A band of workers, urban poor and farmers gathered at University of the Philippines Diliman on Saturday to lead the launching of “Paaralang Gat Andres Bonifacio” as part of the series of events leading to the Filipino working class hero’s 150th birth anniversary next year.
Wearing red bandanas around their necks, the new “Bonifacios” vowed to continue the Filipino revolutionary’s struggle for national independence and democracy amid lingering foreign intervention in the country’s affairs.
“Today, a new blood of ‘Katipuneros’ has vowed to educate more Filipinos on Bonifacio’s heroism and on the relevance of his democratic and nationalist cause, especially as we now see signs that we have yet to achieve genuine independence more than a century after the Spanish colonizers left,” said Anna Leah Escresa, executive director of the Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research (EILER).
EILER said the “Paaralang Gat Andres Bonifacio” will be holding a series of lectures among different sectors in different venues to raise consciousness on Bonifacio’s ideals.
Escresa cited the recent expose on the toxic waste dumped on Subic by the US military last month during the military exercises. “Have we really achieved independence when our country is merely used as training ground of American troops and dumpsite of toxic wastes?” she asked.
“That is why we need to stir nationalist fervor among Filipinos today. As a country which suffered episodes of colonial rule, we must now have a united voice for genuine independence. We had enough of foreign domination,” Escresa said.
During the lecture on Saturday, Prof. Dorotheo Abaya of UP Manila presented a historical paper which sheds light on the less documented life of Bonifacio. The paper acknowledges the leader of Katipunan as the first Filipino president, contrary to mainstream history which recognizes Emilio Aguinaldo instead.
Paaralang Bonifacio will hold its second session at the College of Arts and Sciences in UP Manila on Nov. 24. Interested participants can register by contacting EILER at 433-9287 or through eile...@gmail.com.
A labor NGO has urged Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz to release the department’s report on companies which do not comply with the minimum wage, as it also criticized the new salary system for private sector workers that condones such violations.
The Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research (Eiler) said DOLE cites the existence of “millions of vulnerable workers” who are unprotected by the minimum wage as the main basis for implementing the Two-Tiered Wage System, yet has failed to present a study backing up this claim.
“In the interest of transparency, Labor Secretary Baldoz should release the full results of DOLE’s inspection regarding compliance with the minimum wage law. Otherwise, she is only confirming workers’s suspicion that the new wage system is just the result of the government agency’s collusion with big business,” Eiler executive director Anna Leah Escresa said.
“Failure to release such report only traps workers in underpayment of wages and condones the greed of various firms in the country,” she added, citing a study showing that some 15 percent of surveyed companies in the Philippines are violating the minimum wage law as per DOLE press release.
Eiler noted that in August 2010, DOLE promised to identify firms which do not comply with the mandated minimum wage.
Escresa explained that on top of the firms’ non-compliance, the labor department has unfortunately rolled out the Two-Tiered Wage System (2TWS) that actually condones rampant underpayment of wages in the country.
“By setting a floor wage that is way lower than the mandated minimum wage, DOLE through the 2TWS is letting greedy violators off the hook. Suddenly, the criminal deeds of companies becomes legalized,” Escresa said.
The labor think-tank cited the case of Region IV-A, where the P337 minimum wage is cut by 25 percent to P255 as the new floor wage.
“Apart from clearing greedy companies from underpayment of wages, the 2TWS directly imposes a cut on workers’ wages and pulls down bargaining capacities of unionized workers. Companies will definitely use the lower wage standards to shortchange unions,” Escresa emphasized. “This anti-worker wage scheme must be immediately junked”
The recent approval of tuition fee increase in 267 private colleges and universities will force more Filipinos to drop tertiary education and join the swelling ranks of the unemployed in the country, according to a labor NGO.
Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research (EILER) said rising cost of tertiary education will contribute to the rising number of unemployed youth in the country, which currently constitutes half of the total 2.9 million unemployed as of January 2012.
“Filipino workers obviously cannot afford higher private education costs since wages do not catch up with the annual tuition hikes and regular spike in commodity prices. As a result, more college undergraduates will quit schooling to look for jobs. The problem however is that the number of available jobs isn’t really sufficient for the growing number of jobseekers,” said EILER head researcher Carlos Maningat.
