“There is no more opportune time to celebrate genuine trade unionism than these times when our democratic rights are under siege, said Romualdo Basilio, chair of Kilusang Mayo Uno-Southern Mindanao region and provincial coordinator of Anakpawis Partylist, as the entire national progressive labor center gears up for a series of activities in celebration of the National Trade Union Day and the 146th birthday of the working class hero and martyr of the 1896 Revolution, Ka Andres Bonifacio.
“The attacks this puppet and fascist (Arroyo) regime is hurling against workers will never deter us from asserting our rights for economic relief and calling for an end to the political killings and harassments of workers and the rest of the toiling masses,” Basilio said.
Workers fall prey to many conceivable forms of institutionalized attacks all over the Philippines, said Basilio. For instance, he pointed to the “economic persecution of Filipino workers” which is essentially the “inability of the Arroyo administration to provide better living conditions for the more than 45 million workers in the country who also constitute its productive social force.”
In Southern Mindanao Region, the minimum wage remains pegged at P240 while the daily cost of living is now more than P500. In most Philippine regions, the same big disparity between the minimum wages and the daily cost of living prevails. In the National Capital Region, the minimum daily wage of P382 has often been criticized as less than half of an average family’s needs to subsist decently.
“To add insult to injury, when workers begin to struggle for additional wages and benefits, capitalists harass or lay them off while the Department of Labor and Employment proves inutile in solving the labor disputes in favor of the workers,” Basilio said.
Filipino workers have had too many cases that demonstrate DOLE’s uselessness in upholding the workers’ rights while the employers keep the upper, heavy hand in growing profits at the expense of its workers. A case in point is that of the US-owned Marsman-Drysdale Agribusiness Holdings, Inc. in Compostela Valley, which has not been compensating its workforce in municipalities of Sto. Tomas, Pantukan, and Mawab “despite the super profits it reaps from its banana exports.”
“Because the DOLE is essentially pro-capitalist, the unionists who assert their rights become vulnerable to union busting, labor flexibilization, individual termination and many kinds of harassments,” Basilio lamented.
KMU reports also revealed that in Compostela Valley, a Japanese-owned Fresh Bananas Agricultural Company-AJMR-SUMIFRU have been dodging responsibilities as actual employers of its 3,000 banana plantation workers.
“For years now, AJMR-SUMIFRU has blurred the employee-employer relations in their banana plantation and export company and has cunningly invented schemes to do that,” said Basilio. These schemes now include growership agreements, “freight-on-board, modified packing units and labor-only contracting cooperatives.” These setups threw a monkey wrench on workers’ efforts to form unions and protect their democratic rights, said KMU in a statement.
In Davao City, many port workers, industrial workers and food and textile processing workers are also being “unjustly terminated without due compensation” after many years of service in their companies, Basilio added.
146 Worker Victims
Because of its “fascist and pro-capitalist character,” the Arroyo government has been accusing workers who call for economic relief and social justice either as “communists or threats to national security,” Basilio said. The result of this communist-tagging is that fisher folks, peasants, government employees, workers, union leaders and labor advocates are being killed while more workers are being subjected to other rights abuses each day,” he added.
Based on Karapatan’s 2008 report, Basilio found it “ironic” that “as we celebrate Ka Andres’ 146th birthday, a total of 146 workers and urban poor sector had been victims of extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances” from 2001 to 2008. The breakdown is as follows:
In its 2008 report, the Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR) also reported some 109 cases of “Economic, Social and Cultural Rights violations” affecting 68,222 workers nationwide.
Media Victims in Maguindanao Were Workers Too
More than 60 media workers had been killed from 2001 to 2008 while another 28 journalists and media staff were slain in Maguindanao last November 23. In the Philippines workers in the media are also among the lowest paid. In Davao City for instance a media reporter and staff receive as low as P5,000 ($106) per month.
Even among the majority of workers in major news media networks and conglomerates, low pay is a usual concern, only offset somehow by the sense of job security, stability and power these big media organizations offer, said a report of Center for Community Journalism and Development last August.
Media workers have also been subject to systematic attacks as their jobs of exposing the truth could lead to their personal incarceration, as what happened to media man Alex Adonis, or worse, to their untimely death and as what happened to media workers covering the runup to elections in Maguindanao.
“Filipino workers are aware that Gloria Arroyo has no real mandate. For Arroyo to cling to power, she has been trying to ‘neutralize’ all who oppose and expose her anti-people policies,” said Basilio. Along with other sectors who are also struggling for social justice and national democracy, Basilio said these workers will be marching and demonstrating on November 30.
“In the midst of escalating attacks against our ranks, the workers and the Filipino people shall mark the Trade Union Day as a celebration of the enduring courage of the masses and a renewed commitment in the relentless struggle against exploitation and fascism of the US-Arroyo regime,” KMU’s Basilio said. (Bulatlat.com)