Monday, February 23, 2009

End Trade Union Repression in Guadeloupe!

The Partido ng Manggagawa (Labor-Party Philippines) is petitioning the French government to end its brutal repression of the workers’ strike in the island of Guadeloupe.

We firmly uphold that a strike is a just and rightful act of pursuing legitimate demands by the working class. And we were informed that in this particular case, the strike is mainly about the demand for an increase in minimum wage – which is a very legitimate demand by workers around the world in the face of the raging global economic crisis. Hence, suppressing the workers’ right to strike is a major violation of core labor standards guaranteed by international laws and conventions.

We are therefore saddened by the reports that instead of meeting some demands of our fellow workers in Guadeloupe, the French government sent in the police force and a battalion of troops to quell the strike, arresting several trade union leaders and injuring many strikers in the process.

Trade union repression and all other forms of suppressing legitimate actions by the people we believe is the hallmark of colonial rule and therefore have no place in the modern and civilized world. But the brutal action against the Guadeloupe workers made Sarkozy no different from King Louis XVI, and Jogo from De Launay, the ruthless governor of Bastille then who treated the workers’ uprising of 1789 as mere angry mob.

All governments around the world must recognize the fact that it is the workers who toiled in creating this unprecedented wealth the world had for the last century and onwards. But we also are the ones who suffer the most during crises. Capitalists have their yachts to weather this storm, while workers don’t even have life vests to stay afloat.

It is therefore the right of every worker to demand relief against job loss, wage cut and work flexibilization. For workers, surviving this crisis will never mean surrendering the rights they have won since the last millennium. The crisis did not give the capital the right to undercut labor rights.

What happened in Greece in December, in France in January, and now in a small island of Guadeloupe is a portent of things to come. In the Philippines, local strikes are building up in export zones as foreign and local companies resort to closures and production slowdown displacing tens of thousands of workers. Like the workers in Guadeloupe, Filipino workers are also campaigning for a ‘bailout package’ for the workers and the poor.

We are hoping that the French government heeds the international call for it to refrain from using brute force in dealing with the strike in Guadeloupe. We also demand that arrests must be stopped and those who were arrested released unconditionally. And most importantly, for this strike and the future strikes to be averted, the workers’ demands must be addressed.

In Solidarity,

Judy Ann Miranda
Secretary General
Partido ng Manggagawa (Labor Party-Philippines)

Friday, February 20, 2009

Scrap the VFA now!

Press Statement
February 20, 2009
Renato Magtubo

The secret VFA document exposed by Sen. Joker Arroyo is the latest in a string of arguments to hang the iniquitous agreement. The secret document is an insult that adds to the injury of Daniel Smith’s contempt of our justice system.

The VFA must be scrapped now. It was ratified by the Senate in 1999 and 10 years of an unequal treaty is much too long already. This secret document is slap in the face of the Philippine Senate and Filipino people since it was hidden from public knowledge. The Senate cannot waste any time in abrogating the VFA.

From the very start the VFA was one-sided. While it was approved by the Philippine Senate, the US Senate did not ratify it. Thus even its status as a bilateral treaty is questionable.

Now this secret document shows as clear as day that the VFA violates diplomatic principles of reciprocity and mutuality. An American GI who has committed a crime, like Daniel Smith, can enjoy the comforts of their embassy but a Filipino soldier can only be incarcerated in a US jail as provided for by this secret paper.

This episode of the VFA secret document and Daniel Smith’s case should be transformed into an opportunity to reorient out foreign policy. Just like how the global crisis and its deleterious impact on our economy should be an occasion for a paradigm shift in our economic model.

The VFA is no different from the unequal Military Bases Agreement and the WTO is similar to the neocolonial Parity Rights treaty. The military policy of the US seeks to advance its economic agenda not our national interests. It is high time to chart an independent foreign policy together with a development model predicated on local industrialization.

Workers oppose power rates hike

20 February 2009

The labor partylist group, Partido ng Manggagawa (PM), denounces the Energy Regulatory Commission for granting the National Power Corporation a provisional authority to increase its tariff rates by as much as P1.00/kwh beginning this month, even as the grounds for such a petition are yet to be deliberated in subsequent public hearings, the first of which, the pre-trial hearing, is yet to convene on February 24.

The provisional authority allows the Napocor to charge the distributors (DUs) an increase by an average 46.82 centavos per kWh in Luzon and 71.47 centavos per kWh in Mindanao. The increase, according to Meralco will translate to 17 centavos for Luzon customers or an additional P34 for those who consume 200 kWh per month.

The biggest increase, an average of P1.146 per kWh, will be in the Visayas region, whose people, in particular the poor people of Negros, are facing another tiempos muertes – a period in a year where the region encounter the highest incidence of hunger. The rate increase will take effect in the February 26 to March billing period.

The petition for rate adjustments, according to the Napocor, is intended to recoup its losses from giving incentives to consumers such as the mandatory rate reduction of 30 centavos provided under EPIRA. It also has to comply with a rate of return as required under its loan covenant with the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank.

According to the ERC, this increase would remain provisional and could still change depending on the outcome of the hearings the state regulator will be conducting on the state generator’s application for the rate increase.

But the labor party complains that the ERC is committing another abuse of discretion by issuing such a provisional authority to a petition that is yet to be heard and in complete disregard of the current conditions of the Filipino people who are already reeling from the impact of the raging global economic crisis.

