A Reply to Mr. Robin Sy — on 10- year strike moratorium

22 April 2003

Letter to the Editor

We would like to thank Mr. Robin Sy, president of the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Inc. (FFCCCI), for his candor in explaining their proposals reported in several major dailies yesterday, April 21: a 10-year moratoriumon labor strikes; stretching contractual work from six months to two years; and, hiring workers at an apprentice rate which is below the minimum wage. While we certainly would not agree to his repulsive ideas, we commend him for his honesty in admitting what we have been saying all along: that employers like him are only concerned about one thing – how to milk the workers for more profits! Indeed for employers like him, greed is quite a virtue!

Coming at a time when we are about to celebrate the centennial anniversary of the International Labor Day in the country, the proposal of Mr. Sy and his organization is a clear reminder to all of us how some employers, if not most, can be very insulting.

But perhaps they are just ignorant of our past. So allow us to remind Mr. Sy and other employers like him of the near-slave conditions of the working people that the labor movement has fought against for more than a hundred years. Hazardous working conditions; work shifts that could last more for than 12 hours; wages that are barely enough to keep the workers alive for a day; no minimum labor standards whatsoever; and, absolutely no trade union rights! All these conditions were drastically changed because of the labor movement’s determined struggle to advance workers’ and trade union rights through collectively bargaining and, when necessary, as it was in most cases, to wage concerted actions, including strikes.

How else do you think workers managed to get a better deal, by waiting for employers like Mr. Sy to have a sudden attack of “generosity”? Do you think Mr. Sy and his kind would open their books of account (it is anybody’s guess just how many they keep) to their workers and disclose just how much their companies are raking in profits? Of course not! Everything that the working people now enjoy was paid for by unionists. In most cases, they do so by putting their jobs on the line, sometimes even their very own lives! Thus while strike is generally a response to oppressive conditions, workers take strike action only as their weapon of last recourse. And judging by how much the labor movement has uplifted workers’ lives throughout these years, one can easily say that the right to strike, or even the threat of a strike, was instrumental in changing the conditions of the working people.

It is not surprising for us that Mr. Sy and his organization would complain against strikes. After all, what employers like him hoard as profits are nothing but wages and benefits that should have been enjoyed by their workers.

What is surprising though, is that Mr. Sy and his organization even had the temerity to claim that should government heed their proposals, the country would stand to gain 3 million jobs in the next two years. It uncannily sounds like the same promises made by Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, years ago when she, as a senator, was selling the benefits of joining GATT-WTO. We all know what happened to her promises – nothing!

And just exactly what kind of jobs are they promising? Contractual labor stretched to two years with workers being paid below minimum wage! In other words, they no longer want to exploit workers for three to six months, as most employers currently do. This time they want to do so for two years!

But let us not be too harsh in judging Mr. Sy and his kind. After all, they are just living up to what capitalism is really all about – greed!

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