Sunday, November 30, 2008

Hundreds of homeless occupy vacant prime lot in Paranaque

Press Release
November 30, 2008
Alyansa ng Maralitang Pilipino

Starting last night some 500 homeless in the city of Paranaque started building makeshift houses in a direct occupation of a vacant prime lot in the Merville area. Eduardo Casuy, a leader of the Alyansa ng Maralitang Pilipino-Paranaque chapter said that “We appeal for understanding from our fellow Filipinos for we have been without homes for years already and yet this lot remains unoccupied simply because it is private property. Private property cannot be a higher value than the right of the poor to have a home.”

The 1.2 hectare lot owned by the Molave Corp. is one the biggest lots in Merville. It sits right beside a recently built condominium and supermarket by the Gokongweis, and is just a stone’s throw away from the SM mall in Bicutan.

“Our struggle is no different from the Sumilao farmers who have remained landless for years despite being beneficiaries of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program. A city ordinance expropriating this unoccupied land has remained inutile since 2000 when it was signed by the former Mayor Joey Marquez. Thus we are forced to implement it ourselves rather than remain homeless,” argued Tita Candelario of the Tucuma Federation in Paranaque.

Most of the urban poor who direct occupied the vacant lot came from the Tucuma Federation who originally petitioned for the expropriation of the land. Others were victims of a violent demolition that happened November 30, 2005 in the nearby Cul-de-sac area on the instigation of Tony Leviste who the people alleged only illegally acquired the disputed land.

Renato Magtubo of the Partido ng Manggagawa called on the national and local government to desist from forcibly evicting the people from the land and thereby provoking a bloody confrontation. “The least the government can do in a time of crisis is not to demolish the homes of the poor and destroy their livelihood,” he averred.

The leaders of the homeless declared that they do not want any violence to occur but the people are also ready to defend their newly-built houses. They announced that they are open to dialogue and negotiate with both the government and the landowner for a peaceful resolution of the issue.

In the meantime, Casuy stated that “This is the best Heroes Day commemoration for us. The nation celebrates Bonifacio for his cry of Balintawak that culminated in Philippine independence. We only ask that the government heed too the cry of the homeless for independence from poverty and injustice.”

Workers say Bonifacio’s struggle alive in fight vs. chacha

Press Release
November 30, 2008

After the business-led rally last Friday against amending the constitution to extend the term of President Gloria Arroyo, today it was the turn of labor to voice its opposition. “Pro-GMA solons say the people have no need to worry since the chacha resolutions are just meant to test the law. But the truth is they are also testing the waters to see if the people will erupt in rage against a blatant attempt to prolong the GMA regime,” declared Renato Magtubo, chairperson of Partido ng Manggagawa (PM).

Various labor groups including PM commemorated Heroes Day by convening a forum to tackle the workers’ position on the unfolding economic and political crisis. The workers then joined a rally at the Balintawak monument together with several vocal bishops to express their common stand against charter change.

“There is no more fitting way to celebrate Bonifacio Day than for the workers to continue his struggle by confronting the economic and political crisis of the nation. The other day it was the patricians who voiced out their position. Today it is the turn of the plebeians to express not their opposition to charter change but also their call for system change. The working class with march side-by-side with the middle forces against term extension while raising our own banner for radical reform,” explained Magtubo.

The Labor Alliance for Better Order and Reforms (LABOR) sponsored the forum at the San Roque Parish of Bishop Iniquez of Caloocan that was attended by more than 300 leaders of PM, Uni-PLC, National Confederation of Labor, Alyansa ng Maralitang Pilipino, Zone One Tondo Organization, Samahang Nagkakaisa ng Cavite, United Cavite Workers Association, and big unions like the Fortune Tobacco Labor Union, Philippine Airlines Employees Association, and unions from Valenzuela City. The theme of the forum was “Fight for jobs and livehood, Fight against GMA’s chacha.” After the forum, several hundred participants marched from the San Roque Parish to the Balintawak monument for the rally sponsored by Kilusang Makabansang Ekonomiya.

Magtubo explained that “Upsizing GMA’s term is just as deleterious to the nation as the downsizing experienced by the workers in the export zones. GMA is one aspect of the nation’s problem while globalization is the other face. It is not just the corrupt GMA regime but also the crisis of globalization that we must resolve and the only solution is system change.”

PM chapters in the provinces held similar activities. Around 1,000 industrial and hacienda workers marched in Bacolod City around the Fountain of Justice in the afternoon. Meanwhile labor fora were held in the cities of Cebu and Davao.

Magtubo also stated that the mass actions today is only the start of labor’s involvement in the anti-chacha movement in parallel to their campaign for a bailout of the workers and the poor in the face of the economic recession. PM is proposing a subsidy for workers who will be laid off due to the crisis; tax breaks for all employees as a form of economic stimulus; and a thoroughgoing reform of the public employment program so that the millions of unemployed Filipinos can get jobs.