“Why the haste in giving out a provisional authority and why so callous in rendering almost a blanket approval of the Napocor petition,” protested PM secretary-general Judy Ann Miranda, in a statement sent to media.

Miranda said the new power rate increase bares with it the gross insensitivity of the government to the plight of the workers and the poor who are now facing massive job loss, wage cut, and work flexibilization schemes due to the crisis.

The labor group said the power rate increase, coupled with the government’s failure to address the pressing problems of displaced and unemployed workers, is fanning labor unrest in many regions of the country, thus protests in days ahead are to be expected.

“In its petition with the ERRC, what the Napocor has in mind is its loan covenant with the World Bank and the ADB, not its social contract with the consumers. This is not only callousness but cruelty bordering to treason,” concludes Miranda.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Paranaque residents march to City Hall to demand in-city relocation

Press Release
February 19, 2009
Alyansa ng Mamamayan ng Paranaque

Around 1,000 Paranaque residents marched this afternoon from SM Bicutan to the City Hall in time for a City Council meeting to demand in-city relocation for communities that were victims of demolitions or are under threat of one. They held placards calling for “Katiyakan sa Paninirahan, Kasiguruhan sa Kabuhayan!”

“We appeal to the Paranaque City Council to heed the cry of their constituents. We demand in-city relocation because our jobs will be displaced if we are forced to move to the provinces. This is not the time for the government to destroy the homes and livelihood of the poor with tens of thousands being laid off and prices of basic goods escalating,” argued Romy Cabugnason of the Alyansa ng Mamamayan ng Paranaque (AMP).

Leaders of AMP addressed the City Council regarding their demand. They also sought an ordinance affirming the expropriation of a disputed lot in Brgy. Merville. Urban poor residents who had occupied the lot were being harassed by the barangay captain who had blocked entry points to the disputed area.

Members of Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) in Paranaque also supported the mobilization. PM is spearheading a campaign for a moratorium on demolitions and evictions.

“We ask the government to issue a moratorium on demolitions and evictions together with a condonation of penalties and interests on low-cost and socialized housing loans. The least that the state could do during a crisis is to refrain from destroying the houses and livelihood of the poor. The only exception to the ban on demolitions is when relocation is negotiated with and agreed upon by the affected communities,” stated Renato Magtubo, PM chairperson.

Last Monday, some 300 Bacoor residents held a picket and dialogue at their City Hall to demand relocation and assistance. A week before, last February 10 another 300 relocatees from Sapang Palay, San Jose del Monte, Bulacan held a protest at the main office of the National Housing Authority to demand condonation of interests and penalties. Next week hundreds of Cavite residents who are affected by the R-1 road extension project in Bacoor and Kawit are mobilizing for a dialogue with the provincial government.

On February 24 and 25, a two-day Lakbayan will be launched by workers and the poor to call for a 5-point bailout package. The bailout of workers and poor calls for a subsidy for displaced workers; tax refund for wage earners; expansion and reform of the state employment program; extension of Philhealth coverage to the recently laid off; and a moratorium on demolitions and evictions.

Laid off regular workers face tough times in years ahead, study says

15 February 2009

Workers who lose regular jobs in the current crisis are in for tough times—with or without a recovery in the job market. Displaced workers face low re-employment rates and significant wage losses in the short and medium term as they compete with younger workers over mostly non-regular work, contractual, casual and piece-rate jobs.

The dismal prospects faced by workers displaced by the global recession that has already claimed tens of thousands of local jobs can be gleaned from a study of displaced workers done in 2008 by the Angelo King Institute of the De La Salle University.

The study, authored by Clarence Pascual, an economist, was presented yesterday at a forum held at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani in Quezon City. The forum was organized by the Partido ng Manggagawa as part of its 8th founding anniversary celebration.

The study surveyed some 150 production workers of a local garments company that closed shop in November 2003. It looked into the employment experience and current labor force status of displaced workers five years after layoff. Extensive interviews with displaced workers from four other companies were also conducted to gather qualitative data and insights on life after layoff.

While the study was done in relation to the impact of globalization on workers welfare, the findings are relevant to the current situation.

According to the case study, the likelihood of displaced workers finding any kind of wage employment is dismally low while the chances of landing a regular full-time employment similar to what they have lost is nil to zero.

“Less than a third (32 %) of the workers found a wage job at anytime in the next five years after layoff. When the survey was taken in mid-2008, a mere 16% of the displaced workers were holding on to a wage job. Five years after losing their jobs, over 60% of the workers were still unemployed or have exited from the labor force,” explained Pascual.

Pascual added that an overwhelming majority of those who found a new wage job after displacement took up temporary, non-regular jobs that paid lower wages. Non-regular jobs were also marked by unemployment spells in between contracts or jobs. The unemployment and earnings losses suffered by displaced workers did not improve over time.

The study also finds that job loss can have dire consequences on the worker’s health and well-being as well as that of the worker’s family. Being laid off from work raises the risk of the worker’s family falling into poverty. The loss of a major source of income for the family is compounded by equally serious problems.

Displaced workers are also vulnerable to illnesses of varying seriousness, from frequent headaches to hypertension or strokes (cerebro vascular accident). In more than a few cases, these illnesses lead to workers’ death. With the loss of work-related health insurance, laid off workers cannot afford the high cost of drugs and health care. Loss of health insurance can also impact on young children.

