By ALMA B. SINUMLAG
BAGUIO CITY – Kilusang Mayo Uno-Cordillera (KMU-Cordillera) gave President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III a failing mark on his administration’s handling of labor issues.
Michael Cabangon, spokesperson of KMU-Cordillera, said the economic situation of the workers here is worsening. “From being just bad the workers’ situation here is getting worse,” he said.
In the Cordillera region, incidences of contractualization and union busting are increasing, said Cabangon. He cited as example the Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company’s (LCMC) layoff of 452 workers recently, a move which Cabangon said was done to make way for contractualization.
Cabangon pointed to the fact that most of the laid off workers were also members of labor unions like the Lepanto Security Force Union – National Federation of Labor Union – Kilusang Mayo Uno (LSFU-NAFLU-KMU) and the Lepanto Employees Union (LEU-NAFLU-KMU). Almost all members and officers of LSFU were retrenched. As such, it was clearly union busting, too, said Cabangon.
At present, the LCMC is reportedly hiring contractual employees. Contractualization pleases the capitalists at the expense of the workers, Cabangon said.
Workers in the Cordillera “are deeply affected by the continuing price hikes of basic commodities. “Prices of basic commodities are rising but there has not been a substantial wage hike,” Cabangon added.
The minimum wage in the Cordillera is P275, far below the “living wage” which the Philippine Constitution expressly said, “That workers are entitled to,” said Cabangon.
The Cordillera labor group urged Aquino to listen to the demand of the labourers, who had long been asking for a legislated substantial wage hike. The House Bill 375 is still under committee level in Congress. If passed, labor looks at this as the answer to the long-time demand and battle cry of the workers for a P125 across-the-board wage increase.
Appeals to Cordillera solons
During the 20th celebration of the E.O. 220 that established the CAR (Cordillera Autonomous Region) on July 15, the labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) lobbied the CAR solons to support HB375 through letters. Among the legislators, Teddy Baguilat Jr. of Ifugao told workers he would support the wage hike Bill. The other legislators reportedly told workers they will look into the said bill first before giving it support.
On July 15Rep. Bernardo Vergara said “approve daytan” (that’s approved already) but the labor group wants his concrete support. The KMU-Cordillera announced plans to hold a dialogue again with Vergara to explain to him the wage hike bill and to hear his opinion on the workers’ demand. “His statement was too informal,” Cabangon said.
Other than Vergara, the KMU-Cordillera said they will have to find more venues for dialogue with legislators so they would be better informed about “the reality of labor situation in the region and to help them grasp the need to pass the wage hike bill. #