“Congress should investigate the impact of the economic recession on the workers instead of fomenting a political crisis by pushing for con-ass and term extension,” insisted Magtubo. PM has formally petitioned the Senate and House Labor Committees to a congressional inquiry of the effects of the global crisis on workers.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Filipino migrant teachers in US fighting illegal recruiter through blog

Press Release
November 23, 2008

A group of Filipino migrant teachers in Louisiana, US is battling their illegal recruiter and is organizing for the redress of their grievances using the blog as a tool. In early November, the “Concerned Filipino Migrant Teachers of Louisiana, USA” have been using what they called the Pinoy Teachers Hub ( as a venue for discussion of their plight.

The teachers are accusing their recruitment agency, among others, of overcharging of placement fees and the premature collection of the same which is tantamount to illegal recruitment and a violation of Republic Act 8042 or the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995.

At least 200 teachers were placed through the agency and deployed in five different school districts in Louisiana but the bulk of them are in the East Baton Rouge Parish School System. They were issued a 1-year working visa (H1B) instead of the usual 3-year H1B visa.

Their recruitment agency is the PARS International Placement Agency with a Philippine address at J&F Divino Arcade, 961 Aurora Boulevard, Suite 407, Quezon City and the US-based Universal Placement International of 3345 Wilshire Boulevard, Suite 407, Los Angeles, California. These two entities are owned and operated by one family. A certain Lourdes V. Navarro is the owner of Universal while is Emilio V. Villarba is the agent of PARS.

In the information provided on the blog, Section 1.A.3 of the teachers’ contract stipulates that 10% monthly gross for 2 years shall be paid to agency. However, the teachers paid upfront in advance 20% of “expected” gross income for 1 year. Further, “expected” gross income is bloated so as to make teachers pay the maximum advance payment.

A check with the POEA (Philippine Overseas Employment Agency) website last September showed that the license of PARS has been suspended but the suspension was recently lifted.

The teachers allege that Navarro has threatened to sue those who voice their opinions and share their bad experiences in the blog. But according to a Partido ng Manggagawa liaison officer in the US, the teachers are standing their ground despite the intimidation and are coordinating with their group for the filing of cases.

The teachers are also claiming that their contracts were signed and its contents disclosed to them only several days or even a day before their scheduled flight. Also the teachers are practically in debt bondage since they were forced to take out loans to pay the $8,000 to $10,000 placement fees. The placement agency referred the teachers to its own partner lending agency that charged an onerous 4% per month in interest.
The agency also entered into lease agreements without the knowledge and consent of teachers. The teachers forced to live in dilapidated, pest-infested apartment units in Baton Rouge chosen by agency despite the presence of better, safer, cleaner and cheaper apartments around the area. Moreover the published rent of a unit is only around $800 a month but teachers are charged $310 each with each apartment unit housing 4 individuals and at times up to 8.

In their blog, the teachers contend that the threat of the non-renewal of their contract for the second year has obliged many to endure the indignities and hardship at the hands of their illegal recruiter.

There are also a lot of cases where teachers arrived in Louisiana only to discover that they do no have any school assignments but instead had to attend job fairs for placement. According to the PM liaison officer in the US, in Baton Rouge alone there are at least 6 teachers who arrived and went without work for more than a month, and at least one teacher is up to now unemployed.

The PM liaison officer also revealed that a common practice of the agency is to transfer the teachers assigned to a specific school to another school in a different district. The teachers are forced to agree to the transfer than to wait indefinitely for a placement despite the fact that it is illegal since the specific school district assignment is indicated on the teachers’ visa. In one specific instance, 7 teachers from the East Baton Rouge school district were transferred to the Avoyelles school district where salary levels are much lower.

The teachers also assert that the agency, without any authorization, unlawfully opened their US social security numbers. Research conducted by the PM liaison officer showed that Navarro has a history of fraud conviction and identity theft cases in the State of California.

To add to the abuse, agency prohibits the teachers from petitioning family members using other agencies or through other means. Teachers were also required to sign a waiver in the Philippines no to bring families within the period of one year.

In their blog, the teachers however have declared an initial victory claiming that from $310 per individual per month, they were able to force Navarro to lower their rent to $275. And from $1800 to $2000 per individual, that they were able to lower the renewal fee to $1000. ###

Friday, November 21, 2008

The global crisis is a crisis of capitalism

It is time for the workers and the poor in the Philippines to prepare for the worse the moment its government keeps on repeating the mantra that the economic fundamentals remain good and thus there is little to worry about effects of the global recessionary trend. The world found itself in the present mess precisely because of such blind faith in neoliberal fundamentalism.

The shallow basis for such declarations from the government is supposedly the fact that most of Philippine exports are being sent to China rather than the US. But China is just a transit point or a gigantic department in the assembly line that spans the globe. Thus exports to China will simply be assembled there and then ultimately sent to the US, Japan or Europe as finished products. Such is the international division of labor under the era of globalization.

Now here’s the rub. Japan just recently admitted that it is in recession. It is now officially in the same rickety boat as Germany and Italy, or for that matter most of the European Union countries. Despite the Bush government still being in denial about a recession, there are already some pundits in the US that are talking about the prospect of a depression.