Interviews with displaced workers reveal that a consequence of job loss than can have long term repercussions on the worker’s family is the risk of children taken out of school. Surprisingly, production workers despite minimum level wages were able to send children to college, relying on loans from employers, friends and informal lenders. Their regular job was their biggest asset, a gold-standard collateral in the eyes of creditors. The loss of a regular job means loss of access to credit, which could mean children dropping out of school or the inability to meet costly contingencies.

The study finds low re-employment rates and significant earnings losses and which persists over the medium-term as a significant cost of job loss. It traces these to the surrounding economic conditions, namely, the decline of the garments industry, high youth unemployment, and the proliferation of temporary and contractual employment. To improve re-employment possibilities, it calls for a strategic focus on generating adequate productive employment, including public employment programs.

While there were more self-employed workers than wage workers among the displaced workers in the survey, self-employment was more often than not considered as employment of last resort by the workers. Self-employment is marked by low and irregular earnings and lack of long-term sustainability. Moreover, the study covered the period 2004-2008, a period of respectable economic growth. Promoting self-employment and micro entrepreneurship in the context of a growing economy may have some merit, but not during a slow down or recession.

To avoid the more drastic consequences of job loss, the study recommends expansion of new and existing social protection schemes to cover workers laid off in the current crisis. This may include, according to the author, free extension of PhilHealth membership for displaced for a period of five (5) years after layoff.

The government may also consider giving out scholarships or education loans for displaced workers with children in tertiary level. Yet another option is automatic inclusion in the government’s conditional cast transfer program for displaced workers with children in primary and secondary levels. The government and the Social Security System may also need to explore some form of income support for workers laid off by the global crisis.

In the same forum, the Partido ng Manggagawa presented its campaign for a bailout package for workers and the poor which consist of (1) direct subsidy for displaced workers from the SSS, GSIS and OWWA; (2) Tax refund for workers; (2) Reforms on public employment program; (3) Extension of health coverage for displaced workers, and (5) Moratorium on demolitions and evictions.

Study: Industry Churning, the Labor Market and Workers’ Welfare

(Angelo King Institute, De La Salle University)

Main Findings

1. Low re-employment rates: Only 32% of laid off workers found a wage job at anytime in the five years following layoff. For those who did, it took an average 12 months to land a new job. At the time of survey, or five years after layoff, only 16%were holding on to a wage job. Workers cite “age limit” as the most important reason for their difficulty in finding a new job.

2. Temporary or contractual work: Most of the jobs found were contractual or piece-rate work. The exception was government jobs but these were few and far between. The temporary and non-standard nature of employment available to displaced workers partly explains the low employment rate of displaced workers five years after layoff. They found it increasingly difficult to hold on to temporary or contractual jobs.

3. Significant and persistent earnings loss: Even for those who found jobs, wage or earnings losses were significant and did not diminish over time. A major reason for this huge wage loss can be traced to the fact that contractual work pays less than standard, regular work regardless of the worker’s extra effort.

4. Self-employment and entrepreneurship: At survey date, 22% of workers engaged in self-employment, slightly higher than the proportion employed in formal wage jobs. Does self-employment and entrepreneurship then offer a way out for displaced workers? Our discussion with affected workers does not give us this impression. Self-employment is generally seen as employment of last resort, marked by irregular earnings and uncertainty of business. Long-term sustainability is a key issue for micro businesses.

5. Early exit from the labor force: Five years after they were laid off, the majority (61%) of workers faced open unemployment or early exit from the labor force. This is significant considering that most of the workers in our sample were women only in their late 30s or early 40s at the time of layoff, half of whom were married, had young and old dependents, and in many cases, were the main breadwinners in their families.

6. Heightened economic insecurity: irregular work hours and earnings, dependence on other family members, anxiety due to economic insecurity resulting in stress, deterioration in relationship with spouse and family members, and inability to secure the future of the family.

7. Loss of social protection: drastic decline in health status of workers, resulting in deaths in a few cases, loss of health care for young children, loss of access to credit resulting in children taken out of school, vulnerability to economic contingencies.

8. Policy recommendations:

a. Free extension of PhilHealth membership for 5 years after layoff
b. Education loans for workers with children in tertiary level or inclusion in CCT for those with children in primary and secondary levels;
c. Some form of income support from the social security system may need to be explored;
d. Promoting entrepreneurship in the context of a growing economy may have some merit, but not during a slow down or recession;
e. Strategic focus on generating adequate productive employment to improve re-employment possibilities; public employment programs may be necessary in the short-term.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Cebu workers end strike, declare victory in struggle

Press Release
February 17, 2009

The workers of a furniture factory in Mandaue who were the first to launch a strike against layoffs since the onset of the present crisis announced in a press conference today that they are lifting their picket lines after the successful conclusion of protracted negotiations yesterday. The workers of Giardini del Sole went on strike last February 3 and paralyzed operations of the firm for two days which forced the management to return to negotiating table. The first two days of the strike was filled with tension as management alleged that striking workers were preventing the free ingress and egress of other employees, and even defying the Mandaue mayor who interceded in behalf of management.

“If we had not launched a strike that paralyzed the company, then we would have been without jobs and would have been lucky to receive a separation pay after six months. But because we fought for our rights, we got from management and the government a ‘bailout package’ that is more than what they were initially willing to give,” explained Primitivo Ginoo, Jr., president of the Nagkahiusang Puwersa nga Mamumuo sa Giardini (NPMG), the union at the Giardini del Sole.

