtas na pagbabalik-trabaho nakasalalay hindi lamang ang ating ekonomiya kundi ang kaligtasan ng ating bansa.

Ito ang dahilan kung bakit tinutulan namin ang paggamit sa rapid antibody test dahil mismong ang World Health Organization (WHO), mga scientist at medical experts ay hindi rekomendado ang paraan na ito kumpara sa Real Time-Polymerase Chain Reaction Test (RT-PCR) na subok na sa buong mundo. Ang ating DOH mismo ay naglabas ng guidelines laban dito, kasama ang infographic na nagpapaliwanag sa kaibahan ng dalawa.  At kahit ang Food and Drug Administration na nagpahintulot sa paggamit ng limang brand ng rapid test na ito ay nagsabi na kailangan pa rin ang PCR-based confirmatory test matapos nito.

Samakatwid, ang mataas na rate ng false negatives na inaasahan ng mga eksperto mula sa rapid antibody test ay hindi lamang magsasayang ng oras at rekurso sa paraan na ito kundi magbibigay pa ito ng maling kumpyansa at magbabaliwala sa kaligtasan ng manggagawa pagkatapos ng lockdown.

Bilang alternatibo, ang dapat mas bilisan at palawakin ng pamahalaan ay ang mass testing gamit ang RT-PCR. At magiging realidad lamang ito kung sa lebel ng mga LGU ito palalawakin katulad ng inisyatiba ng lungsod ng Marikina. Ang ganitong hakbang ang dapat suportahan ng pondo ng national government at ng mayayamang may-ari ng mga industriya at negosyo, hindi ang ekspiremento ng rapid antibody test na malamang ay maghatid pa sa atin sa kapahamakan.

Habang papalapit ang Araw ng Paggawa, patuloy na nagpapahayag ng paninindigan at mga kahilingan ang Partido Manggagawa (PM) sa pamahalaan para sa kapakanan ng uring manggagawa, kasama ang iba pang mga samahan ng paggawa sa buong bansa.

Sa partikular, itinutulak ng PM ang tatlong kahilingan. Ang mga ito ay: (1) Ayudang Sapat Para sa Lahat; (2) Extensyon ng ayuda lagpas sa panahon ng lockdown at ligtas na pagbabalik s trabaho ng mga manggagawa; at, (3) Mas makataong tugon sa krisis, hindi militarisasyon.

18 March 2020

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Labor coalition to gov’t: Get the numbers and system right before rolling out new cash aid program

DOLE execs slam 'smear drive' vs. Bello | Philippine News Agency
Photo from PNA

If government can’t get the numbers and system right, cash aid program can only go unequal. 

It is unfortunate to see the actual picture on the ground, but numbers of lockdown affected workers in the formal sector reportedf earlier by the labor department are not they really are. It is only 1.4M workers before today’s termination of the CAMP program and the introduction of a new program called wage subsidy for ‘middle income workers’.

While the P51B program is a welcome relief to about 3.4 million ‘middle income workers’, the question remains as to what will happen to the millions of poorer workers in the formal sector who were left behind in the CAMP program?  We believe that unless this gap in numbers is resolved, the new wage subsidy program will suffer the same inequality encountered in CAMP.

Adding the 1.4M CAMP beneficiaries (assuming all the stranded beneficiaries get the aid) to the targeted 3.4M wage subsidy beneficiaries will only get us to 4.8M total beneficiaries in the formal sector workers.  Again, what will happen to the remaining workers in the formal sector who were left behind by these two programs yet were also affected in varying degrees by the lockdown?

The latest figure from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) as cited by Partido Manggagawa (PM) in its earlier statement, 65% of the 42M employed persons in January 2020 are wage and salary workers. This is equivalent to 28M workers. In short, after subtracting the 4.8M actual beneficiaries, there remain 23M workers that can be considered as ‘stranded beneficiaries’ of CAMP and the wage subsidy program.

In a study presented by Marikina Rep. Stella Quimbo, an economist by profession, in introducing her P370B stimulus package bill, there are about 9M workers who are “unaffected” by the lockdown as they continue receiving their salaries such as government workers, workers in ECQ essential services, and those who work in private households.

Clearly, even if we subtract the 9M ‘unaffected’ workers from the remaining 23M, a significant number of 14M workers (74%) in the formal sector will be left behind. It also shows that only a fourth of workers in the formal sector are going to benefit from CAMP and the wage subsidy program.  We therefore demand that all CAMP applicants who were not provided support by DOLE be automatically accommodated by the DOF program.

On the other side of the coin are the 16M workers in the informal sector whose lives have only gone from bad to worse during this period.

We keep on raising this issue because we believe that unless a universal approach is utilized in providing cash aid to differentiated beneficiaries under CAMP or SAP, the majority will continue to suffer the blows of poverty and inequality during and even after the lockdown. 

Rather than continue its targeted approach which creates bottleneck and social divide, NAGKAISA! is reiterating its call for income guarantees for all those affected workers.

NAGKAISA! Labor Coalition
16 April 2020

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

P50B subsidy for SME workers is too little, too complicated

DOLE: 250,000 workers to get aid amid COVID-19 quarantine

The labor group Partido Manggagawa (PM) asserted that the P50 billion subsidy for workers in the SME sector is “too little, too complicated.” Rene Magtubo, PM national chair, proposed instead a P10,000 wage subsidy to all wage and salaried workers.

He added that “The wage subsidy to SME workers suffers from the same problems as the social amelioration program (SAP) and covid-19 adjustment measures program (CAMP)—the amount of aid are not enough and all are difficult to implement since targeted and discriminatory.”

“A universal basic income for all Filipinos in needed to mitigate the impact of the pandemic. This is the spirit behind the P10K subsidy for all formal workers,” Magtubo explained.

He insisted that “The labor coalition Nagkaisa and the rest of the labor movement is not alone in asking for this reasonable demand. The Pope Francis in his Easter message called on governments for this. Even solons such as Rep. Joey Salceda has elaborated on the need for a universal system since targeted delivery of aid suffers from implementation issues which we have all seen.”

PM pointed out to the fact that one month into the community quarantine in Metro Manila and Luzon, a lot workers that temporarily loss their jobs are still without aid from the government or their employers.

“Even the DOLE admits that not all employers have applied for CAMP since some are afraid of being cited for labor standards violations that will be exposed in their payroll. Of those that have applied, large companies are pending since SME’s are the priority. As for SAP, we all know that LGU’s are complaining that the quota given by the national government falls short of the number of poor beneficiaries. Universal not targeted aid. Ayudang sapat para sa lahat. Kailangan pa bang i-memorize ito,” Magtubo explained.

April 15, 2020