Labor in 2009: Joblessness, Rights Violations, Violence Confronted Filipino Workers

The BPOs have also been retrenching workers from time to time based on the availability of foreign contracts. “Everyone must bring in money,” BPO bosses declared in 2009, otherwise the worker is a liability. In early 2009, many BPO companies retrenched workers by the hundreds as they await new contracts with partners or “clients” in crisis-wracked countries abroad.

It is sad that many promising Filipino youths can only aspire to get jobs in call centers, Kabataan Partylist representative Raymond Palatino said. Despite the seeming glossy facade of call centers, it is a “low-value-added” industry that does not contribute much to developing the economy in a more sustainable manner, just like the rest of the export-oriented import-dependent industries being supported by the government. It also leaves the workers more vulnerable to the vagaries of the international market.

Change needed in 2010

As 2010 is about to begin, the massacre of jobs does not seem to be over yet as more layoffs loom in the recently privatized port and tollways. Thousands also stand to lose regular jobs in the merger of drug giants Wyeth and Pfizer. The banking industry in the Philippines has also started outsourcing almost all banking jobs or functions, as the Philippine Central Bank affirmed in 2009 their circulars detailing how banks can legally outsource their jobs or functions.

Meanwhile, large companies continue to outsource jobs and hire contract labor. Saying there is a need to keep the costs down to be “competitive,” most employers continue to harbor plans of retrenchment and contractualization. Philippine Airlines, for instance, is threatening its workers with the implementation of the next phase of outsourcing (and retrenchment) as its 10-year CBA moratorium (extended for another year in 2009) is finally coming to an end.

Struggling Against an Undeclared Martial Law

Since many Filipino workers’ tribulations in 2009 and before that had been induced or facilitated by the policies of the government — from layoffs, early retirement, contractualization to compressed workweek and low-quality, low paying jobs — protest actions are being held.

But under the Arroyo government, these protests had largely been treated not as democratic expressions of legitimate concerns. Protesting workers and unionists are being accused of being “enemies of the state.” The Arroyo government’s counterinsurgency campaign dubbed as Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL) lumps together the armed guerrillas and mass activists including workers, particularly the progressive unionists, as targets for “neutralization.”

Consistent with Oplan Bantay Laya’s method of utilizing in the campaign not just the military, police and paramilitary groups but also government agencies, the DOLE had often engaged in red-baiting and had vilified progressive unionists, especially those affiliated with the KMU, in the media and in international conferences such as those organized by the International Labor Organization (ILO).

Under Arroyo’s Oplan Bantay Laya, progressive labor activists and unionists are being maligned in anonymously produced audiovisual productions and in the pronouncements of top government leaders and the military. Before the late Anakpawis Representative Crispin “Ka Bel” Beltran was illegally arrested on trumped-up charges, Arroyo had publicly referred to him as “that communist.” Such labeling under Arroyo makes activists vulnerable to rights violations and attacks, which continued in 2009.

Since Arroyo became president in 2001, 92 labor leaders, members and organizers have died due to “government-instigated violence,” according to data from the KMU. Included in this count are those who died in the massacre of striking farmers and farmworkers in Hacienda Luisita. Many other workers were killed by motorcycle-riding gunmen.

When the ILO sent a high-level mission in 2009 to investigate the spate of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances of labor activists and advocates, the government through DOLE denied that these were labor-related while dragging their feet in investigating cases they did admit to being such.

Under Arroyo’s Oplan Bantay Laya, the already anti-worker character of her policies gained additional ferocity. Calling striking or protesting workers as “communists,” leftists, or sympathizers or members of front organizations of the Communists, the government used to the hilt the DOLE’s Assumption of Jurisdiction orders to justify the use of a large force of the military to crush the workers’ strikes, intimidate the workers’ unions, their members and supporters.

Of all post-Marcos presidents, Arroyo distinguished herself for having used Assumption of Jurisdiction (AJ) orders both to brutally quell ongoing strikes and to preempt disputes from brewing into a full-blown strike.

“We’re living in an undeclared martial law,” KMU’s vice president Roger Soluta said in a Human Rights Day rally, and “life is like hell already for most Filipino workers.” As with most peoples’ organizations, workers hope that Arroyo’s bloody and “deceitful” reign would end come 2010, and that the new government would implement economic policies that would truly develop the country’s agriculture and industries so that more and better quality jobs would be generated. (

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  1. why do the philippine people allow their president to do these things. there must be away to stop her from destroying the country. can they ask the united states or the united nations for some help with this.can she not be ousted like other presidents have.untill she is the people there will never be free to live and work or to feed their families.

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