The fact that US and Japan, the two biggest economies in the world and the final market for most exports, are in recession spells double trouble for the Philippines. In addition, US, Japan and Europe are the destination for a significant section of the nine million overseas Filipinos and the source for a large part of their $14 billion yearly remittances through official channels. Therefore Filipino migrants and their precious dollars, yens and euros are in clear and present danger when the recession extends and deepens. There is no doubt about the fact that migrant workers will be the most vulnerable when layoffs and closures hit their host countries.

While it may take some time for the howling winds of the so-called perfect economic storm to hit the shores of the Philippines, the initial impact is already being felt in the export-oriented factories whose clients are in the US, Japan and Europe. Reductions in the workforce and workdays are being implemented in the export zones and industrial estates in proportion to the reduction of orders from abroad. The permanent closures, temporary shutdowns and work rotation have happened in the last three months. And they have affected not just hundreds but thousands of garments, electronics and furniture workers in these industrial areas. These retrenchments and rotations are the herald of the grave unemployment that will result when the global recession reaches maturity and fully impacts the Philippines.

Capitalist greed

Myths about the crisis should be cleared up so that its real roots can be examined. The popular explanations peddled by the mainstream media and government officials in the US is that the crisis is simply due to the corruption, excess and greed of the investors, brokers and speculators of Wall Street.

It would be hard to accept as gospel truth such conventional opinion in the US. Just before the undeniable meltdown in the financial markets and the rapid descent to an economic recession, the American government officials and mainstream media were saying that the economic fundamentals are sound and that the problems are manageable. Yet we have to understand that such errors and hubris are not borne out of stupidity but of hypocrisy, for such well-told lies serve the purpose of conditioning the minds of the American people, especially workers.

It is indeed true that good old capitalist greed played its part in the disaster on Wall Street. Still corruption, excess and avarice are all in the nature of capitalism since the motor of this system is intense competition and the race for profit. It is simply business as usual for capitalists to covet the most profit in the shortest time. And yet it is not everyday or every year that capitalism falls into a historic crisis. Therefore the roots of the crisis go beyond capitalist greed.

Subprime housing

Practically everyone agrees that the immediate cause of the present problem lies in the subprime housing loan failure. It has been more than a year since the subprime housing crisis erupted with millions of ordinary Americans having risky credit ratings duly failing on their amortizations.

The crisis exploded with the number of homeowners unable to pay amortizations reaching a critical mass. This September, four million Americans, about 10% of the total, were either very late in their payments or were having their homes repossessed. Thus Freddie Mac and Fannie May, the two main mortgage companies in the US, were in the red by $3.1 billion just for the three months from April to June.

The fact that several millions of working class American families could not afford to shell out money for their monthly home amortizations is already a sign of the contradiction that ultimately lies behind the economic crisis in the US. The wages and income of the ordinary American family cannot keep up with the escalating costs of living, including home payments. And this is all due to the changes wrought by globalization—the wave of retrenchments and layoffs, the temporary and part-time nature of jobs, the continuous decline in real wages and the dismantling of the social wage and welfare for the poor. The discrepancy between the nominal wage and the cost of living reflects in the oversupply of housing compared to the capacity to pay of the people. The crisis of overproduction (oversupply of commodities vis-à-vis effective demand for it) is an essential characteristic of capitalism. And it is clearly illustrated in the sector of housing for the working class.

Deregulation and financialization

The quantum leap from a problem in just one line of industry (in this case the subprime housing sector) to a crisis of the whole of the economy is due directly and entirely to the deregulation and financialization that has become defining features of the era of globalization. The mortgage companies sold their mountains of mortgage papers to the banks. The banks in turn resold these subprime mortgage papers (repackaged as securities called collateralized debt obligations or CDO’s) to so-called institutional investors such as other banks, investment houses and pension funds.

The complicated and repeated selling of these papers, and the invention of different financial instruments called derivatives, and even the exotic credit default swaps, is the way for financial institutions to make profit out of the money capital of investors. In the world of finance capital, profit is magically squeezed out from paper, even debt papers of risky debtors.

Here we can see an element of the so-called excess and corruption. Though lacking the capability to pay, ordinary Americans were enticed by various gimmicks (like the floating interest rate) to take out risky loans.

Still it is important to understand that this is not just the dishonesty of some individuals but the irresponsibility of the system itself. In a situation where so much of the wealth in the US and the world is in the form of finance capital that seeks big returns in the quickest time, it becomes entirely natural even logical for investors to grab the opportunity of a “get rich quick scheme” in the subprime housing sector, and the buying and selling of CDO’s and other financial instruments.

It is in this way that the subprime housing sector is connected to the world of finance capital. That is why the moment millions of high-risk Americans defaulted on their mortgages, the biggest commercial and investment banks, and even insurance companies, were suddenly left holding toxic debts and tons of debt papers that had no way of being paid.

The problem is similar to, though not exactly the same as, the Asian financial crisis of 1997. It is no different since it is due to speculation by finance capital. In the years before 1997, finance capital flooded the stock exchanges and real estate markets of the so-called emerging countries of Asia, including the Philippines. But the underlying economic problems cannot be hidden, especially from speculators, and when the time of reckoning came, finance capital withdrew in a flash and thus the stock markets and exchange rates collapsed like a house of cards. In the present case, finance capital descended upon the subprime housing sector and the business of trading CDO’s until the new bubble burst in due time.


