Friday, April 17, 2015

KEPCO workers protest low pay, union repression

Photo by Allan DEfensor of Sun Star Cebu
Press Release
April 16, 2015

Workers of KEPCO-Salcon Power Corporation today held a noisy but peaceful protest action at its Naga City plant. In a show of force and expression of solidarity, members of both the rank-and-file and supervisory unions jointly participated in the protest.

“We call on the management KEPCO-Cebu to heed their workers just demands. We say enough of low wages that do not keep up with the rising costs of living. We say enough to harassment and intimidation of workers exercising their right to join unions,” asserted Alex Ponce, President of the rank and file union Kepco Cebu Employees Association - Workers Solidarity Network (KCEA - WSN) .

As workers protested in Naga, the National Conciliation and Mediation Board conducted another mediation hearing between union and management. The two KEPCO unions both filed notices of strike for union busting and unfair labor practice last April 8.

“There is an anomalous disconnect between pay and productivity in our industry. According to a survey on labor productivity, every worker in the energy sector generates P4.1 million in earnings annually but in comparison we are paid a meager about 5% yearly. Is this inclusive growth?” explained Lowell Sanchez, President of supervisory union Kepco Cebu Supervisors Association - Workers Solidarity Network (KCSA - WSN).

The two KEPCO unions, both affiliated to Workers Solidarity Network-SENTRO, are also demanding a stop to the harassment of union members and the reinstatement of two supervisory union officers who were fired for union activities.

The unions denounced management for “being intransigent” and even refusing to attend the mediation hearing with the supervisors union. “Apparently KEPCO’s tactic is be hardline in negotiations as it expects the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to prevent a strike through its assumption of jurisdiction powers. We appeal to the good sense of DOLE Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz against falling prey to KEPCO’s dirty play. We hope she stands true to her declaration that government intervention in labor disputes is now a thing of the past,” Sanchez declared.

The International Labor Organization along with local labor groups have previously criticized the abuse of the government’s power to assume jurisdiction as a suppression of the right to strike.

“KEPCO employees call on our fellow Filipinos for understanding and our fellow workers for solidarity. Our fight for fair wages is also the fight of Filipino workers who suffer low pay. Our fight for labor rights is also the fight of all workers who deserve a voice in the workplace. Ang laban ng KEPCO workers ay laban ng lahat,” explained Ponce.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Bacoor urban poor rally against demolition threat

Press Release
April 8, 2015

Some 100 members of four urban poor groups based in Brgy. Longos, Bacoor, Cavite held a protest rally yesterday against the threat of demolitions due to private and public projects in their communities. The militant Partido Manggagawa is supporting the urban poor fight for decent housing and livelihood.

Tonette Fajanilan, an urban poor leader and a Partido Manggagawa coordinator in Bacoor, said that “Inclusive growth should mean the right to affordable housing and the provision of social cost into the project cost of public development plans. We hope for a negotiated settlement to the threat of demolition so that there is no mis-encounter moreso a bloody war. We do not oppose social progress but we demand that social justice be integral to development.”

The urban poor marched from a nearby assembly point to the Bacoor municipal trial court (MTC). They picketed while an MTC hearing was held on the eviction case against 23 families living in a lot claimed by a brother of Bacoor Mayor Strike Revilla. The lot is near the proposed LRT depot and station in Bacoor.

The 23 families in the rally were joined by other Bacoor residents who are affected by the LRT project and the clean up of the Manila Bay that was ordered by the Supreme Court in a writ of mandamus. The Supreme Court on December 18, 2008, issued a writ of continuing mandamus directing 13 government agencies to clean up, rehabilitate and eventually preserve Manila Bay within 10 years. Meanwhile the LRT extension line from Baclaran, Paranaque to Bacoor, Cavite has been awarded to an Ayala consortium.

“This is not just a fight for housing but also for livelihood. In our communities, we have not just built our simple homes but also our informal jobs. The problem of informal settlers is intertwined with the question of lack of jobs,” explained Fajanilan.

She added that “Our appeal for affordable housing and decent jobs is not much specially in comparison to the multibillion costs of development projects like the LRT extension and Manila Bay cleanup. We believe our fight is in line with the challenge of Pope Francis to reform the structures that perpetuate poverty and exclusion of the poor.”

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Workers rights must be protected in a better BBL

Press Release
March 31, 2015

With calls mounting for a revision of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), the labor group Partido Manggagawa (PM) also called for amending the draft so that workers rights are better protected. “Along with our support for peace rather than war in Mindanao, we demand that the rights of workers, whether Moro, Christian or indigenous, in the Bangsamoro territory be respected and enhanced, and that these freedoms must be codified in the BBL,” asserted Renato Magtubo, PM national chair.

He clarified that “Specifically we call for amending the draft provision in Article IX, Section 9 stating that ‘The Bangsamoro government shall guarantee all the fundamental rights of all workers to self-organization, collective bargaining and negotiations, and peaceful concerted activities, including the right to strike, in accordance with law to be passed by Parliament.’ Making labor rights subject to laws to be enacted by the Bangsamoro parliament opens a loophole to diminish workers’ freedoms. This is a real threat since we know there is intense lobby from employers groups to degrade labor rights, among them security of tenure so as to promote contractualization in the Bangsamoro territory.”