In negotiations that ended yesterday, management and government offered the following forms of assistance to the workers:
1. Immediate payment of separation pay of 13 days per year of service
2. P5,000 assistance previously released by management will not be charged to the separation pay
3. Refund by management to workers of unremitted SSS payments since July 2008 and other similar benefits
4. Grant of P360,000 in employment assistance from the city government of Mandaue to workers who are residents of the town
5. Capitalization for a worker-owned and managed furniture-making cooperative from the Department of Labor

“In times of crisis, the workers will have to fight for every centavo that they deserve in wages, benefits and assistance. Workers should learn the lessons of our struggle. We will be treated like disposable rags and worn out machines by capitalists bent on passing the burden of the crisis on workers. Instead of meekly receiving what little they offer us, workers should fight with their heads up high for jobs and rights,” argued Eulito Fin Jr., vice president of NPMG.

Renato Magtubo, chairsperson of Partido ng Manggagawa (PM), stated that the Giardini workers struggle can serve as a model of the “pro-labor bailout scheme” that the group is pushing for. “The Giardini model of militant struggle and workers assistance can be replicated wherever workers are victims of retrenchment and rotations,” he insisted.

PM is campaigning for a 5-point bailout package for workers and the poor that consist of (1) subsidy for displaced workers from the SSS, GSIS and OWWA; (2) tax refund for wage earners; (2) expansion and reform of the public employment program; (3) extension of health care coverage for displaced workers; and (5) moratorium on demolitions and evictions.

The labor dispute at Giardini del Sole started last January 5 when more than 300 Giardini workers held an impromptu protest at the factory gates upon learning that only 100 employees were allowed to work after returning from the holiday break. ###

Bacoor residents picket city hall to press for relocation and assistance

Press Release
February 16, 2009
Alyansa ng Maralitang Pilipino

Some 300 residents of Longos in Brgy. Zapote 5 marched at around 9:00 a.m from their staging area along a busy street in the town of Bacoor to the City Hall. The protesters had a dialogue with the City Mayor and pressed the city council meeting later in the day to approve their demand for a relocation site and financial assistance.

Tonette Fajanilan, president of the Samahang Magkakapit-bahay ng Barangay Longos (SMBL), declared that “We are asking Mayor Strike Revilla and the City Council to grant to relocation and assistance to their constituents as per provisions of the Executive Order 708.”

Executive Order 708 stipulates that it is the responsibility of the local government to provide the support to displaced residents that are mandated by the Urban Development and Housing Act. The urban poor residents were victims of a court-ordered demolition last week from a private lot that is more than a hectare in area. The lot is owned by Pobre Aguinaldo, a former mayor of Kawit, Cavite who is related to the Aguinaldos, Abayas and Pobletes of the province.

“The government, both local and national, must assist the poor in this time of crisis similar to Barack Obama’s plan to rescue subprime homeowners who are burdened with mortgages and threatened with foreclosure,” appealed Fajanilan. SMBL is an affiliate of the Samahang Nagkakaisa ng Cavite (SANAGCA) and the Alyansa ng Maralitang Pilipino (AMP). Members of SANAGCA, AMP-Cavite and Partido ng Manggagawa-Cavite supported the mass action.

Renato Magtubo, PM chairperson, explained that “Demolitions such as that experienced by SMBL members must be suspended. A moratorium on demolitions and evictions together with condonation of penalties and interests on low-cost and socialized housing loans must be declared. The least that the government could do in a time of crisis is to refrain from destroying the houses and livelihood of the poor. The only exception to the ban on demolitions is when relocation negotiated with and agreed upon by the affected communities.”

A moratorium on demolitions and evictions is one of the five main demands of PM in its call for a bailout of workers and poor. The other demands are subsidy for displaced workers, tax refund for wage earners, expansion and reform of the state employment program and extension of Philhealth coverage to the recently laid off. ###

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

GMA’s employment program promotes cheap contractual labor

Press Statement
February 10, 2009
Renato Magtubo

What could have been a good start to alleviate mass layoffs instead became a bad precedent when the government’s employment program promoted the exploitation of cheap contractual labor.

Truly it is imperative to give jobs to the thousands who will be laid off and the millions who were unemployed even before the crisis struck. Since the private sector apparently is not interested in hiring them, then it is the responsibility of the government to establish an employment program.

The government is however joining hands with the capitalists to exploit the economic crisis to institutionalize cheap labor and contractual work, and thereby tear to shreds the already tattered protection for workers.

The NARS program illustrates this clearly. An P8,000 monthly salary for nurses mean paying professionals a minimum wage, if not less. And giving deploying them for two six-month tours of duty instead of a straight one year contract is a deliberate maneuver to avoid making them regular employees. The government is now no different from Henry Sy of SM, or even worse since it is promoting contractualization among professionals.

There are few details on the so-called green collar jobs but we have no doubt that they will any different from the “kamineros” and “oysters” that are hired on a contractual basis for below minimum wages. White collar and green collar labor will now be at par with the worse pay given to blue collar workers. Government is fomenting a race to the bottom in wages and working conditions amidst the crisis instead of raising the bar for labor standards and workers rights.

Militant workers demand a radical reform of the government’s employment program. Minimum labor standards at the very least must be guaranteed. No matter that it is a dirty job as long as it is decent work.

Funneling billions of taxpayers’ money into big-ticket projects and mass employment programs opens the floodgates for plunder and patronage. As a check and balance, the employment program must be placed under the co-ownership if not control of people’s organizations.