There is no more apt word to describe the modus operandi of finance capital than speculation. “Profit” from speculation does not arise from the creation of new wealth and new value as in the case of production of commodities.

New wealth or value is generated in society only through the investment of money capital in the world of production, and the creation of products after the expenditure of labor power. Profit is extracted from the unpaid labor of workers and is then realized after the sale of the commodities.

Speculation by finance capital is however as different as heaven is from earth. “Profit” is fashioned not through the exploitation of workers but through trading in the stock exchanges, real estate, mortgage papers, futures market or other financial instruments. In the world of speculation, money miraculously generates “profit” from money without the mediation of the process of production. In essence, this is no different from gambling.

So on the one hand, there is the real economy where new wealth is created from the application of labor power to produce goods and services. On the other hand, there is the casino economy of finance capital where speculation is the mode of operation. With capitalism entering the stage of financialization, the shadow of speculation is not far behind.

Speculation is the illegitimate child of the deregulated world of finance capital. Finance capital rushes into a mania of investing in the popular business of the day where there is an expectation of high profits. Prices and profits thereby artificially inflate as long as investments keep pouring in. At the start the bubble will grow bigger and bigger seemingly as if the sky is the limit. But the bubble will burse the moment it becomes clear that the prospect of high profits is all hot air. All speculative ventures or bubbles can only end in a crash since no new wealth is created in this world. But like an addict that cannot kick the habit, finance capital will just move on to the next mania of the moment.

The crucial question is why such a significant part of the wealth of the US and the world is tied up as speculative investments? Why is this money capital not invested in the production of goods and services, in the creation of jobs in the light of massive unemployment? Or why is it not invested in agricultural production, in the farming of land in the light of the food crisis besetting the world? In answering this question, we can arrive at the roots of the present crisis.

Capitalists would rather put in their money capital in the mania of speculation instead of the world of production since the rate of profit is greater. It is in the nature of capital that it seeks the level where the rate of profit is higher, just like water seeking the lowest point due to the pull of gravity. It does not matter to capitalists whether it is speculation or production. The important thing is profit, and the bigger the profit in the shorter amount of time, the better.

Crisis of overproduction

Yet why is it that the rate of profit is greater in speculation rather than production given that new wealth in created only in the making of commodities? Thus opens up the secret of the innate contradictions of capitalism. If there is a glut in a certain sector of the market then profit is difficult to realize. The rate of profit falls and capitalists are obliged to shift their money capital to other lines or industries. But if the glut permeates all industries, if the crisis of overproduction is generalized, then the prospect of a bigger rate of return in the world of speculation and its mania of bubbles beckons the capitalists.

In the age of globalization, two factors come together to explain this situation. First, the innate tendency to overproduction has been exacerbated by the cheapening of wages in combination with a gigantic increase in the productivity of labor in the era of globalization. Surplus commodities clog the markets as people do not have the capacity to buy since their wages come up short and many do not have work. The crisis of overproduction is worldwide in scale as the epidemic of wage cheapening, work flexibilization, factory closures, job retrenchments, union busting, cutback in social spending, regressive taxation and other policies accompanying globalization are being implemented across the board and across all borders.

The great inequality of wealth in the US is a key link in explaining overproduction. The productivity of the American worker rose by 60% since 1979 but the wage of male workers fell by 5% over the same period. Some 33 million, one out of every four US worker, live below the poverty line. From 2000 to 2007, the number of poor in the US jumped by 15% or 5.4 million. In the same span of time, wages were frozen but profits leaped by 13% every year. The share of profit in the national wealth is at its peak in the US for the past 64 years while the share of salaries is at its lowest since 1929.

The leap in productivity is expressed in the flood of products and services. Yet the expansion of markets is hindered by the lack of effective demand. The crisis of overproduction is at the root of the recession in the US and global economy.

The reason the crisis exploded only now is that for a time the extension of consumer credit delayed the onset and attenuated the gravity of the problem. As a result millions of Americans are buried in credit card debt or have taken out second mortgages on their houses. One in every four American spends 40% of their monthly income just to pay their debts. The personal savings rate of Americans went negative in 2005 for the first time since the Great Depression of the 1930’s.

The “comfortable” lifestyle of the US worker was sustained only by accumulating debt. In truth, the American dream was only a myth and the middle class status of the working class was only an illusion. Only by extending consumer credit was the US able to extend the economic boom and delay the inevitable crash. Yet delaying the onset of the crisis only meant a more severe crash when the hour of reckoning came. The mountain of consumer debt could not remain unpaid without destabilizing both the real economy and the financial markets.

Second, the crisis of overproduction squeezed the rate of profit and led capitalists to make a detour from the world of production to the mania of speculation. The deregulation of financial markets in the period of globalization aggravated the crisis. The lifting of controls and supervision by the government over the movement of finance capital led directly to the excess and insanity of investors, brokers and speculators in Wall Street. Exotic financial instruments were invented, and then sold and resold all for the purpose of squeezing more “profit” from “paper.”

By the time millions of Americans defaulted on their mortgages and the subprime housing bubble exploded, the madness of finance capital was exposed for all to see. The biggest commercial and investments banks in the US and in the world, together with other financial institutions like insurance companies, were left holding bundles of worthless papers. In an instant, billions of dollars worth of financial papers evaporated.

