By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – As the progressive labor groups and allied multi-sectoral organizations were converging in various urban centers of the Philippines to protest what they call as deliberate inaction of the Aquino government on peoples’ issues, leaders of a new labor coalition calling itself “Nagkaisa,” (United) joined President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III and an employers’ group for a breakfast meeting. In a statement, Nagkaisa said they “expect something good from Aquino.”
They had hoped Aquino will announce something significant, “something hopeful which will uplift the morale of the workers,” said lawyer Democrito Mendoza, president of government-backed Trade Union Congress of the Philippines and one of the convenors of Nagkaisa.
Another convenor of the coalition, Partido Manggagawa’s Rene Magtubo, said: “The coalition will submit to President Aquino issues and concerns that address the worsening labor problems in the country today. These problems are not intractable. If the President doesn’t act on these issues now, he faces the wrath of the workers.”
But Aquino only maintained his opposition to the significant wage hike being proposed by progressive groups such as the labor center KMU, and progressive partylist groups in Congress. The KMU had not been invited to the new coalition called Nagkaisa. When bulatlat.com asked its leaders about Nagkaisa on the day it was formed, they said they had not been informed or notified about it.
Despite sharing breakfast with Nagkaisa labor leaders though, Pres. Aquino has also not publicly expressed approval even of the TUCP-proposed smaller wage hike. The TUCP had previously reacted against Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz’s estimate about a likely wage hike to be granted in the National Capital Region. TUCP said it “limits” the wage hike the regional wage board may grant. Other labor groups had been saying that before about the regional wage boards.
Nagkaisa had aimed to gather 20,000 workers and hoped to sustain it in Mendiola in Metro Manila. But it was the progressive labor bloc under the KMU who had converged an estimated 20,000 or more in Plaza Miranda on Labor Day, followed by a long march to Mendiola, where they burned an effigy of Pres. Aquino.