“Even with the full implementation of Salary Standardization Law 3 (SSL-3), the P9,000 ($204) minimum pay with the mandatory deductions of a Salary Grade 1 employee will not be enough to cover the basic needs of his or her family,” said Ferdinand Gaite, chairman of COURAGE and convener of WAGE Fight!, an alliance for substantial salary increases among government employees, including teachers and health workers.
Gaite said that their take home pay cannot take them home at all, forcing most government employees to desperate measures such as the usurious “5-6” loans – referring to loans from loan sharks who charge 20 percent interest payable in three months – to make ends meet. They added that the increases under the SSL-3, given in instalment within four years, have been gobbled up by inflation.
Aside from the much needed salary hike, Emma Manuel, president of the Alliance of Health Workers (AHW) and France Castro, secretary-general of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT), demanded as well the immediate implementation of Magna Carta pertaining to their sector.
“We are intensifying the Filipino workers’ version of private-public partnership for a substantial wage increase. Both workers in the private and public sector have been denied the right to a living wage, both have re-filed bills for a wage hike in Congress, and both will swarm the streets on November 30,” said Elmer “Bong” Labog, chairperson of KMU and co-convenor of KPMM.
On Thursday some labor groups also drove a Lakbayan of Calabarzon workers from Cavite and joined a rally of workers whose unions are affiliated with the government-backed Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP), an anti-contractualization coalition called KONTRA and various unions and groups of workers from Lucio Tan-owned companies such as Philippine Air Lines and Fortune Tobacco.
The groups are opposing the “institutionalization of contractual employment as a consequence of Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz’s order allowing the outsourcing / contractualization of PAL’s non-core functions that would result to mass lay-off of 2,600 regular employees.”
According to Gerry Rivera, president of PAL Employees’ Association, the union that is most under threat from the DOLE-approved PAL outsourcing plans, their Thursday “unity march for regular jobs had brought together the largest and diverse labor groups in one common platform: the fight against the policy of contractualization.”
For this fight, other mass actions were reportedly held earlier in the cities of Cebu, General Santos and Bacolod.
The progressive KMU expressed their support of the struggle of PAL workers against massive termination and contractualization. But while the statements of PALEA and other labor groups were silent on the culpabilities of Lucio Tan, and had focused its condemnation on Labor Secretary Baldoz, the KMU reminded their fellow workers that “the planned contractualization is just part of Lucio Tan’s drive for greater profits, and that Baldoz and the entire regime of President Benigno Noynoy Aquino approves of such contractualization schemes of Tan and other big capitalists, for profits.”
Thus, KMU said, it is not just Baldoz who ought to be condemned but Lucio Tan as well and the Aquino government’s approval of what the Lucio Tan Group of companies have been doing and scheming to do to maximize its profits.
“We demand that government institute reforms to enhance job security and stop contractualization schemes,” said Gerry Rivera, PALEA president. But aside from mere reforms, the KMU urged workers to unite in calling for the scrapping of the Herrera Law, which they say has been paving the way for the assault of contractualization all over the country.
The KMU urged all workers and Filipinos to pressure the government to “abandon its entire neoliberal economic policy which attacks the workers’ wages, security of job tenure and right to unionize for the sake of attracting foreign investments.”