“Data from the labor department shows that unemployed Filipinos who are college undergraduates rose to 323,000 in July 2011 from 309,000 in 2009, hinting that more and more college drop-outs end up in the unemployment line,” he added.
Maningat said the continuing rise in joblesness among college undergraduates proves that the much touted business process outsourcing (BPO) industry boom cannot cushion the worsening youth unemployment in the country.
“The Aquino administration should stop peddling false promises by saying that the BPO industry can provide jobs for college dropouts. It should instead address the very high dropout rate among college students by moving to provide more subsidies to state universities and imposing moratorium on tuition hikes in private colleges,” Maningat asserted.
The recent approval of a two-tier wage system (2TWS) in the National Capital Region (NCR) by the labor department creates bigger hurdles for workers in achieving a living wage, labor NGO Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research, Inc. (EILER) said today.
EILER said that under the 2TWS, a productivity-based wage setting is implemented on top of a new floor wage per region. It said that pegging wage increases on productivity “completely binds workers’ wages to the whims of capitalists, as productivity is mainly determined by factors under control of companies.”
“The labor department is opening a Pandora’s box for Filipino workers with the implementation of the two-tier wage system, as the scheme further gives companies the hand in flexing wages. Productivity has always been a variable which capitalists can tinker through various means, such as through use of technology or volume of inputs,” EILER executive director Anna Leah Escresa said.
Escresa explained that the country has generally a low level of productivity due to the backward level of technology and dependence on inputs from foreign countries.
“Under the 2TWS, companies will keep production technologies backward while increasing workload and production inputs, supposedly to increase productivity. In the end, the scheme will squeeze out bigger profits from labor rather than raise workers’ incomes to decent levels,” she said.
“This is the essence of Aquino’s neoliberal policy for labor – putting in place schemes that will jack up corporate profits and press down on wages to entice more foreign investors to come in and make billions from Filipinos’ hardwork,” Escresa added.
The labor advocate also noted that the 2TWS will gravely undermine hard-earned wage increases as stated in existing collective bargaining agreements (CBA) of private sector unions.
“The new wage scheme threatens to destroy the gains achieved by workers in their struggle for higher wages through CBA negotiations, as productivity now becomes the main measure of the amount of increase,” Escresa noted.
‘P30 COLA hike a cheap come-on’
EILER also slammed the P30 installment increase in the cost of living allowance in the NCR, calling it a “cheap come-on” to the 2TWS.
“It appears that the Aquino administration had hoped that the P30 COLA increase will make a productivity-based pay palatable to workers. But such measly increase in allowance can hardly hide the failure of the government to approve a legislated and significant wage increase,” Escresa said.
“The P30 installment pay hike will also hardly make a dent on the mounting expenses of Filipino families, as incessant increases in the prices of commodities, fuel and services will outstrip it even before Christmas,” Escresa said.
As the Asian Development Bank (ADB) 45th Governors’ meeting takes place in Manila, a Philippine-based NGO raised a howl over the bank’s push for more public-private partnerships (PPPs), saying such policy thrust would only allow private sector to profit from critical services while letting the people shoulder the risks.
Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research, Inc. (EILER) said experience with PPP shows that the private sector has reaped multi-billion gains even as the quality of service has deteriorated, proving that it is not really different from privatization.
Recently, the ADB has dubbed PPP as the solution to the region’s critical problems, including the water crisis, and called on governments to pursue more PPP projects. ADB president Haruhiko Kuroda also told reporters at the Governors’ meet that PPP is good “in mobilizing the private sector.”
“The ADB is living up to its tag of being the ‘anti-development bank’ by actively goading governments to pursue PPPs, which only place premium on private sector profits while grossly disregarding the people’s access to quality and affordable services,” said EILER executive director Anna Leah Escresa.
EILER described PPPs as “black hole of people’s funds since these projects suck public finance, particularly in the form of subsidies and fiscal guarantees, and impose onerous rates on consumers.”