PM is aware that foreign capital such as American and Malaysian investors are partnering with Filipino business for prospects in mining exploration and agricultural plantations in the Bangsamoro territory. “Capitalists, whether foreign or domestic, should not monopolize the benefits of the peace dividend on the backs of sacrificing the rights of workers, whether Moro, Christian or indigenous,” argued Magtubo.

PM also added its support for calls from indigenous groups in the proposed Bangsamoro territory for the recognition of the rights of the Lumad and the full inclusion of provisions of the Indigenous People’s Rights Act into the BBL. Indigenous peoples such as the Teduray, Lambangian, Dulangan-Manobo and Erumanen ne Menuvu live in the areas to be absorbed in the Bangsamoro.

Amidst the outcry over the Mamasapano incident, PM joined other groups in appealing for negotiating a peace settlement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and opposed cries for all-out war. “Peace and development in Mindanao is in the interest of the working class and indigenous peoples. But social justice must accompany social progress thus our call for protecting workers and indigenous rights in the Bangsamoro,” Magtubo elaborated.

Monday, March 23, 2015

BPO’s asked to provide work-life balance for women workers

Press Release
March 23, 2015
Inter-Call Center Association of Workers (ICCAW)

With women’s month about to end, the Inter-Call Center Association of Workers (ICCAW) called on the BPO industry to provide “women-friendly benefits in furtherance of work-life balance.” Rhejay Eusebio, ICCAW-NCR spokesperson, asserted that “BPO jobs are characterized by monotonous tasks, intense work and strict metrics. The competitive culture promoted in the BPO industry has led to work-life imbalance. This imbalance disproportionately impacts women employees who are breadwinners and with children.”

Specifically the group is asking BPO companies to provide child care facilities where employees can leave their children while at work. Also ICCAW is demanding that the industry take the lead in providing 120 days of pregnancy leave for women workers.

“My personal experience as a BPO worker for several years shows how family life is frequently sacrificed at the altar of work productivity,” Eusebio elaborated. She has a pending case at the National Labor Relations Commission for illegal dismissal. Eusebio is alleging she was fired without valid cause and due process after taking an emergency leave to take care of her sick daughter.

She insisted that “For sure, BPO companies will argue that these are costly benefits to provide. Yet BPO’s can very well afford these measures since it is a dollar-earning industry. BPO’s do not deserve to be called a sunshine industry if it cannot provide for above-average working conditions and labor standards.”

The BPO industry earns around USD 20 billion or almost PhP 1 trillion in revenues. Also it is estimated that there are more than a million BPO workers in the country. A survey in 2010 by the Bureau of Labor and Employment Statistics found that some 54% of BPO workers are women. “I believe that many of these women BPO workers are either breadwinners for their families or with children to take care of. Thus women-friendly benefits are an imperative for the BPO industry,” Eusebio emphasized.

ICCAW was founded in Cebu in late 2012 as a result of the fight of workers of Direct Access, a call center that unceremoniously shutdown leaving its 600 employees without jobs and with unpaid wages and benefits. It has since then expanded its membership nationwide even as it sits as the labor representative in the Cebu City tripartite body on the ICT industry.

ICCAW seeks to be an industry-wide organization for employees in the call center and business process outsourcing sector (BPO), and be a voice for industry workers’ concerns, grievances, demands and interests. Among ICCAW’s platform is the call for industry-wide standards for wages, benefits and entitlements that must be well above the minimum mandated by law and commensurate to the profitable dollar-earning nature of the call center industry.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

P15 wage hike is loose change that can’t cover MRT fare hike—labor group

Press Release
March 19, 2015

The militant Partido Manggagawa belittled the minimum wage hike for workers in the National Capital Region (NCR) as “loose change that cannot even cover the fare hike for MRT and LRT.” The NCR Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board announced a P15 pay increase for some 600,000 minimum wage earners in NCR.

Renato Magtubo, PM national chair, asserted that “How can inclusive growth be true and of what use is the Philippine economy being the star performer in Asia, when all that workers can receive as their added share in the fruits of their labor is a measly P15? With MRT fares increased from P15 to P28, a minimum wage earner riding to and from work is worse off than before even with the wage hike. And electricity bills are due to balloon in the coming days.”

Magtubo cited a study which reveals that 70% of MRT and LRT riders are people who earn less than the minimum wage. He said that he expected labor groups attending a meeting tomorrow of the Tripartite Executive Committee of the National Tripartite Industrial Peace Council to register their negative sentiments on the measly pay increase.

“With their sorry track record of propping up the cheap labor policy, the regional wage boards deserve to be abolished,” Magtubo declared. PM is advocating the abolition of the wage boards and its replacement by a National Wage Commission. The mandate of the Wage Commission will be to fix wages based on the single criterion of cost of living.

“Despite the huge gap between the present minimum wage and the current cost of living, the Wage Commission can achieve equalizing the two by a host of mechanisms among which are direct wage increases, tax exemptions, price discounts at social security subsidies for workers,” Magtubo explained.