Labor summit: make or break!

MANILA, Philippines — Labor groups doubted if the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) could totally fulfill the “change” promised by the Duterte Administration to the Filipino working class.

Edwin Bustillos, sectoral representative of the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) said there is no question that the Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III and Undersecretary Joel Maglungsod will fulfill the directives of the President and work hand in hand with labor groups to come up with a position in addressing promptly the labor issues.

“Alam natin na magiging mahirap ito para sa DOLE dahil ang mga kapitalista ay patuloy na gumagawa ng paraan para hadlangan ang mga union na bigyan ng detalye at konkretong mga posisyon ang mga nabanggit na 8-Point Labor and Employment Agenda. Sa panig ng DOLE, importante ang Political will to implement the marching order of President Duterte in prohibiting all forms of contractualization,” Bustillos told to Center for People’s Media (CPM).

[We know that DOLE will have hard times implementing the 8-Point Labor and Employment Agenda because business owners are still there to prevent the unions from providing the necessary details]

Bustillos believes that aside from the business group some elected officials and cabinet members might also block the approval and implementation of the labor agenda.

“Ang gabinete ni President Duterte ay binubuo mismo ng mga mga neo-liberal. Mismong ang mga neoliberal sa loob ngcpm_durtete & bello gabinete ang hahadlang sa mga progresibong agenda ng labor na sinusuportahan ng DOLE Secretary at mga Under Secretaries nito gaya ni Usec Maglungsod sa usapin halimbawa ng national minimum wage, pagbabawal sa lahat ng uri ng kontraktwal na trabaho atbp.,” Bustillos said.

[The cabinet of the president is composed of neoliberals. The neoliberals inside the cabinet will definitely block progressive labor’s agenda despite support by the DOLE Secretary and Usec. Maglunsod for example, in terms of the national minimum wage and stopping all forms of labor only contracting among others]

“Magiging hadlang din ang kongreso, sapagkat kung ang mismong Vice Chair ng Labor Committee sa HOR ay hindi naniniwala na kailangan ng bagong batas laban dito.  Sa katunayan, marami sa mga nakalatag na panukalang batas ay may nakalagay pang allowable contracting na mula sa 10% hanggang 20%. Taliwas ito sa policy pronouncement ni Digong,” Bustillos claimed.

[The congress will also be a hindrance because the Vice Chair of the House of Representatives Labor Committee does not believe in new laws against it (contractualization). In fact, in the majority of the proposed bills, it is clearly stipulated that the allowable contracting is from 10% to 20%. This is opposite to the policy pronouncement of Digong]

The views and sentiment of Bustillos were also aired by Alan Tanjusay, spokesperson of the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP).

“Sinsero naman ang DOLE officials sa pakikitungo sa mga labor groups ngunit hindi kami sigurado kung committed ba sila na baguhin ang mali at unequal na sistema. Gaya ng sabi ko, mahalaga dito ngayon ang basbas ng Presidente Duterte na magpatupad ng pagbabagong hiling ng mga manggagawa. I hope President Duterte choses the higher ground in taking and making decisions kung may lobby ang mga employers group sa kanya hinggil sa mga labor agenda na naihain,” Tanjusay explained.

[We can see the sincerity of the DOLE officials in working with the labor groups, but we are not convinced they are committed to challenge wrongdoing and the unequal system. As I’ve said before, the president’s blessing is crucial in implementing change favoring the worker’s demands.  I hope President Duterte choses the high ground in making decisions if ever there are employer’s groups who will try to lobby against any labor agenda being proposed]

Tanjusay also warns the government, and especially the Labor Department, if their concerns are not taken seriously.

“Tila malapit nang mapundi sa mabagal at walang tugon o usad sa mga panukala upang umunlad ang pamumuhay ng mga manggagagwa, lalung-lalo na sa  issue ng contractualization. Ngunit dahil nakataya ang buhay ng mga manggagawa at pamilya nila, hindi nauubos ang apoy na ipaglaban sila,” Tanjusay elaborate.

[It seems workers are getting impatient because of the inaction or slow phase in achieving labor’s goal of a better life, especially regarding the contractualization issue. But nevertheless, because their lives and their families future are at stake, workers are not losing hope to fight for their right]

Meanwhile, Josua Mata, Secretary General of Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO) said that given the summit was well attended by the labor organizations, it is not the numbers that count in this situation alone.

“Labor has to get its act together, it has to rise above its petty differences. The summit was unified on the outright against all forms of contractualization, including fixed-term employment,” Mata explained.

He adds, “DOLE’S seriousness, as well as the seriousness of the Duterte government, can only be gauged when they actually implement the labor proposals.”

DOLE and labor leaders during the one day labor summit

DOLE and labor leaders during the one-day labor summit at OHSC in Quezon City.

According to Jen Albano, executive director of the Labor Education and Research Network (LEARN) based in Quezon City, “Labor will have to continue engaging the Duterte government and the KMU, the labor group closest to the Duterte government. There is no short cut. The labor movement and groups continue to organize, educate and enable, and empower workers for their interests to prevail, for them to win.”

Albano adds labor groups in general must work hand in hand if they intend to succeed in pushing the labor agenda.

“I believe, the government had no plan of holding this summit as it had already held a social summit in Mindanao. We were not informed or invited to that summit,” Albano claimed.

She also said that the labor summit happened because the business sector has already started working thru the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) process, which has already proposed a win-win solution, making contractual regular employees of the contracting agencies.

“The Duterte government is bent to form its political base—an organized loyal and faithful constituency. What it is doing now is to organize those who voted for him or those who are still not disappointed about him. It is bent on maintaining its popularity and making populism (not only popularity) work for him.  It is sincere in making sure that the labor groups will not get in the way of the formation of his “Kilusang Pagbabago.”  In short, the labor movement must not get in Duterte’s  way,” Albano explained.

Mata, on the other hand, said it is now critical for the labor movement to hold their ground and really position themselves in order for them to be heard by the government.

“A national day of protest was set to press for this position that is scheduled either on or before November 30,” Mata said.

Danny Fuentes, a labor organizer and educator of LEARN, also shares Mata’s perspective. He said if the labor movement wants to be heard and taken seriously, a strong and cohesive action must take place.

“Dapat ituloy ang lahat ng porma ng engagement at pagkilos ng mga manggagawa. Dahil hindi ito ibibigay basta-basta laluna ng mga namumuhunan, kung baga, dadaan ito sa butas ng karayom bago makamit,” Fuentes said.

[All forms of labor engagement and protest action must continue. Because it (victory) will not be given on a silver platter by especially the capitalist or business owners, in other words, for the workers to get their way they must do everything possible, even if it will be very difficult] CPM

Labor summit: make or break!

“The Duterte government is bent to form its political base—an organized loyal and faithful constituency. What it is doing now is to organize those who voted for him or those who are still not disappointed about him. It is bent on maintaining its popularity and making populism (not only popularity) works for him. It is sincere in making sure that the labor groups will not get in the way of the formation of his “Kilusang Pagbabago.” In short, the labor movement must not get in Duterte’s way,” Albano explained.

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