Escresa said that based on ADB’s estimates, private sector profits in privatization and PPPs in developing countries reached $400 billion from 1990 to 2003. On the other hand, developing countries still face the same woes on infrastructure, education, water and power services even as the poor continue to finance the repair and improvement of these services.
“Decades of privatization and PPPs have only left the Asia’s poor struggling with problems on access to water, power, and other basic social services which governments should supposedly provide. Meanwhile, the private sector has already reaped more than what it invested in these projects,” said Escresa.
“A classic example is the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS), which was put under PPP in 1997 through concession agreements. Since then, private concessionaires jacked up water rates supposedly to recoup the $158.14 million concession fee that they paid to the government, even as service interruptions frequently hound customers. Add to that the subsidies which the government paid to private foreign firms operating the water utilities,” Escresa added.
“The ADB has consistently promoted such private-sector led paradigm for service delivery while weakening the government’s role to ensure and regulate such services. Based on experience, such paradigm has resulted to disastrous consequences. What Asia’ poor need is a people-centered development,” Escresa said
Escresa also noted that PPPs can only generate low-quality, low-income and short-term jobs that cannot really address the deteriorating job situation in many developing countries, particularly in Asia.
“PPP merely offers palliative and short-term fix to the worsening unemployment across the Asia-Pacific region. After the projects’ completion, workers are thrown out into joblessness,” she said.
A labor think tank warned the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and business groups against pushing the two-tiered wage system, saying the new wage system will generally pull down the already meager incomes of Filipino workers instead of raising compensation levels.
Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research (EILER) raised its position against the wage system on the eve of Labor Day as the labor department readies its implementation for Region IV-A workers. Recently, the Region IV-A wage board granted a P2-P90 wage increase with “productivity allowance,” a mode which EILER said is a transition to the new wage system that is primarily based on productivity.
EILER said the two-tiered wage system, which provides for a productivity-based pay on top of a mandatory floor wage, will make wages more vulnerable to downscaling as companies seek to raise productivity amid the lingering slump in demand from external markets.
“DOLE’s two-tiered wage system will further render workers’ wages as sacrificial lamb in a time of lingering economic crisis as corporations desperately want to squeeze out more profits despite weak demand. It places premium on productivity while fully leaving out social justice from the entire equation of wage determination,” said Escresa.
Escresa explained that raising productivity, which is the purported aim of the wage system, essentially means pressing down labor costs even as workers’ output is increased. “Productivity is determined not solely by labor input alone, but other factors as well such as level of technology used in production. Moreover, companies have exclusive control over measures of productivity,” she added.
“Under the new wage system, companies can freely tinker with workers’ wages under the guise of raising productivity levels. They can surely get away with arbitrary computations on productivity to justify a downscaling of pay schemes or to deny a wage hike,” Escresa added.
EILER said that the country has a very low level of productivity compared to other Asian countries owing to the low level of technology use. It said companies based in the Philippines would be more inclined to to make wages more flexible rather than invest in new technologies in their bid to raise productivity.
“The danger of a productivity-based wage system is that as companies race to increase their productivity levels, workers are forced to race with each other in offering the most output at the lowest pay or shortest time. This essentially increases corporate profits by several times,” Escresa said.
Currently, wage hikes are determined on a regional basis by regional tripartite wages and productivity boards (RTWPBs) with token representation of workers. The current system has produced measly pay hikes not exceeding P26 for workers since 1989.
EILER explained that the new wage system “is an intensification of the regionalized wage system since productivity-based wage fixing will spawn a multitude of new pay scales that differ not just on a regional basis but on an industry and company basis.”
“A highly fragmented wage system based on productivity will be used by capitalists as tool to further fragment labor and subvert workers’ solidarity in asserting for a nationwide and substantial wage increase,” Escresa warned.
The labor NGO also raised concerns over the new wage system’s implications on existing collective bargaining agreements of unions.
“The two-tiered wage system will also undermine hard-earned gains of workers in their collective bargaining agreements on wage increases, as it will make wage increase highly arbitrary and dependent merely on productivity. It discredits workers’ bargaining in the determination of wage increases,” Escresa said.
EILER urges the Aquino government to drop its plan to implement more flexible system of wage setting and instead heed the workers’ clamor for a legislated nationwide wage increase.
