By ARNETH ASIDDAO
MANILA — Thousands of workers and supporters from various labor groups and people’s organizations marched to Mendiola in a protest dubbed as “Martsa ng Manggagawa” on Monday, National Heroes’ Day.
Protesters from different companies across Luzon joined the march to condemn Duterte’s failure to end contractualization, one of his campaign promises.
In 2017, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) issued Department Order (DO) 174 to supposedly terminate contractualization. However, the said DO was criticized by the labor sector for only regulating job contracting instead of banning it.
Pagkakaisa ng mga Manggagawa sa Timog Katagalugan (Pamantik-KMU) said in a statement that while DOLE has ordered the regularization of workers in some companies, it has done nothing to ensure its implementation and even sided with capitalist owners on several occasions.
“We need to continue organizing contractual workers, especially now that there have been favorable decisions released under Duterte which he just failed to implement,” Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) chairperson Elmer Labog said.
The workers also reiterated their call for a national minimum wage, and respect for their right to organize.
“We are the ones who run the economy. We are the ones who make history but when it comes to division of wealth, the vast percentage goes to capitalists and only a meager amount to the workers,” Labog said.
They also slammed the Duterte administration’s policies that only aggravated the living conditions of the poor, including the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law, which triggered an increase in prices of basic goods.
Labor crisis worsens under Duterte
Anthony, 29, found it important to participate in the protest despite being regularized for over a year now.
An employee of Technol Eight Philippines Corporation in Biñan, Laguna, Anthony has not been receiving the amount of wage he should be getting after his regularization. Together with other members of Technol Eight Phils. Workers’ Union-Olalia-KMU, he called for the passage of P750 national minimum wage and end to contractualization. According to Anthony, his company still practices labor-only contracting.
“Capitalists became more aggressive under the Duterte administration after it approved the “win-win solution” now practiced by remaining agencies in our company,” Anthony said.
In DOLE’s “win-win solution,” workers are given a regular status in the agencies and service providers that hire them and not in the principal company where they are working. According to labor groups, this setup maintains the principal company’s ability to cut its contract with agencies.
Edward, 28, on the other hand, decried low wages and called for better working environment in the company he is working for, OPTODEV, Inc. Edward and his co-workers have been conducting dialogue with the company through their union to assert their demands.
Like Anthony, Edward had been regularized but still saw the need to consistently fight for workers’ rights against the backdrop of Duterte’s economic policies that leave the labor sector more vulnerable.
Hanson, 48, revealed that in Albert Smith Signs Incorporated, the old “kabo” system is still practiced. He described the scheme as the “worst kind of contractualization” where kabo or former regular employees are tapped by the management to hire contractual workers in each department at cheaper wages.
According to him, workers tried to protest and ask the management to comply with DOLE’s decision to regularize 247 employees in the company but were repeatedly ignored and denied. In fact, these efforts have led Hanson to lose his job, with the company citing his militancy as a reason for terminating him.
“They said they terminated me because I was fighting back. Because I was organizing a union and educating my co-employees about their rights,” Hanson said.
Because of their experiences in the company, workers have been trying to form a union inside the company called Unyon ng mga Manggagawa para sa Lakas at Pagkakaisa sa Albert Smith (Umalpas).
Workers from Technol Eight, OPTODEV, and Albert Smith were joined, among others, by employees from Unipak, Middleby, NutriAsia, and Jollibee Food Corporation.
Earlier that day, it was reported that six vans of workers from Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction were blocked at a checkpoint in Subic.
Labog emphasized the need for workers to strengthen their ranks in order to launch greater mobilizations amid the attacks on workers’ rights and Duterte’s “intensifying fascist attacks.”