Punishing the innocent

In short, finance capital lost in a high-risk gamble. But on the argument that they are too large to go under, they are being bailed out by the US and other OECD governments. And ultimately it will be the mass of workers who will foot the bill of saving the finance capitalists. It will be the taxes of autoworkers, teachers and janitors who will rescue the bankers, investors and brokers.

In the US, the $700 billion fund reserved as bailout, in addition to the more than $100 billion already spent to rescue some financial companies, will eventually come from the pockets of the workers. Thus while capitalist profit remains private, the business losses are socialized.

Imagine Joe the plumber handing over his hard-earned tax dollars to the CEO of AIG on the premise that the investors, speculators and bankers are too big to fail. When a worker loses his daily pay betting on lottery, he cannot ask for food stamps from the state, especially with the dismantling of the welfare system. But now governments are handing out corporate welfare to the rogues whose excess and greed are the immediate cause of the financial meltdown.

The crisis that is ultimately rooted in the contradiction of overproduction has led to the mania of speculation by finance capital. And the bursting of the finance bubble is now on a blowback to the world of production. The extensive and deep losses by the finance capitalists has now made them misers and reluctant to extend loans to industrial capitalists lest they bleed even more. Industrial capitalists are squeezed by the credit crunch precisely at the time that they need the lifeline of commercial credit with profit realization hindered by glutted markets.

Permanent closures, temporary shutdowns, work rotation and cost cutting will be the coping measures of industrial capitalists. Retrenchments, layoffs, wage cuts, reduced work hours and informalization of jobs for the workers will be the inevitable result.

Therefore the workers and the poor will be made to bear the burden of resolving the crisis that is not of their own making. The innocent masses are being punished for the crimes of a few.

The working class all over the world will be asked by the ruling classes to sacrifice for the sake of the nation. The workers and the poor must not buy into this cheap sales talk. Workers are the last to benefit from an economic boom but now they are the first to be sacrificed in the midst of a global recession.

The workers must fight for its independent demands and its own class interests. The unprecedented crisis that capitalism is passing through is also a historic opportunity for the workers to advance its immediate and ultimate agenda.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Congress asked to investigate impact of crisis on workers

Press Release
November 19, 2008

The Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) today formally asked Congress to initiate a legislative inquiry into the effects of the ongoing global recession on the workers as reports pile up on job layoffs and work rotation in export-oriented factories. “The recession in the US and Japan, the two biggest economies in the world and the main market for our exports, spells double trouble for the Philippines,” averred Renato Magtubo, PM chairperson.

In separate letters to Sen. Jinggoy Estrada and Rep. Magtanggol Gunigundo, chairpersons of the Senate and House Labor Committtees respectively, PM asked for an investigation “for the purpose of enacting legislation that will assist workers in coping with the economic downturn.”

In its appeal the labor group also asked the Labor Committees to invite representatives of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and the Philippine Export Processing Zone Authority (PEZA) to the hearings. “Congress must compel the DOLE and PEZA to disclose data about permanent closures, temporary shutdowns and work rotations that has happened in the last three months,” Magtubo argued.

PM has complained that its local leaders were given the runaround by the DOLE Region IV-A and Region VII offices when they requested for data on the impact of the crisis on workers.

Magtubo added that “While it may take some time for the howling winds of the perfect economic storm to hit the shores of the Philippines, the initial impact is already being felt in the factories whose clients are in the US, Japan and Europe—all in recession. The three are also the destination for a significant section of the nine million overseas Filipinos and the source for a large part of their $14 billion yearly remittances through official channels.”

The group also suggested to the Labor Committees to table for deliberation its proposals for a subsidy for workers who will be laid off due to the crisis, for tax breaks for all employees as a form of economic stimulus, and for a thoroughgoing reform of the public employment program so that the millions of unemployed Filipinos can get jobs.

Magtubo announced that “We intend to cooperate fully with the Senate and House Labor Committees. If they need our assistance, we will help them in identifying export zone workers who have fallen victim to job loss or reduction of workdays.”

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Workers to heads of G20: Creating a better world order is no more your business

15 November 2008

Relegating the world’s future to the hands of same leaders who created the current global economic crisis is a recipe to further disaster, according to Partido ng Manggagawa, a militant labor party in the country which joined hundreds of other protesters in a march to the US embassy this morning in time for the G20 Summit in Washington DC.

Partido ng Manggagawa chair, Renato Magtubo, said today’s summit by the G8 + 12, an elite club of the world’s richest economies, to formulate strategy to fight the current global economic crisis, “will, to borrow from Barack Obama’s famous line against John McCain, ‘only produce more of the same.’”

“Since this is just another summit of free traders and free marketeers, workers expect no relief from this kind of meeting whose main agenda is to save corporate America and Europe and not Joe the plumber and Juana Manggagawa,” said Magtubo, a veteran trade union leader and former party-list representative.

Magtubo pointed out that for this summit to be relevant to those who really create the world’s wealth—the working class—G20 leaders must renounce neoliberal economics and proclaim a new public policy on redistributing wealth. “Without it, the summit will be a mere talking shop,” the labor leader said.

