Thursday, August 28, 2008

International labor caucus takes critical look at EU-ASEAN FTA

Workers groups from the ASEAN nations met this August 24-27, 2008 at Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to take as stand and plan campaigns against the proposed EU-ASEAN Free Trade Agreement. According to the organizers, the regional gathering of trade unions, labor and migrant workers’ groups and movements from various ASEAN countries took a closer and critical look at the EU-ASEAN FTA and its impact on labor.

Judy Ann Miranda, secretary-general of the Partido ng Manggagawa [Labor Party-Philippines] was the only woman among several delegates from the Philippines. Aside from the Philippines, participants came from Indonesia, Thailand and host Malaysia.

“As the political party of the working class in the Philippines, we were very much interested in the regional caucus as a venue to forge a common understanding of the EU-ASEAN FTA and its effects on labor in the region. We expected the caucus to be an arena for labor and migrants’ movements in the region to share strategies in advocacy and campaigns against the EU-ASEAN FTA,” stated Miranda.

The theme of the caucus was “Workers Understanding and Confronting EU-ASEAN FTA and its Impact on Labor.” It is was held in preparation for the Asia-Europe Summit in Beijing, China in October and in the context of the ongoing sectoral, thematic and country campaigns on the EU-ASEAN FTA in the region. The Monitoring Sustainability of Globalization-Malaysia and the EU-ASEAN Free Trade Agreement (FTA) Campaign Network were some of the organizers of the labor caucus.

The following is the position paper of the Partido ng Manggagawa on the EU-ASEAN FTA:

No to an EU-ASEAN FTA!
Forge International Solidarity against FTA’s!

The Partido ng Manggagawa as the political party of the working class in the Philippines rejects the proposed EU-ASEAN FTA for being a clear and present danger to the workers and the people of our country. An EU-ASEAN FTA will be more of the same “free trade” agreements whose purported aims is trade liberalization but whose real agenda is the pillage and exploitation of ASEAN nations by EU transnational companies. With the recent conclusion of the controversial JPEPA, the bilateral FTA with Japan, the Filipino people can unfortunately declare that “we have been there and done that.”

For the working class, the fact that a final text of the agreement has not been made public cannot be an excuse not to oppose it immediately. On the contrary, it all the more emphasizes the lack of transparency and corporate secrecy that free trade agreements in general have been transacted and negotiated. The EU-ASEAN FTA is no different. It is being crafted behind the backs of the workers and the people in order to blindside them with another “free trade” agreement that will be contrary to their interests.

The insertion of a labor or social clause in the text will not sweeten the bitter, or rather poisonous, nature of the FTA. A provision paying lip service to respect for labor rights is merely a carrot meant to make the pain of the stick somehow bearable for the workers. While an agreement with a token labor or social clause is better than one without, it does not make the FTA any more acceptable. The workers reject not the labor clause but the “free trade” agreement itself.

We have no illusions that an EU-ASEAN FTA will benefit the workers or the people. The EU has made it as clear as day in its vision of a “Global Europe” that “free trade” is a mechanism to pry open the market of other countries for its TNC’s. It is the corporate interests of the imperialist countries at the core of the EU that will be served by a FTA with the ASEAN. The very fact that the EU funded the preparatory work of the “ASEAN-EU Visions Group” speaks volumes about who stands to profit from such an investment.

The creation of bilateral or multilateral agreements became a flanking maneuver by the imperialist countries after the collapse of the Doha Round of the WTO negotiations, first at Cancun in 2003, followed by Geneva in 2006, and then at last month’s meeting at Geneva again. Stymied by the stalemate at the Doha Round, the imperialist countries have shifted to concluding agreements outside of the WTO to push for the TNC’s agenda of further liberalization in manufacturing and agriculture, and opening up new sectors like services and government procurement.

The welfare of the workers and the people will not be served by such agreements meant to advance the agenda of TNC’s. The implementation of liberalization, deregulation and privatization has ruined domestic industry and agriculture with poverty, unemployment and inequality intensifying in its wake. The workers have suffered in direct proportion from the policies of cheap wages, labor flexibilization and union busting that are hallmarks of capitalist competition in the age of globalization.

The rules of the WTO and the provisions of FTA’s work in favor of the TNC’s of the North rather than the people of the South. Labor in particular is a sacrificial lamb for the TNC’s in their quest for greater productivity and flexibility from the cheap labor of Asia to gain comparative advantage in global competition.