Of course GMA will counter that they are no funds to pay higher wages and benefits to untrained nurses and tree planters. But there are hundreds of billions automatically appropriated for debt payment (interest alone is equivalent to 30% of the national appropriations and together with the principal amounts to 70%) which can instead be better used it to finance a reformed employment program. Not paying the banks for the debt, legitimate or otherwise, that we ostensibly owe them is a light punishment for the high crimes of sparking the global crisis.

Urban poor picket NHA to demand condonation of loan interest

Press Release
February 10, 2009
Alyansa ng Maralitang Pilipino

Some 300 residents of Sapang Palay in San Jose del Monte, Bulacan and Barangay Timbao in Binan, Laguna trooped this afternoon to the main office of the National Housing Authority in Quezon City to press for condonation of onerous interest and penalties on their housing loans. While the protesters were picketing the NHA premises, their leaders held a dialogue with housing officials.

“A moratorium on demolitions and evictions together with condonation of penalties and interests on low-cost and socialized housing loans must be declared. The least that the government could do in a time of crisis is to refrain from destroying the houses and livelihood of the poor. The only exception to the ban on demolitions is when relocation negotiated with and agreed upon by the affected communities,” declared Jess Panis, spokesperson of the Alyansa ng Maralitang Pilipino (AMP).

The bulk of the rallyists came from the AMP and Zone One Tondo Organization in Sapang Palay while a contingent came from AMP-Laguna together with supporters from the Partido ng Manggagawa. The groups are also calling for a pro-poor implementing rules and regulations (IRR) for the recently passed Republic Act 9507 providing for a loan restructuring and condonation program for socialized and low-cost homeowners. They allege that in the absence of an IRR, housing agencies are foreclosing houses of residents who would otherwise have benefited from the law.

The protesters from Laguna were disqualified on anomalous grounds by the NHA from benefiting from the relocation program for South Rail residents. In protest, they have occupied vacant housing units in Southville V, a relocation area for displaced South Rail residents.

“We are the Pinoy version of ‘subprime homeowners’ who must be bailed out similar to Barack Obama’s plan to rescue poor Americans who are burdened with mortgages and threatened with foreclosure,” insisted Michael Dasigan, a leader of AMP-Laguna.

The Sapang Palay residents are also demanding the following:
1. Implementation of P15,000 costing of lots with no interest for homeowners who acquired rights before 1986;
2. Stop to upfront payment of P3,500 for survey costs, should be added instead to monthly amortization;
3. Entry of new applicants to vacant lots;
4. Survey of lots that are without markers.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Workers Manifesto for the New Millennium

(This document was written by Ka Popoy Lagman when he was then secretary-general of the Partido ng Manggagawang Pilipino [PMP], an underground revolutionary political party of the Filipino working class established January 30, 1999. It was published as a paid advertisement in the Philippine Daily Inquirer on January 30, 2000.)

A specter is haunting labor – the specter of Globalization.

Wage-workers in industrial and developing countries, skilled and unskilled laborers, manual and mental workers, urban and rural proletarians – all are ravaged by this global scourge with lost jobs and low pay, wage freeze and wage cuts, downsized and diminished benefits, factory closures and run-away shops, contractualization and casualization of labor, strike-breaking and union-busting.

As the sun rises on year 2000, labor cannot but ask: What does the future hold for the working class in the new millennium?

The prophets of Globalization talk of "free markets" and "free trade". But how about freeing labor from wage-slavery?

Progress, they say, will ultimately trickle down. The point, however, is when? In every decade since the 1950’s, the working people produced more wealth than the total output of mankind since the dawn of civilization some 12,000 years ago. But the gap between the rich and the poor is wider and deeper than ever in history. Even in America, the richest of all nations, only one percent of its wealth is shared by 80 percent of its population.

Despite all the advances in social production, billions today still have no food on their tables, clothes on their backs and roofs over their heads. If this is the meaning of capitalist progress and civilization, how does it differ from a cannibal who has learned to use knife and fork? The last 100 years of capitalism has been a century of over-abundance for the owners of capital and utter deprivation for those who live only by the sale of their labor.

Using the yardstick of history, four centuries of capitalism is short compared to earlier social systems. But as soon as it emerged, its every progress has sparked epic class struggles. The last hundred years of capitalism eminently has been a history of wars and revolutions, of liberation struggles of oppressed nations against imperialist countries, and of class battles between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie.

Anti-capitalist revolutions broke out even as the rule of capital has yet to conquer the entire globe. At its peak, socialist states covered a quarter of the world’s area and a third of the human population.

The collapse of socialism in the last decades of the 20th century has emboldened the bourgeois elements of society to vilify it as a utopian dream. But what they pass off as the vindication of capitalism is merely their class bias showing. That communism inspired hundreds of millions to life and death struggle and Marxist revolutions were victorious in scores of countries is incontrovertible proof of their firm roots in material conditions and social realities.

The period of the two world wars ushered in the first wave of socialist revolutions. With hindsight and foresight, it was only a dress rehearsal for the real revolution that can now begin with the advent of the third world war – the global offensive of capital versus labor. The revolutionary proletariat will arise, like the phoenix from the ashes, stronger and wiser.

Globalization has inaugurated not a post-industrial society but the unadorned class rule of the international bourgeoisie and the insatiable pursuit of profit by monopoly capital. Class antagonisms have not been attenuated but on the contrary are heightened.