The labor leader explained that despite the current economic turmoil, the world’s wealth is still more than enough to feed, house, clothe, educate, and care for the needs of some six billion people.

“The world’s productive capacity is so vast it can produce in abundance all the goods and services needed by the world’s people. The only problem is that the world’s wealth is in the hands of a few people, who in the past decades invested their surpluses in casino capitalism and not in the real economy,” added Magtubo.

Magtubo stressed further that the summit was made more anomalous when G20 made it a super exclusive meeting as if these 20 heads of states hold the key to the salvation of six billion people.

“They will talk about bailouts that make financial sharks happy but not the poor people whom they have driven deep down the world of indebtedness. They will provide a stimulus package to resurrect the dead stock markets but not the real economy that provides jobs to billions of people,” said Magtubo.

Citing massive job loss in the US and in Europe and which is also happening now in the country’s export processing zones, Magtubo said a separate world summit of trade unions and labor leaders is more appropriate in working out a strategy for saving the people and the planet from the cruelty of the capitalist system. ###

Friday, November 14, 2008

DOLE asked to release data on effects of crisis as more layoffs reported in Cavite export zone

Press Release
November 14, 2008

The militant Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) called on the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to release its data on recent permanent closures, temporary shutdowns and work rotations, and appealed to Congress to initiate an investigation on the effects of the economic crisis on the workers and compel the DOLE to publish its records on the matter.

The demand for transparency from DOLE came in as reports of lay offs of thousands of workers filter in from export processing zones. “The export processing zone (EPZ) in Rosario, Cavite, just like the export processing zone in Mactan, Cebu is reeling from the consequences of the recession in the US and the world. We know of at least four firms in the Cavite EPZ that have reduced its workers or its working days since September,” said Dennis Sequenia, secretary-general of PM for Cavite.

Sequenia revealed that the three plants of American Power Conversion, an electronics firm based in the Cavite EPZ with a total workforce of more than 5,000, implemented this November a reduction of its work week from the normal 6 days to just 4 or 5 days.

Renato Magtubo, PM Chairperson, declared that “To be forewarned is to be forearmed. We anchor our demand on the principle of transparency and for the purpose of so-called stakeholders having a firm basis on which to base policy proposals so that workers can cope with the effects of the economic recession.”

Magtubo asserted that just like the case in Region VII, the DOLE-Region IV-A office did not give out any data on permanent closures, temporary shutdowns and work rotations when requested by PM local leaders. “The DOLE should not be surprised if it is accused of a cover up since it is keeping its data from the public’s eye. Or if they have not collected any information at all then they are sleeping on the job,” asserted Magtubo.

Aside from the American Power Conversion, Sequenia also said that the following factories all based in the Cavite EPZ have been affected by reduced orders from the US:

• Daeyoung: laidoff 1,000 workers last September after it merged with Greever, another garments firm which absorbed only 500 of Daeyoung’s workforce
• Daijen: retrenched 400 workers after it was absorbed by Jeonlim, another garments firm, last October
• Headline: reduced work week to just 5 days since October; garments firm with more than 300 work force

Jobert Onte, president of the United Cavite Workers Association that organizes among the export zones and industrial estates of the province, argued that the epidemic of mergers and rotation by garments and electronics firms in the Cavite EPZ are coping mechanisms by capitalists as the huge US export market contracts. He stated that “Workers are the last to benefit from an economic boom but now we are the first to be sacrificed in the midst of a global recession that was sparked by high rollers in the casino capitalism of Wall Street.”

Sequenia also disclosed that the recent reduction in workers and workdays are on top of an earlier wave of closures and rotation by factories in EPZ about six months ago. He cited the cases of Cavite Apparel with a workforce of 600 that reduced its workweek to just 2 days and is offering voluntary retirement for its senior workers, and Ultimate Fashion which closed down and threw its more than 300 employees out of work. The PM chapter in Cavite also received initial reports that a Levi’s subcontractor in the Dasmarinas technopark will have no work for the coming week due to reduced export orders.

“Women are the overwhelming majority of the workers in these garments and electronics factories and most of them are the breadwinners of their families. It is the responsibility of the state to bailout them out in their hour of need,” Onte insisted.

Magtubo, former party-list representative for three terms, called on the Senate and House Labor Committees to open an investigation on the issue for the purpose of formulating measures for legislative and executive action. “The economic calamity demands economic relief. Congress must seriously consider the call for a subsidy for workers who will be laid off due to the crisis, for tax breaks for all employees as a form of economic stimulus, and for a thoroughgoing reform of the public employment program so that the four million unemployed Filipinos can have jobs,” he affirmed.

“No new employment is being created as old jobs are being shed. We have noticed that the job ads in the leading dailies have been reduced to just a few pages in recent weeks. The layoffs in the export-oriented firm of Cebu and Cavite are just the herald of a major unemployment crisis. The worse is yet to come unless we act now to save the workers,” emphasized Magtubo.