Two decades of neoliberal globalization is enough proof and the experience of the EU’s FTA’s with countries like Mexico and Chile bore this out. In the Philippines, the accelerated implementation of liberalization, deregulation and privatization have already allowed the entry of TNC’s like Union Fenoza of Spain, United Utilities Pacific Holdings of UK, and Suez Lyonaisse of France in the water and power sectors. Privatization of the formerly state-owned water and power industries have been disastrous to the consumers with the workers and the people reeling from poor service and escalating costs.

As genuine internationalists, the workers know the benefits of trade based upon the cooperation of independent nations. It is the ruthless competition among TNC’s on the basis of a merciless race to the bottom of wages, labor standards and working conditions that we resist.

There can be no “free trade” under globalization where monopolies, in the form of TNC’s, dominate the world economy. “Free trade” is a myth when the bulk of global trade is in fact internal transactions between TNC’s and their affiliates and subcontractors. In fact “free trade” agreements are not really about trade as they are about freedom for TNC’s to operate, which boils down to their opportunity to plunder the economies of other countries. FTA’s are not so much about breaking down trade barriers among countries as they are about the TNC’s breaking free from labor, environmental, social and state regulations that have been previously established to protect workers, peoples and nations against corporate abuse and excess.

An EU-ASEAN FTA will merely pave the way for the recolonization by the imperialist countries of Europe of its former colonies in South East Asia. The only difference is that this new form of colonization will use commodities and capital as its armaments instead of guns and cannons. The old colonial powers have not even repaid their debts to its erstwhile colonies and now the new imperialist countries are poised to re-conquer the ASEAN market of 530 million people that ranks 6th in EU’s total trade.

The workers and the peoples of the ASEAN countries must now stand in opposition to the proposed EU-ASEAN FTA and in defense of their sovereignty and independence. The workers movement of the ASEAN nations must call upon the labor movement of Europe to link up in solidarity to protect the interests of the working class against the corporate agenda of the TNC’s. It is not an illusory social clause that will safeguard labor rights worldwide but the solidarity of workers struggles and resistance across the countries.

‘Die-in’ protest, barricade stop planned demolition in Cavite

27 August 2008
Samahan ng Nagkakaisang Maralita ng Cavite
Partido ng Manggagawa-Cavite

‘Die-in’ protest, barricade stop planned demolition in Bacoor and Kawit

What was expected to be a violent confrontation between demolition crews and urban poor dwellers in Bacoor and Kawit in the province of Cavite ended up with a commitment from the local government to negotiate.

As early as seven o’clock in the morning yesterday, soldiers and policemen had already positioned themselves at Barangay Longos in Bacoor to secure the place that is targeted to be cleared of squatters. It was the second day that soldiers were stationed there prompting the residents to assume that demolition would be carried out for the construction of the R-1 or the coastal road extension project. Some 1,000urban poor families from Bacoor and Kawit are bound to lose their homes to the project while fishermen are also set to lose their source of livelihood.

In anticipation, residents took to the streets to block the planned demolition. Some 500 people marched from Kawit to the coastal road in Bacoor to join hundreds of other protesters in Barangay Longos. Together they held a ‘mass die-in’ protest and set up a barricade along the coastal road in Bacoor. The protesters under the Samahan ng Nagkakaisang Maralita ng Cavite (Sanagca), Partido ng Manggagawa and the newly formed Balikatan sa Komunidad (BsK) called for a moratorium on demolitions in the province.

Bacoor Mayor Strike Revilla, who rushed to the scene, spoke before the protesters them that he will help them negotiate with the national and provincial governments regarding their concerns. The R-1 project is a joint project of the national and provincial governments.

Cavite Governor Ayong Maliksi who was supposed to oversee the demolition talked with leaders of the groups and assured them also that the provincial government is willing to sit down with them. Governor Maliksi declared that he would try to negotiate with the national government for the people’s demand for source of livelihood.

However residents are still wary given the presence of soldiers and policemen in the area since they fear that anytime of the day surprise demolition can still be carried out by the national and provincial government. ###

GMANews.TV: Cavite poor cries foul over demolition of fish pens in Manila Bay

Cavite poor cries foul over demolition of fish pens in Manila Bay
08/27/2008 | 08:47 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Urban poor residents along the coastal towns of Cavite province have threatened to hold protest actions against the demolition of fish pens and cages in Manila Bay by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

In a statement, the Samahan ng Nagkakaisang Maralita ng Cavite (Sanagca) said small fishermen in Bacoor, Kawit, Noveleta and Cavite City are bound to lose their livelihood with the ongoing cleaning up of the bayside by the DENR and the provincial government.

