By JOHN RIZLE L. SALIGUMBA
DAVAO CITY – Union members who participated for the first time in a Labor Day demonstration call on other workers to “form your unions to protect your rights.”
“This is the day when we express our sentiments to owners of big business what we need as workers,” said Rolando Alidon, president of Davao Metro Shuttle Labor Union (DMSLU), a worker’s union of a big bus company plying the Davao del Sur and Davao del Norte route.
He said that while many fear that forming unions is “detrimental” to workers, “genuine unions fight for workers’ rights and against abuses in the workplace.”
Unionists said 5,000 workers joined the International Labor Day in Davao City to call for a “legislated P125 wage increase, job security and the scrapping of anti-labor laws”.
Alidon said only half of more than 400 members of their bus union joined the militant labor demonstration to avoid crippling bus operation. DMSLU’s union membership includes bus drivers, conductors, tellers and workers in other departments.
Marlon Mendoza, president of the Holy Cross of Davao College Employees Association (HCDCEA), said the union joined the May 1 protest march because they “recognize the importance of May 1 to workers”. It is their first time to join a protest to commemorate the International Labor Day.
“We should continue the fight as we have yet to gain what we want from our working places and our society in general like our benefits,” said Mendoza.
Their union started as a club 30 years ago and now it has a membership of 146. “We decided to transform the club into a union as it has a capacity to bargain,” said Mendoza.
Romualdo Basilio, spokesperson of the progressive labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), said the number of unions increased substantially during the Aquino administration because “essentially, nothing has changed in the framework of the government in addressing labor issues.”
KMU organized the biggest Labor Day protest.
“We should expect more, as [President Benigno Simeon] Aquino even introduced new oppressive laws like the two-tiered wage system and the optional minimum wage,” said Basilio.
In a statement to the press in launching the two-tiered wage system last year, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) described it as “a policy reform measure [which] is aimed at minimizing the unintended outcomes of mandated minimum wage, improving the coverage of the vulnerable sectors, and promoting productivity improvement and gain-sharing”.
“The two-tier wage system consists of a fixed floor wage, or entry level for new entrants and low-skilled workers, and a flexible wage above the floor based on worker productivity and performance of the industry and enterprises, which may be negotiated between the employer and the workers,” the government press release said.
KMU National Chairperson Elmer “Bong” Labog, said this new wage system “relates minimum wage levels not with a living wage but with the government’s adjusted poverty threshold.” This, the government strives to do “By pushing for an option for workers to not receive the minimum wage, in the guise of championing job generation,” said Labog in an emailed statement.
But Mendoza said that “This has been the struggle of workers since the 1800s but it has not been achieved until now. In different working places, some workers are still receiving low wages and in bad working conditions.”
For Alidon, their participation in the protest is not only “limited” to their “own struggles inside the union.”