Proletarianization of the population proceeds as never before. Unarguably, the working class is the absolute majority in the world. The so-called services are being industrialized, that is put under the regime of mechanized production and social labor. The modern office is little different from the automated factory. In both, low pay, long hours and insecure jobs are the norm. Professions are transformed from independent livelihood into wage-labor. Mental workers are joining manual laborers in organizing unions to protect their interests as wage-slaves.

Globalization has unleashed not so much the creative power of capital as its destructive forces. The genie of finance capital has been liberated by the liberalization of trade and investment and has left a path of destruction in its wake. Intensified global competition is the anarchy of production multiplied and the crisis of overproduction internationalized.

Capitalism in the age of Globalization is hopelessly bound up in its innate contradictions brought to their peak. And the proletariat is inevitably impelled to revolt by the vicious attacks against their living standards and social rights.

Globalization by its very nature transforms the economic turmoil in one nation into a world crisis. It obliges the workers struggle in one country to become an international fight.

The world is witnessing the rebellion of the advanced forces of production against outmoded capitalist relations, the contradiction between the socialized forms of production and bourgeois private property exploding into crisis and revolution.
It is Marxism rather than capitalism that is passé. Marx was a visionary who saw far ahead of his time. What he described applies more to the Globalization of our era than the capitalism of his age. And what he foretold will only now truly come to be.

No doubt revolutionary movements which predict the fall of capitalism will be likened to religious sects which prophesize the end of the world. Let these conceited bourgeois pundits beware the lesson of history. The lords of capital will be no different from the slaveholders and landlords of yore who thought they would rule forever until the rising of the former working classes brought their delusions crashing upon their heads.

Let the capitalists celebrate the coming millennium with pomp and pretense for it will be their last. The bourgeois reich will not last a thousand years. Pax capitalista will not even survive the new century.

The first decade of the new millennium will be the eve of the socialist revolution in the era of Globalization.

The Battle in Seattle is the sign of the times. It comes on the heels of historic general strikes in France and South Korea, and in other advanced and backward countries. They are a portent of the brewing storm of working class revolution that will sweep imperialist Globalization to its grave.

The new millennium will see the titanic last battle between the forces of the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. The day of judgment is at hand and the armageddon of capitalism is near.

The workers have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Workers of the world, unite!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Labor leader Popoy Lagman remembered

6 February 2009

Leaders of the Partido ng Manggagawa offered flowers to Filemon “Ka Popoy” Lagman early morning today at the marker inside the UP Bahay ng Alumni where he was assassinated eight years ago.

Lagman was considered a working class hero by leaders and members of the labor unions, urban poor and other marginalized sector. During his late years, Lagman steered the Philippine labor movement away from the maoist and stalinist tradition of the of the Communist Party of the Philippines by setting up a revolutionary working class party, the Partido ng Manggagawang Pilipino (PMP).

Lagman was also the head of the the Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino. A week after his assassination, labor leaders launched the Partido ng Manggagawa, his latest project before his death.

“The living ideas, the party’s unwavering desire to emancipate the working class – we offer it back as tribute to Ka Popoy who dedicated his entire life to the working class movement,” said Partido ng Manggagawa chair Renato Magtubo, in a statement sent to media.

Popoy saw this capitalist crisis coming

Magtubo recalled that at the onset of the new millennium in year 2000, Ka Popoy ‘s PMP came out with a paid ad in the print media stating its view on the inevitable collapse of the capitalist system.

“The first decade of the first millennium will be the eve of the socialist revolution in the era of globalization,” Ka Popoy declared in that statement.

“Globalization has unleashed not so much the creative power of capital as its destructive forces. The genie of finance capital has been liberated by the liberalization of trade and investment and has left a path of destruction in its wake. Intensified global competition is the anarchy of production multiplied and the crisis of over production internationalized,” the millennium statement of the party said.

Magtubo said such a bold prediction of Ka Popoy is eventually what is happening right now. “Ka Popoy saw it coming and the global financial crisis is merely a jolt for a bigger, much deeper capitalist crisis to come.”

“Globalization has inaugurated not a post industrial society but the unadorned class rule of the international bourgeoisie and the insatiable pursuit of profit by monopoly capital. And the proletariat is inevitably impelled to revolt by the vicious attacks against their living standards and social right,” Magtubo quotes further from the statement.

Magtubo said the massive job loss in the country and around the globe is sending millions of workers into the world of poverty and destitution and that the powerful strike movement that is happening right now in France, Greece and many countries in Europe, as well as the Americans’ resistance against the pro-capital/pro-market system of bailout that the US government is undertaking, are early signs of a looming revolutionary period.

In the Philippines, Magtubo said, the crisis “will herald the revitalization of the working class movement along with the powerful social movement clamoring for fundamental social change.”

On February 14, 2009, the Party will offer another tribute to Lagman during the party’s eight year anniversary to be held at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani. The highlight of the celebration is a forum on the global crisis and its impact on labor and solidarity presentations from the PM chapters. ###

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Church called on to intervene as Cebu strike enters second day

Press Release
February 4, 2009

The striking workers of the Giardini del Sole furniture factory in Mandaue City called on the Catholic bishops for support in pushing for their demand for work rotation instead of forced leave. The first ever strike against layoffs since the onset of the present crisis entered its second day today with operations at the factory still paralyzed as strikers maintained a roving picket.