It also said that thousands of residents, particularly in Longos village in Bacoor, will also lose their homes if the DENR operation continues.

“We call on the national government to declare a ‘ceasefire’ on all demolitions in the country in general and in Cavite province in particular while the nation is in the midst of an acute economic crisis and the government cannot even provide food and shelter to millions of its people,” the group said.

Sanagca chairperson Tonette Fajanilan said the protests will be in the form of marches and human barricades.

“During these times of crisis it would be very inhuman for government to deny hungry people not only their food but also their shelter,” Fajanilan said.

The DENR and the Cavite provincial government started Wednesday morning to dismantle illegal fish pens and cages dotting the Cavite side of Manila Bay.

Environment Secretary Lito Atienza, who witnessed the start of the clearing operation, said this is in part of the government’s effort to rehabilitate the 1,800-square-kilometer bay. - GMANews.TV

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Caviteños in coastal areas call for “ceasefire” on demolitions

26 August 2008
Samahan ng Nagkakaisang Maralita ng Cavite
Partido ng Manggagawa-Cavite

Caviteños in coastal areas call for “ceasefire” on demolitions

Facing demolition crews backed by personnel of the Philippine Navy, urban poor residents along coastal towns of Cavite held “die-in protests” and marches. They also set up human barricades calling for a “ceasefire” of planned demolitions in the province.

Thousands of residents in Bacoor, Kawit, Noveleta and Cavite City are bound to lose their homes to the construction of the R-1 or the coastal road extension project. Small fishermen in the area may also lose their livelihood with the consequent cleaning up of the bayside by the DENR and the provincial government.

In Longos Bacoor, as early as eight this morning, local residents under the Balikatan sa Komunidad (BsK) held a die-in protest and formed a human barricade along the coastal road to convey their message for a stop the planned demolitions. In Cavite City, hundreds of residents and fishermen from Canacao Bay gathered at Samonte Park and marched toward the Cavite City hall also demanding for a moratorium on demolitions in the province. They brought with them a casket symbolizing the "death" of their livelihood with the demolition of their houses, baklads and tulos.

“We call on the national government to declare a ‘ceasefire’ on all demolitions in the country in general and in Cavite province in particular while the nation is in the midst of an acute economic crisis and the government cannot even provide food and shelter to millions of its people,” declared the Samahan ng Nagkakaisang Maralita ng Cavite (Sanagca).

According to Sanagca chairperson Tonette Fajanilan, some 1,000 families are going to lose homes and livelihood in Barangay Longos in Bacoor while thousands more face the same fate when clearing operations along the coastal road start today for the R-1 project. And these residents have nowhere to go because they were not provided a relocation package that can accommodate them all.

“During these times of crisis it would be very inhuman for government to deny hungry people not only their food but also their shelter,” said Fajanilan who compares their future situation to the bakwets or thousands of people who were displaced by the ongoing war in Mindanao.

Romy Cabugnason, provincial chair of the Partido ng Manggagawa who also joined the protest, blamed both the national and provincial government for pursuing the path of an ‘all-out war’ on the urban poor rather than by negotiations.

“Why can’t the government renounce the use of force and violence in dealing with the urban poor? Does the government want the poor to take up arms like the MILF before it negotiates with them on the demand for humane relocation?” lamented Cabugnason.
Cabugnason said their group is not against development, as they believed that it is only through social progress that the poor can be lifted out of poverty.

“But the government has to make sure that social progress brings social justice to communities. That after being evicted from so-called “danger zones” they are not relocated to ‘death zones’ without services and livelihood; that the poor are provided better communities to live than from where they are now; that development redound to people and not just to business,” Cabugnason concluded. ###

Friday, August 22, 2008

Neither war nor GMA’s cha-cha

by Renato Magtubo, PM Chairperson
20 August 2008

Amid the bigger problem of hunger and hopelessness swallowing up the country today, a full-blown war against the Bangsamoro rebels is not a desirable path for the government to pursue in building peace in Mindanao.

We in the Partido ng Manggagawa believe that an all-out war is not only a waste of dear lives and scant resources for both Muslims and Christians. It is also a futile government instrument to correct a historical wrong. The labor party is also against the use of armed violence against civilians caught in the war.

For us, continuing peace negotiations based on genuine recognition of the Bangsamoro’s right to self-determination remains the better option and which can be made more viable and thoroughgoing if accompanied by a resolute war against poverty and injustice in the region and in the whole country.

