April 11, 2010
Manila North Harbor’s Pier 8 Workers’ Union today slammed the provision on payment for past services in the impending deal between stakeholders in the ongoing privatization of the port, saying it is disadvantageous to workers and smells “a little too fishy.”
Last Tuesday, Philippine Ports Authority General Manager Oscar Sevilla announced that an agreement has been reached between labor groups and Manila North Harbor Port, Inc. (MNHPI), the winning bidder in the port’s privatization. This will pave the way for the takeover by the consortium owned by businessmen Reghis Romero and Manny V. Pangilinan.
The draft agreement contains the provision that MNHPI will give as payment for past services benefits equivalent to 26 days for every year of service. Initially, it was reported that MNHPI will give the equivalent amount only as a form of financial assistance, not a payment for past services.
“With this provision, we workers will be getting less than what we deserve. What happened to the financial assistance on top of the payment for past services? This payment for past services is even smaller than the 130% equivalent that they were promising before,” said Rogelio Dioquino, Pier 8 Workers’ Union president.
“We assert that the new contractor, MNHPI, remain true to the initial promise of its emissary – that this payment for past services be considered financial assistance instead. Then we will continue to pressure the PPA and service contractors to give us payments for past services,” added Dioquino.
The labor leader also said that certain groups will benefit from this provision while the majority of North Harbor workers stand at the losing end.
“The deal smells fishy. A lot of money has been ‘saved,’ perhaps withheld, from workers. MNHPI has been negotiating with leaders who are known for advancing their self-interest and not the workers’ interests. Port workers are now talking about people who will be having comfortable retirements after the deal is signed,” said Dioquino.
Around 400 port workers from Pier 2, 4, 8 and 10 yesterday held a picket-protest in front of the office of Jake Azores, president of a local alliance who agreed to the provision on smaller payment of past services in lieu of financial assistance.
“We condemn Jake Azores and Andy Mortel, the alliance’s secretary, for ruining the port workers’ struggle. We hold them responsible for this. If all hell breaks loose in Manila North Harbor in the coming days, they are the ones that should be blamed,” he concluded.
Rogelio Dioquino, Pier 8 Workers’ Union president