“We appeal to CBCP president Archbishop Angel Lagdameo, CBCP committee on public affairs head Bishop Deogracias Iniguez and Archdiocese of Manila social services ministry head Bishop Broderick Pabillo to speak for workers rights and displaced workers. We are giving the good bishops due notice that abusive employers are exploiting the crisis to subvert labor standards and workers rights,” stated Primitivo Ginoo, Jr., president of the Nagkahiusang Puwersa nga Mamumuo sa Giardini (NPMG), the union at the Giardini del Sole.

Renato Magtubo, chair of Partido ng Manggagawa, concurred with the criticism of the Giardini del Sole workers, saying that “Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Edgardo Lacson’s demand to reduce the number of holidays and remove the holiday premium is the signal fire in capital’s war against labor amidst the crisis. The employers will be using the global crisis as a sharp knife to tear to shreds the already tattered safety nets and labor standards that protect workers.”

The NPMG went on strike yesterday on the basis of union busting, alleging that management is using the impact of the crisis as an excuse to dismiss all union officers and members. “In several weeks of hearings at the National Conciliation and Mediation Board, management maintained its hardline position against allowing union members to return to work on a job-sharing scheme,” Ginoo elaborated.

Eulito Fin Jr., vice president of NPMG, reiterated that “We are more than willing to lift the strike but only if as many workers as possible are allowed to return to work. We would like to work again at Giardini del Sole but only with our heads held up not bowed down.”

The CBCP bishops had last week expressed it support to the call for an employment summit to help address the problems of Filipino workers affected by the global crisis. Aside from appealing for support from the bishops, Fin also expressed his appreciation for the solidarity they have received. He asserted that “The messages of support, the contributions of food and the physical presence of fellow Cebuano workers sustain us in our fight. This is a struggle for all workers and we can win it only with the solidarity of the labor movement.”

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Pahayag ng mga Manggagawa ng Giardini del Sole

Mga kapatid na manggagawa, mga kababayang Pilipino

Kami ang mga manggagawa ng Giardini del Sole, isa sa pinakamalaking furniture exporter sa bansa. Biktima kami ng malawakang tanggalan at tangkang pagbubuwag ng unyon ng isang Italyanong walang respeto sa batas paggawa ng ating bansa.

Nagpasya kaming magwelga simula sa araw na ito, matapos ang halos isang buwan ng magkahalong protesta at negosasyon, sapagkat naubos na ang mga pamamaraan upang obligahin ang aming management na ipatupad ang kasunduang work rotation sa halip na forced leave ng humigit-kumulang 300 manggagawa mula sa 400 na workforce.

Kung hindi kami nagkakamali ay kami ang unang pakikibaka kontra sa tanggalan na humantong sa welga. Nagwelga na kami sapagkat ito ang kinakailangan upang ipanalo ang aming kahilingang makabalik sa trabaho ang pinakamaraming manggagawa.

Isa itong welga para ipagtanggol ang aming trabaho. Isa itong laban para mabuhay ang aming mga pamilya. Isa itong pakikibaka para sa karapatan ng mga manggagawa.

Naninindigan kaming ang aming laban ay laban ng lahat ng manggagawa. Naniniwala kaming imposible ang panalo kung wala ang suporta ng mga kapatid na manggagawa at kababayang Pilipino, laluna na ang pakikipatiran ng kilusang paggawa.

Malakas ang loob at matigas ang ulo ng aming dayuhang kapitalista. Kahapon ay binoykot ng management ang patawag ng NCMB para sa last-minute settlement ng aming labor dispute. Ayaw nilang ipatupad ang kasunduang work rotation dahil gusto nilang tanggalin sa trabaho ang lahat ng opisyales at miyembro ng bagong-tayong unyon. Noong itinatayo ang unyon noong nakaraang Nobyembre ay nauna nang tinanggal ang president, treasurer at secretary ng unyon. Ngayon naman ginagamit nilang palusot ang krisis para ganap na buwagin ang unyon.

Sa kabila ng lahat ng maniobra ng management ay matagumpay na naparalisa ng welga ang operasyon ng pabrika sapagkat sumuporta ang mga manggagawang di kasapi ng unyon. Nakiisa sila sa welga sapagkat nauunawaan nila ang laban.

Ang aming welga ay ang una subalit hindi ito ang huli. Kaya nakikiisa kami sa kahilingan na magkaroon ng bailout para sa mga manggagawa at maralita na apektado ng krisis. Kaya binabalaan din namin ang mga kapitalista laban sa pananamantala sa krisis upang lusutan ang mga karapatan at istandard sa paggawa.

Handa kaming tapusin ang welga kung makakabalik sa trabaho ang pinakamaraming manggagawang tinanggal. Bukas na bukas din ay maari kaming bumalik sa pabrika pero tanging kung nakataas ang aming noo di nakayuko ang aming mga ulo.

Alam naming darating ang araw na iyong muli kaming makakapagtrabaho nang marangal at may dignidad sapagkat hindi kami iiwan sa laban ng mga kapatid naming manggagawa at mga kababayan naming Pilipino. Maraming salamat.

Ika-3 ng Pebrero 2009

First strike vs. layoffs erupts at Cebu

Press Release
February 3, 2009

In the first such case since the onset of the global crisis in the country, workers of a furniture exporting firm in Mandaue City went on strike against the massive layoffs and successfully paralyzed operations of the factory.

“After exhausting all avenues for conflict resolution for almost a whole month, we are forced to hold the strike in order to push for our demand that workers be able to continue their work and earn a living,” stated Primitivo Ginoo, Jr., president of the Nagkahiusang Puwersa nga Mamumuo sa Giardini (NPMG), the union at the Giardini del Sole. Giardini del Sole is one of the biggest furniture exporters in the country.