We also believe that the Moro’s struggle for self-determination cannot be solved under the framework of the present Philippine Constitution. The Bangsamoro people have been waging this national war since time immemorial and we see no end to their pursuit of that historical claim until finally accorded that rightful recognition by the Philippine State. This is the biggest thing chauvinists opposed to this kind of settlement have to fully understand to avoid treating this conflict a purely religious war.

Accordingly, for final peace to be achieved in Mindanao, there is definitely a need to amend the present Constitution to uphold the spirit of the concluded peace settlement. There is nothing wrong, criminal, outrageous and immoral in pursuing such path. However, a selfless, principled kind of charter change may not be possible under the government of Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

It appears that the biggest obstacle that now confronts the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, in its pursuit of a peace settlement with the GRP, is dealing with the Arroyo government, which cannot commit peace without playing a sinister plan to smuggle a self-perpetuating agenda for charter change. The announcement by Macalañang that it is ‘all-systems go’ now for cha-cha right after the MOA-AD controversy flared up confirmed the existence of this hideous agenda.

Moreover, the outrage and inflammatory statements issued by no less than the allies of Mrs. Arroyo against the proposed Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) revealed the awful fact that Mrs. Arroyo does not represent a solid government consensus on this matter. This government therefore cannot speak and commit peace to MILF. Hence, if Mrs. Arroyo cannot even maintain peace in her own government, how can she promote peace with others? In that sense, she could be the worst promoter of peace.

On the other hand, the overt role played by the United States in brokering this peace process had become even more suspicious and alarming. Everybody knows how the US plays war while talking peace at the same time in pursuit of its own geopolitical interests. They did talk peace while playing the worst kind of interventionist war in Iraq, Kosovo, Somalia, Afghanistan, and possibly next, Iran.

It is public knowledge that the US troops had already maintained a permanent presence in Mindanao in the guise of joint military exercises. But everybody knows that their presence there is certainly beyond peace missions. Thus, same with Gloria, the US could neither be a reliable ally for the Bangsamoro people, or a faithful proponent of peace.

The Condition and Demands of Filipino Migrant Workers

Migrant workers and their remittances are not just a significant but already a crucial component of the Philippine economy. On the one hand, the export of labor relieves the grave problem of unemployment in the country. On the other hand, the multibillion-dollar worth of remittances keep the economy afloat that would have otherwise sunk.

Labor migration is also a key factor in shaping the present social situation. Not a few have observed that without the safety valve of labor migration, the social volcano in the Philippines would have long erupted. However the fact that millions of Filipinos have left their homeland has led to real social costs, though not easily quantifiable, among them dysfunctional families and brain drain.

To grasp the extent of labor migration and the economic importance of their remittances, let us look at the statistics and data.

A good 10% of Filipinos, almost 9 million out of a population of 80 million, are living or working abroad. Undocumented migrants and immigrants will bloat this figure further. About half are contractual workers, now called overseas Filipino workers (OFW’s), principally found in Saudi Arabia, Japan, Hong Kong, United Arab Emirates and Taiwan. The other half have emigrated mainly to advanced countries like the US, Canada, Australia, Japan and the UK.

Thus practically every other family in the Philippines has an immediate member living or working abroad. In some families, there are already two generations of migrant workers with the next on the path of becoming the new batch of OFW’s.

Yet whether permanent residents in other countries or contractual workers abroad, all these overseas Filipinos send remittances back to their families and relatives in the homeland. More than $14 billion in remittances were sent to the Philippines in 2007 alone or above $1 billion per month. The figure would rise by an estimated 50% if money sent through informal channels were included.

Just the official figure of $14 billion in remittances already constitutes 10% of GNP. That amount exceeds both official development aid and foreign direct investments received by the Philippines. Without the influx of dollar remittances, the country’s current account would be negative.

The growth of remittances has been explosive, commensurate to the number of migrants and immigrants. Back in 1993, about half a million OFW’s were deployed while the remittances were worth just $2.5 billion. Yet even then this was considerable since it already equaled half of the foreign debt service.

The government actively promotes labor migration. In fact, the export of labor is part of the yearly target for employment creation. About a million migrant workers are deployed yearly. Everyday almost 3,000 Filipinos leave to work abroad. In 2007, about a third of them were new hires. The rest were rehires and sea-based workers.