Labor NGO Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research, sees tell-tale signs of darker days for trade unionism, following the termination of HSBC union president Raymund Aceña last March 30.
“This only goes to show that no industry is spared, no character of employee taken into consideration, and companies are ruthless in using low-handed tactics to weaken trade unions and to implement their profit-gaining schemes” EILER Executive Director Anna Leah Escresa said.
Various labor organizations have already condemned the dubious termination of the young HSBC union president, following a preventive suspension for merely using his company-designated e-mail for union communication.
Escresa emphasized that the use of company e-mail by employees for union purposes is globally recognized as a good practice, and is guaranteed under specific codes on fundamental freedoms of employees on the internet.
“The termination is obviously an attempt to remove Aceña out of the picture for the upcoming negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement and paralyze the union,” Escresa said.
Aceña, along with the executive board of the Hongkong Bank Independent Labor Union (HBILU) have been staunch criticizing the bank’s outsourcing program and campaigned against HSBC’s Project Green that outsourced 150 HSBC employees.
EILER also learned of HSBC’s machinations to depose the progressive labor union.
“The questioned termination happened on the same day as the filing for Certificate Election of management-sponsored union HSBCEA, which however suffered legal infirmities for not reaching the DOLE required minimum number of employee signatures,” Escresa disclosed.
HBILU in an interview with EILER said they recognize that a bigger outsourcing plan to be hatched this CBA period could be the real reason behind the termination.
“Outsourcing and contractualization have turned out to be cash cows for companies, they aren’t shamed to taint their reputation to have it implemented, they are ruthless and barefaced in taking out anything or anyone who lays obstacles to its implementation,” the labor NGO said.
Aceña has filed his case for illegal dismissal and unfair labor practice before the NLRC last April 19. His dismissal under contention, Aceña reserved his legal authority to remain chairman of the union CBA panel.
HSBC management however still refuses to recognize him and demands he be stripped off any representative authority to bargain for the union. Employees retaliated by launching four successful protest actions against the foreign bank.
“Trade union repression is here to stay and is only to get more elaborate, this by far shows its new face as it has reached even the supposedly professional arena of the banking industry. Outsourcing has burgeoned darker days for unionism, everyone opposed to it can fall prey. The young and competent employees of HSBC can only rely on their collective action to stop HSBC,” Escresa concluded.
The recent death of Ahbam Juhurin, a fisherman in Basilan, in an accident involving a US vessel only affirms the devastation that the continuing presence of US military brings to the lives and livelihood of ordinary Filipinos, according to labor NGO Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research, Inc. (EILER).
Juhurin was killed after a US speedboat collided to his motorized boat in the sea of Basilan, Wednesday night on Balikatan’s second day, according to reports.
“Juhurin’s death is a clear proof of how US military operations in the country are carried out at the expense of ordinary people’s lives and livelihood. We are supporting calls to put under investigation the US soldiers involved in the accident,” said EILER executive director Anna Leah Escresa.
EILER said since the start of the military exercises in 2001, not a single member of the US military has been held liable for the abuses and other criminal activities committed by US soldiers, including the rape case of “Nicole”.
“For this particular incident, who will be held accountable for the death of the local fisherman? Again, this tragedy highlights how our people are left vulnerable to violations of rights and properties under these military exercises,” said Escresa.
Escresa said the Philippine military’s claim that the US soldiers involved in the accident were not part of Balikatan only confirms the continued presence of US troops in the country whether there is Balikatan or not.
Military operations by the US will disrupt not only lives of fisherfolk but also of farmers and indigenous peoples, according to EILER. Areas for military exercises cover places where people source their livelihood.
“In 2010, US troops were also spotted in disputed land of Hacienda Luisita owned by the family of Presisdent Noynoy Aquino. Balikatan results not only to job displacement but also intimidation of the residents living near training grounds. These exercises were held in areas where there is strong resistance of peasants and farm workers against land grabbing,” she added.
The labor NGO also warned the Aquino government against using the ongoing tension over the Scarborough shoal as pretext for increased US military intervention in the country.
