May 28 , 2011
Labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno hailed the filing last May 17 of a Congressional bill seeking to repeal the power of the Labor secretary to assume jurisdiction over labor disputes, saying the latter served as “license” for the massacre of striking farm workers in the Aquino-owned Hacienda Luisita in 2004.
House Bill 4671, filed by Anakpawis Partylist Rep. Rafael V. Mariano, states that the power of the Department of Labor and Employment secretary to assume jurisdiction over labor disputes violates workers’ basic right to launch forms of collective action and thereby undermines the basic right to collectively bargain with capitalists.
In 2004, former DOLE Sec. Patricia Sto. Tomas issued an assumption of jurisdiction (AJ) order over the labor dispute in Hacienda Luisita which is owned by the family of Pres. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III.
KMU said the AJ served as “license” for the sending of military and police forces into the strike area and the subsequent shooting down of striking farm workers there, killing seven and wounding more than a hundred.
“Workers have long been fighting for the scrapping of the Labor secretary’s AJ powers. We agree with HB 4671 that the AJ violates workers’ basic right to hold protests and thereby undermines the right to bargain collectively with capitalists – for protests strengthen workers’ position in the bargaining table,” said Roger Soluta, KMU secretary-general.
“The gruesome massacre in Hacienda Luisita in 2004 was made possible by the AJ power of the Labor secretary – though that is just an extreme illustration of the repression that is legalized by this power. Through the AJ, the Labor secretary mobilizes the repressive forces of the State to quell workers’ actions for their legitimate demands. It is heaven-sent for capitalists,” he added.
KMU said HB 4671 is a “necessary corrective” to the Labor Code, which by giving AJ powers to the Labor secretary, grants immense powers to the latter.
“Under existing laws, it is enough for the Labor secretary to make an opinion in releasing an AJ order for such order to be legal. We are indignant over the fact that the Labor secretary’s AJ order is difficult to question in courts and is immediately executory,” Soluta said.
“Workers think that the Labor secretary’s power to assume jurisdiction is not only prone to abuse, but that it was really made to be abused. After more than two decades of being used against the Filipino workers, it is high time that the Labor secretary’s AJ power is junked,” he added.