The number of women migrant workers has been increasing and in 2007 they constitute half of new hires. Many are domestic helpers like in Hong Kong, entertainers like in Japan, and nurses like in the US. Thus many have observed the contradictory situation of Filipina mothers taking care of other people’s children while their own grow up without their physical presence. The feminization of labor migration and the lack of protection for migrant workers have led to rising cases of abuse, harassment and rape.

Labor migration has a long history in the Philippines. At the turn of the last century, the first batch of Filipino migrant workers found work in the plantations of Hawaii and California. The modern wave of migration however started in the 1970’s with the promotion of labor export under the Marcos dictatorship. Skilled manual labor was deployed to the Middle East that was in the midst of a construction boom.

The fall of the dictator did not stop labor migration but instead accelerated as the Aquino regime begun the shift to trade liberalization and as the economy remained stagnant. From then on, labor migration became a flood with both unskilled factory workers and professionals like teachers, nurses and doctors joining the trek abroad. Despite the fact that nursing is one of the most popular courses in college, the Philippines today faces a health crisis due to the lack of nurses and doctors as most are moving abroad.

It is not an exaggeration to say that labor migration today is the modern-day form of slavery. Five hundred years ago the age of mercantilism saw the heyday in the trade of human slaves. In the era of globalization, millions of workers cross borders in search of greener pastures or simply to survive in the face of joblessness and destitution in their home countries.

The pull of a substantial wage differential between the sending and receiving country is enough incentive for massive labor migration. That has of course resulted in significant transfers of wealth and token alleviation of poverty in the home countries. Yet the fact that millions of migrants are involved and the reality of lack of protection for basic worker rights and respect for labor standards results in so many victims of abuse.

In the Philippines, no reliable data exists but it is common knowledge that migrant workers fall prey to excessive fees from labor contractors and employment agencies. Once abroad, many are underpaid or not paid their salaries at all. Some are forced to work 50 to 80 hour workweeks and usually without overtime pay. There are many abusive employers and some labor under unsafe conditions. Contracts are breached and migrant workers are without recourse for redress. In the worst cases, the workers end up as bonded labor or sex slaves, if not incarcerated despite being innocent or dying in unsolved murders.

In many receiving countries, basic labor rights and standards are not respected and implemented. Even in advanced countries where there are formal guarantees of workers rights, baiting of immigrants and restrictive immigration policies lead to the proliferation of so-called illegals. As illegal immigrants, they are without the protection of the law and thus easily victimized. Moreover they are hunted by the governments of host countries and if caught deported back home with their dreams broken.

It is a glaring contradiction that in the era of globalization, goods, capital and information flow freely across the world and yet the free movement of labor is restricted. Trade in goods and capital flows are fully liberalized through multilateral agreements but labor migration is highly regulated through unilateral actions. This is one fundamental aspect of the grave inequalities and double standards under globalization.

Fact is globalization is the key link in the flood of labor migration in recent times. There are estimated 150 million migrants and immigrants around the world. Meaning 2.5% of the global population had to cross borders and oceans just to find their daily bread. In 2005, their combined remittances amount to $167 billion and could reach up to a quarter billion if those sent through informal means are counted.

While the pull factor in labor migration is mainly the wage differential—a fact that exists even before globalization—the push factor is principally the deepening poverty and worsening unemployment brought about by near universal enforcement of neoliberal policies worldwide. The policies of liberalization, deregulation and privatization have led to the collapse of local industry and agriculture. Together with policies of cheap labor, labor flexibility and others associated with globalization, workers are encouraged if not forced to look for work abroad despite all the dangers, hardships and costs.

Still labor migration is a right that workers must enjoy in a globalized world. Even more than goods and capital, labor must be able to move freely across the world. The Partido ng Manggagawa as the political party of the working class in the Philippines defends and advances this as a right for all workers. Labor must be mobile in order to seek better wages and working conditions.

Thus we aim to protect the rights and welfare of migrant workers in their host countries. The international guaranteed labor rights as enshrined in the ILO conventions including the right to organize, bargain and strike, must be extended to all migrant workers.

To this end, the Philippine government must forge bilateral agreements with host countries of OFW’s to guarantee their basic labor rights and ensure implementation of labor standards. It must also take the lead in pushing for enforceable multilateral treaties defending and advancing migrant rights. A government that actively promotes labor migration as a policy can do no else.

To protect OFW’s and curtail abuses, deregulation of the labor export industry must be stopped and government must strictly regulate the deployment of workers abroad. This will greatly reduce fraud, deception and abuse by private employment agencies and contractors at the homefront. Heavier penalties and fines must be levied against illegal recruiters.

The Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipino Act or RA 8042 must be amended in this regard. RA 8042 must further be amended to incorporate important protective provisions specifically for seafarers and women migrant workers.

The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) must be reorganized and its program reoriented to ensure that the funds collected from OFW’s are used to serve migrants and their families. Scrap the OWWA Omnibus Policies. Audit and transparency mechanisms must be installed to protect the OWWA Fund. OFW’s and their families must be represented in the OWWA Board.

The embassies and consulates of the Philippines in OFW host countries must serve the concerns of migrant workers above all. The promotion of OFW rights and welfare rather than the promotion of tourism or investments must be their primary mission. To that end, the embassies must be reorganized with programs to assist migrants who are victims of abuse and to facilitate redress of their grievances.

Above and beyond programs and projects that currently exist, there must be provision for reintegration and retraining of OFW’s, care for women survivors of violence abroad, support for families of migrant workers including women abandoned by their spouses working abroad, and coverage for OFW’s social security, health insurance and housing.

The Overseas Absentee Voting Law must be amended so that it more effectively assures the right to vote of Filipinos abroad and ensures the sanctity of their ballot. Among these are a choice for either postal or personal registration and voting, continuing registration of overseas Filipinos, and an appropriate mechanism for seafarers to register and vote.

Yet almost four decades of labor export has not led to social progress in the Philippines. In fact from a long-term perspective, the social costs and the brain drain may offset whatever economic benefits accrue from labor migration.

Thus the policy of labor export promotion must be reversed and instead the government must enforce the Constitutional mandate for full employment in the country.

Such a policy shift can only be realized as part of a paradigm shift away from globalization. Without falling into the trap of autarky, the local economy must be strengthened so that domestic industry and agriculture can generate sufficient decent jobs for all Filipinos.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Filipino workers call for a stop to trade union repression in South Korea

August 11, 2008

His Excellency Lee Myung-bak
President, Republic of Korea
Blue House
Seoul , South Korea

Filipino workers support the call to stop trade union repression in South Korea

The Partido ng Manggagawa (Labor Party-Philippines) expresses its solidarity with the South Korean workers who are now the subject of relentless attack from the Lee Myung-bak government.

In particular, we are deeply concerned about the conditions of the top leadership of Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) and its affiliates who were illegally arrested and for those who are still subject of police manhunt. We firmly believe that the Lee Myung-bak government had grossly violated their basic human and trade union rights.

We likewise believe that the South Korean government cannot simply resort to such brutal actions against the KCTU without circumventing its own laws and disregarding international covenants on labor rights and standards. And that was done by declaring KCTU’s legitimate strike against the April 18 Protocol on US beef importation and other trade union issues ‘illegal’, thus giving the government the legal cover to launch a crackdown on trade unions opposed to that policy.

Fighting against what workers believed are policies inimical to its socio-economic and occupational interests – as in this case the issues of food safety and health hazards and trade union rights – can always be valid unless otherwise declared by the government as nonsensical demands. In fact, it was with great pride that Korean workers stood up against the proposed US-Korea FTA and other policies which they believe endanger their rights, safety, well-being, and their future.

On this ground, we would like to convey this message to the Korean government: that the international labor movement would always support and likewise assert the validity and legitimacy of that kind of action by our fellow workers in Korea. May we humbly remind the government that the right to strike and dissent is a universal human right.

Accordingly, we appeal on the Lee Myung-bak government to stop the repression against the KCTU and its affiliates’ leadership by unconditionally releasing those who were already arrested and detained, and recalling all arrest warrants issued against trade union leaders.

We also call on the South Korean government to respect fundamental trade union rights, including the right to strike on political matters involving national policies that may affect the socio-economic well-being of Korean workers and that it fully guarantees freedom of assembly and people's right to dissent.

The existence of a vibrant trade union movement in South Korea is a towering symbol and a reminder that indeed, formal democracy exist in the country. Without it, or placing it under severe state repression, would bring South Korea’s image back to its dark past when it was still under the state of iron rule.

We will closely monitor the government actions in South Korea while assuring fellow workers there that Filipino workers are solidly behind their cause.


Renato B. Magtubo
Chairperson, Partido ng Manggagawa (Labor Party-Philippines)
Former Party-List Representative, Philippine Congress

114 Road 20, Project 8 Quezon City, Philippines
Telefax: +632-4410947