Bailout package for workers pushed

Breaking News - NATION
Veronica Uy
November 13, 2008

MANILA, Philippines -- With the global financial crisis threatening to cut jobs in export-oriented industries, the government should look into a "bailout and stimulus package" for workers and the poor, the Partido ng Mangggagawa (PM or Workers' Party) said Thursday.

Greg Janginon, PM chairman for Cebu, said the government must also declare a tax rebate for all workers that would effectively give them the equivalent of two months' salary.

Eddie Jumao-a, secretary of the Neostone union, said the Social Security System, the Government Service Insurance System, and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration should also set aside funds to subsidize for six months private sector workers, government employees and overseas Filipino workers who will be laid off due to the crisis.

He said this would allow them to get back on their feet again, finding another job or setting up their own micro-enterprise.

Unlike the bailout and stimulus package in the United States, which puts money in the hands of the "rich capitalists who engineered the crisis in the first place," PM chairman Renato Magtubo said their proposals would put money in "the hands of the workers and the poor … short of an unemployment insurance."

He explained that doing so is not simply a measure of social justice, but a viable solution to the economic slowdown.

"This would enable the poor and the workers, who comprise the overwhelming majority of consumers, to continue buying necessities and keep the wheels of production going," he said.

The US package, he said, is like "rewarding the criminals."

"If there is a lesson to be learned from the present crisis, it is that it is time to strengthen the real economy and shutdown the casino economy," he added.

Noting that employees of export-oriented industries are starting to be laid off, the former party-list representative is upset that the workers are "being made to bear the brunt of a crisis that is not of their own making."

Magtubo welcomed the labor department's emergency employment program, which facilitates the hiring of workers for short government projects like building repair, and retraining. But he said this is not enough.

"There [were] already millions of unemployed even before the onset of the crisis. With the crisis, the unemployment situation will worsen and a massive public employment program must be established," he said.

"In form it will be similar to the 'patrabaho ng gobyerno' [jobs from government] program the presently exists. But in substance it will be radically different," he added.

For one, Magtubo said, the patronage system must be excised from the public employment program by putting it under the control of people's organizations instead of local politicians.

For another, he said the salaries, benefits, and working conditions should conform to labor standards instead of the present setup where contractual workers do the work for below minimum wages.

Magtubo warned of "labor discontent" if no labor safety net is forthcoming.

"As capitalists pass on the burden of the economic crisis to the workers, the simmering labor discontent will erupt sooner than later erupt into struggles and strikes," he said.

©2008 all rights reserved

Cebu traders start laying off workers


by Kristine L. Alave
Philippine Daily Inquirer

November 14, 2008

MANILA, Philippines – Export companies in the regions are feeling the pinch of the global recession and women workers are taking the first hit, a labor group said Thursday.

Partido ng Mangagawa (PM) said layoffs have started in the processing zones like those in Cebu province. It noted that seven companies in Cebu have reduced their workforce or working hours, due to the slow demand from the United States and Europe.

Renato Magtubo, PM chairperson, said data from their Cebu members belied Labor Secretary Marianito Roque’s claim that Philippine companies have not retrenched workers due to the financial crisis.

“The Department of Labor is merely looking the other way. Labor Secretary Roque has eyes, but he does not want to see,” he said.

“While government and business nitpick about the difference between a slowdown and a recession, the initial effects of the perfect economic storm are already being felt by workers in the export-processing zones,” he added.

PM labor officials in Mactan Export Processing Zone and nearby industrial estates said thousands of workers, mostly women who work in garment firms, have been affected by the recession.

Most of those displaced were women workers.

Greg Janginon, PM-Cebu chairperson, said 500 workers were displaced when garment firm Altamode temporarily shut down. He said the regional office of the labor department had no clue on Altamode’s temporary closure.

According to PM, the other companies in Cebu that cut down their working hours or number of workers were:

ï Cosonsa Manufacturing Inc., a furniture factory in Mandaue City, that exports to United States, China and Europe. PM said 200 workers were affected when it reduced its working days to four instead of five last October.

ï Arkaine Industries, a furniture factory in Jagobiao, Mandaue City. It shut down last month, displacing 200 employees.

ï Giordini del Sole, a furniture factory in Mandaue City that sells to local and foreign markets, has released a memorandum Thursday cutting down its working days to five from six. About 500 workers will be affected.

ï Paul Yu, a lamp shade factory located in Cebu, is leaving the Mandaue Export Processing Zone (Mepz) II for the town of Carmen. The relocation will affect 200 workers.

ï Maithland Smith, a garments factory in Mepz that laid off 50 workers who were retrenched last October.

ï Neostone, a furniture and stone casting factory in Mandaue City, closed last September, displacing 40 employees.

PM said the government should prepare a package to help the workers who will be jobless because of the recession.

©2008 all rights reserved

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Workers say layoffs have started at export-oriented factories

Press Release
November 13, 2008

The militant Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) disputed the declaration of Labor Secretary Marianito Roque that there have been no retrenchments yet due to the global economic crisis. Renato Magtubo, PM Chairperson, said that “The Department of Labor is merely looking the other way. Labor Secretary Roque has eyes but he does not want to see.”