“While it is necessary to protect our seas from China’s incursions, seeking US support to supposedly resolve the dispute is uncalled for. The Aquino government must not let the issue get used by the US for the latter’s increased presence in the Pacific, as it would seriously undermine regional peace and security,” Escresa said.
Banking giant Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC) has terminated the president of the local union as part of the company’s desperate bid to suppress opposition to its outsourcing schemes, a labor NGO disclosed today.
Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research, Inc. (EILER) condemned HSBC’s decision to unjustly terminate last March 30 Raymund Aceña, president of the Hong Kong Bank Independent Labor Union (HBILU). Prior to the termination, Aceña was put under a 30-day preventive suspension during the “freedom period,” days before the start of negotiations for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).
Acena was sanctioned due to technicalities that were believed to have something to do with his position as union president and the company’s desperate move to kick out union members who are in the forefront in the fight against outsourcing.
“By trying to weaken the union ahead of the CBA negotiations and amid the employees’ active struggle against the outsourcing of regular functions, HSBC only confirms its desperation to get rid of those who are in the vanguard of protecting workers’ rights,” said Anna Leah Escresa, EILER’s executive director.
“This is not the first time that HSBC launched an attack against its regular employees. It should be remembered that the company pursued to outsource its 150 employees in 2009, resulting to the decrease in the number of its employees, as well as diminishing the union membership,” she added.
In the midst of the implementation of the BSP Circular No. 268 which legitimizes outsourcing in the banking and financial industry, Aceña together with HBILU stood firmly in their struggle to combat outsourcing and contractualization and in asserting for job security among their ranks. The HBILU, under the leadership of Aceña advanced their struggle on various fronts to assure that HSBC will not compromise the employee’s job security.
“This attack toward Aceña only mirrors not only the company’s but the whole banking industry’s desperate move in eliminating genuine and progressive unions who are strongly battling assault toward employees and trade unionism,” said Escresa.
The young, vibrant, and outspoken Aceña only sided with the majority of workers struggling for their basic right to unionize and their right to security of tenure.
“EILER joins Aceña and all workers in asserting their basic labor rights and in fighting against outsourcing and contractualization. Only through genuine trade unionism can workers be united and be victorious in their struggle for labor rights,” noted Escresa.
Despite current notions of female empowerment in workplaces, Filipino women workers still suffer from lower wages and lower quality jobs than their male counterparts, according to labor think-tank Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research (EILER).
EILER said that based on the Bureau of Labor and Employment Statistics’ 2011 Gender Statistics on Labor and Employment, women bear the brunt of the highly backward domestic economy as they are concentrated on volatile and informal jobs with low or no wages at all.
“For instance, there are 2.3 million Filipino women who render unpaid labor especially in the countryside, being classified as part of the ‘unpaid family workers’. This segment of female workforce is mired in rock-bottom poverty and is highly prone to exploitation and abuse,” said EILER executive director Anna Leah Escresa.
“Since they have no pre-determined scope of work, unpaid female family workers also experience long hours of strenuous work that poses serious risks to their health and reproductive well-being,” she added.
Escresa also pointed out that there are 1.63 million Filipino women working in private households, normally as helpers, who suffer measly wages and unsecure employment terms.
“On an average, females working in private households earn only P123.20 per day, or merely P3,203 a month. Such wage rate is obviously inhumane amid skyrocketing prices of oil and basic commodities,’ Escresa said.
The labor NGO said that even in the manufacturing sector, women are still in a disadvantaged position as they earn an average wage that is 7.3 percent lower than men’s wage in the sector. Female factory workers earn on an average P296.36 daily, lower than men’s daily rate of P319.75, though both wage levels are still below the highest mandated minimum wage of P426.
“Wage inequality is sharpest in the hotels and restaurants subsector, wherein women workers earn wages that are 77.80 percent lower than their male counterparts,” Escresa noted.
EILER emphasized that the Philippine Labor and Employment Plan (PLEP) 2011-2016 of the Aquino administration will not address the grim state of Filipino workers as the policy merely hinges on employment facilitation rather than creation of new and decent jobs.
“Ironically President Benigno Aquino III chose to fancy different women while ironically overlooking the current grim conditions of Filipino women workers,” Escresa said.