The strike started early morning of Tuesday with around a hundred workers of Giardini del Sole, and supporters coming from Partido ng Manggawa (PM) and other factories picketing the five gates of the factory. There was no violence and untoward incidents as the remaining non-union employees and even supervisors sympathized with the striking workers.

“This is a strike to preserve jobs. This is a struggle for our families’ right to live. This is a fight for the rights of all workers,” explained Eulito Fin Jr., vice president of NPMG.

In an expression of support, PM chair Renato Magtubo, said the strike at Giardini del Sole “is the first but will not be the last. We call on government to heed the workers demand for a bailout and subsidy. We warn capitalists against exploiting the crisis to undercut workers rights and labor standards.”

The union is demanding that management implement the agreement for work rotation instead of forced leave. The agreement was forged between the union and the management last January 8 at the National Concilliation and Mediation Board (NCMB) but the latter has since then reneged on its commitments. The union in response then filed a notice of strike last January 22 on the basis of union busting, alleging that management is using the impact of the crisis as an excuse to dismiss all union officers and members. The members of NPMG voted 70 for and none against holding a strike in the voting conducted last January 23.

“As a sign of management’s intransigence, they boycotted the meeting called yesterday by the NCMB in a last-minute bid to settle the dispute. This is consistent with their hardline position against allowing union members to return to work on a job-sharing scheme,” Fin elaborated.

The union also belied the claim of Mr. Boschi, the owner of Giardini del Sole, that he cannot allow the return of more workers since the firm is only wrapping up production on the remaining unfinished furniture. But Ginoo said even the media had seen that wood used as raw materials were still being delivered by trucks to the factory a week ago.

“We are more than willing to lift the strike but only if as many workers as possible are allowed to return to work. We would like to work again at Giardini del Sole but only with our heads held up not bowed down,” asserted Ginoo.

The union leader said the fight of Giardini workers is the fight of all workers. “We are asking for the solidarity of our fellow workers for we can only win this struggle with your support. We are also appealing for help from the local government of Mandaue for we are your constituents not this foreigner who harbors great disrespect to labor rights.”

The labor dispute at Giardini del Sole started last January 5 when more than 300 Giardini workers held an impromptu protest at the factory gates upon learning that only 100 employees were allowed to work after returning from the holiday break. That same afternoon, they marched to the NCMB office and after several days of protest, the union was able to clinch an agreement for work rotation, financial assistance, release of backwages, and for no compulsory terminations.

PM is pushing for a bailout and stimulus package for workers and the poor that includes the following: subsidy from SSS, GSIS and OWWA for workers who will be laid off due to the crisis; tax refund for all workers equivalent to two months wage; and reform and expansion of the public employment program for the unemployed.

Timeline of the labor dispute at Giardini del Sole

November 17, 2008: Primitivo Ginoo (union president), Charlie Bantiles (treasurer) and Esmeralda Surban (secretary) are permanently dismissed

November 25: Nagkahiusang Puwersa nga Mamumuo sa Giardini (NPMG) is formally registered as a legitimate labor organization and union of workers at the Giardini del Sole, Inc., one of the biggest furniture manufacturing and exporting companies in the country. The firm was established in 1986 by an Italian national named Boschi and exports to the US and Europe while producing also for the domestic market

December 5: Workers are given an early and month-long forced vacation and told to report for work again on January 5

January 5, 2009: The management of Giardini del Sole allows only 100 (none of them a union member) out of 400 workers to return to work after the holiday break. Around 300 workers hold an impromptu protest at the factory gates. In the afternoon they march to the NCMB office at Cebu and the union submits to preventive mediation

January 8: After several days of protest, an agreement is reached between the union and management. The agreement stipulates the following:
1. Establishment of a joint evaluation team that includes the union, management and the DOLE/NCMB to rotate work among as many of the workers as possible. The joint evaluation team will also monitor the company’s performance and recall the workers when demand picks up;
2. Granting of financial assistance of PhP 5,000 and one sack of rice per month for the duration of the temporary shutdown. It will be deductible from separation pay in case of permanent closure;
3. No worker will be terminated and only voluntary resignations will be accepted;
4. Release of backwages for the 2008 holiday pay equivalent to three days salary

January 14: The worker representative to the joint evaluation team walks out after two meetings since management does not recommend even a single name of an employee it is accepting for job rotation

January 22: NPMG files a notice of strike alleging union busting

January 23: NPMG members vote 70 for and none against holding a strike

January 26: Workers and the media monitor an Isuzu truck (plate number YCE 979) owned by supplier Green Peaks in Canduman, Mandaue City delivering 300 board feet of wood to the factory

January 27: Giardini del Sole workers lead a Lakbayan of displaced workers from Mandaue to the DOLE Region 7 office at Cebu City

February 2: Management of Giardini del Sole boycotts the meeting called by the NCMB to settle the labor dispute. It caps their hardline position in several weeks long of preventive mediation hearings against implementing the agreement on work rotation. It also illustrates the ineffectiveness of NCMB and DOLE in enforcing the agreement

February 3: NPMG goes on strike, gains sympathy of non-union workers and paralyzes operations of the export firm

February 4: Giardini del Sole’s operations remain paralyzed for the second straight day of the strike. Mandaue Mayor Jonas Cortes visits the picketline and expresses support for a resolution of the labor dispute. The Mayor calls for a negotiation between management and the union at the city hall