Today, on the occasion of the 106th celebration of International Labor Day in the country, tens of thousands of workers belonging to the Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL) will pour in the streets of Manila, Lipa, Cebu, Davao, Cagayan de Oro, Cotabato and General Santos to join hands with other labor organizations in unveiling the labor movement’s response to the global financial crisis.
For more than a hundred years, the labor movement has steadfastly marched towards the full emancipation of the working class. In the process, it has defended and advanced all the rights and freedoms that every worker now enjoys.
“The labor movement has brought us the weekend, the 8-hour work, social security system, basic trade union rights and many other rights. But these historic gains are now being undermined,” Daniel L. Edralin, APL Chairperson, said.
Workers’ Rights Under Siege
“The Arroyo regime is the most dangerous government for the working class since the fall of the Marcos dictatorship,” Edralin said. “It has consistently undermined our rights,” he added.
The Arroyo regime frustrated the labor movement’s recent efforts to strengthen workers’ constitutional right to organize through RA 9481 by issuing rules that negated the spirit of the law. It has constantly prevented workers from exercising their right to strike through the issuance of assumption of jurisdiction.
By packing the Supreme Court with its stooges, the Arroyo regime was also able to severely weaken workers’ constitutional right to freedom of expression. Through the so-called “Velasco Decision”, the SC is now telling workers that any concerted actions such as wearing of black arm bands, prayer rallies, and other forms of dramatic expression of collective actions, can be considered as a strike even if there is no work stoppage.
Worst, the Arroyo regime also unleashed a vicious campaign of trade union repression, once again making the Philippines one of the most dangerous countries for trade unionists.
“Repression plays an economic role,” Edralin said. “The hated regime is using repression not only to keep itself in power, but also to maintain the cheap labor policy,” he added.
Using the global financial crisis as a pretext, the employers are now embarking on a campaign to dismantle the few remaining safeguards for job security the labor movement has fought for all these years. “The ECOP’s call for further deregulation of labor policies, including the relaxing of rules regarding separation pay for workers, and their demand for wage freeze is not the solution,” Edralin noted.
Jobs Generation, Not Jobs Fair
“What we are seeing is not just the failure of the neoliberal paradigm but a systemic crisis – a crisis of capitalism. As such, government’s business-as-usual attitude to the global financial crisis will not get us anywhere,” said Edralin.
Rather than generate jobs, the Arroyo regime has opted to use the illusion of creating jobs through jobs fairs. Applicants in DOLE’s jobs fairs will find out that they are being recruited as replacement workers as most of the contracts of employment available will be for 4 to 5 months only, without security of tenure.
In the face of the worsening crisis, it is imperative that we put in place a social stimulus package that would jumpstart the domestic economy and generate jobs.
The Workers’ Platform
The APL, together with other labor organizations, have crafted a “Workers’ Platform” that calls for social pump priming such as massive government spending on socialized housing, quality education and effective health services for everyone. The Platform also calls for investments on infrastructure that would spur development in the rural areas.
The “Workers’ Platform” aims to achieve full employment through cohesive policy alternatives in the following areas: monetary, fiscal, trade and industrial policies.
It believes that agrarian reform must be thoroughly pursued and completed in the soonest possible time to redistribute wealth that would spur domestic demand, develop the rural areas and dismantle the oligarchy.
“In the long run, what is needed is systemic change – socialism,” Edralin asserted.