Leaders of PM in Cebu claim that factories in the Mactan Export Processing Zone (MEPZ) and the nearby industrial estates have already started reducing its workforce and its working hours because of reduced orders from the US. Greg Janginon, PM Chairperson for Cebu, argues that thousands not just hundreds of workers, many of them women, have been affected by retrenchments, shutdowns and rotation being implemented by employers.

Janginon asserts that he cannot believe that the Labor Department does not know of the temporary shutdown of Altamode, a big garments factory located at MEPZ. Around 500 workers, majority of whom were women, were thrown out of work in a move that management claims was forced by the economic crisis. Janginon also disclosed that the regional office of DOLE refused to release any data to them about companies affected by the crisis.

“While government and business nitpick about the difference between a slowdown and a recession, the initial effects of the perfect economic storm are already being felt by workers in the export-processing zones,” insists Magtubo. “Instead of the government and business arguing whether a recession or a slowdown will commence next year, we should be discussing the need for a bailout and stimulus package for the workers and the poor to counter-act the economic downturn.”

Aside from the Altamode case, PM revealed the following data:

• Cosonsa Manufacturing Inc.: furniture factory in Mandaue City that exports 30% of its products to the US and the rest to China and Europe; filed at the DOLE-Region VII for rotation; reduced work to 5 days starting October and presently on 4 days of work; 200 workers affected
• Arkaine Industries: furniture factory in Jagobiao, Mandaue City; declared a shutdown last October due to economic crisis; 200 workers affected
• Giordini del Sole: furniture factory in Mandaue City that sells to local and foreign markets; management released a memo yesterday ordering a reduction of work from 6 days to 5 days; more than 500 workers affected
• Paul Yu: factory producing lamp shades for local and export markets; located at MEPZ II; workers believe that diminishing sales and cost cutting are behind management’s plans to relocate the factory and change its name; relocation to Carmen town in the far north of the province is planned for next week; 100 regular workers and 100 contractual workers to be affected
• Maithland Smith: garments factory in MEPZ; 50 workers, majority of whom were women, retrenched last October
• Neostone: furniture and stone casting factory in Mandaue City; filed for 30-days temporary shutdown in August and then closed permanently last September; company claimed lack of capital in its declarations but workers know of reduced orders from the US before the closure; 40 workers affected

“Workers demand that the SSS, GSIS and the OWWA release funds sufficient to subsidize all private sector workers, government employees and OFW’s who will be laid off due to the economic crisis. The subsidy should last until the workers could find a new job up to a maximum of 6 months,” asserted Eddie Jumao-a, secretary of the Neostone union.

Janginon also added that “As part of a stimulus scheme, the government must declare a tax rebate for all workers equivalent to 2 months wage, in effect giving them a 14th and 15th month salary.”

Magtubo meanwhile proclaimed “As capitalists pass on the burden of the economic crisis to the workers, the simmering labor discontent will erupt sooner than later erupt into struggles and strikes.”

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Militants demand bailout, stimulus package for workers and poor

Press Release
November 12, 2008

In reaction to the announcement by business leaders of a recession in the coming year, the militant group Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) called for a bailout and stimulus package for the workers and the poor to counter-act the economic downturn.

“We should put money in the hands of the workers and the poor not simply as a measure of social justice but as the solution to the economic recession. The consumers, the overwhelming majority of whom are the workers and the poor, should be able to continue buying their necessities and thereby keep the wheels of production rolling,” explained Renato Magtubo, chairperson of PM.

The group clarified that their bailout and stimulus package is different from that implemented in the US which it criticized as a “bailout of the rich capitalists who engineered the crisis in the first place thereby rewarding the criminals and punishing the innocent.” Magtubo argued that “If there is a lesson to be learned from the present crisis, it is that it is time to strengthen the real economy and shutdown the casino economy.”

In particular, PM is calling for the Social Security System (SSS), Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) and the Overseas Welfare Administration (OWWA) to set aside funds sufficient to subsidize all private sector workers, government employees and overseas Filipino workers (OFW’s) who will be laid off due to the economic crisis. The subsidy should last until they could find work up to a maximum of 6 months. The group is also demanding that the government must declare a tax rebate for all workers equivalent to 2 months wage, in effect giving them a 14th and 15th month salary.

Magtubo stated that “Big business is forecasting a recession next year but the initial effects of the perfect economic storm is already being felt by workers in the export-processing zones and OFW’s in the Middle East. We know first hand of furniture and garments factories in the export-processing zones of Cavite and Cebu who have reduced workers and hours of work because of reduced orders from the US. The export industry as a whole is collapsing with growth contracting from 6.6 % in August to just 1.2% this September. Workers are being made to bear the brunt of a crisis that is not of their own making.”

“As for the millions who were already unemployed even before the onset of the present crisis, a massive public employment program must be established. In form it will be similar to the ‘patrabaho ng gobyerno’ program the presently exists. But in substance it will be radically different. First, the patronage system must be excised from the public employment program by putting it under the control of people’s organizations instead of local politicians. Second, the salaries, benefits and working conditions should conform to labor standards instead of the present setup where contractual workers do the work for below minimum wages,” asserted Magtubo. ###

(The SSS and GSIS are the state-managed social security institutions for private sector and public sector employees respectively. The OWWA is a similar institution for overseas workers.)