Workers band together for a stronger labor front, Vows to fight for wages, secure jobs and other long-standing issues

As the labor movement gears up for their actions towards May 1 in celebration of the International Labor Day, a new labor center was formed with membership of at least 80,000 workers covering major industries and sectors nationwide.

Sentro ng Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO) was launched today in a press conference as they declared April 16 (Monday) as a National Day of Protest with simultaneous rallies to be held in Quezon City, Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE), Welcome Rotonda and Mendiola in the National Capital Region. Regional actions will also be conducted in Cebu, Davao, General Santos City, Cotabato City, and Cagayan de Oro City.

Coming at a time when trade unions are weakened by internecine fights, contractualization and the repressive labor environment, the formation of SENTRO is a breakthrough labor center that promises to help rejuvenate the labor movement through industry and sectoral unionism and by consciously working for broader unities.

“This is the first time that a labor center is formed covering the different industry unions from the hotel and restaurant industry, beverage, metal workers, automotive industry, broadcast media network, transport, energy, postal, banking and the public sector. It also includes national sectoral groups in the informal sector and urban poor, youth and women,” said Daniel L. Edralin, chair of the Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL).

According to group’s Declaration of Unity, neo-liberal capitalism has died many deaths around the globe but continues to exploit the workers because the labor movement is weak and fragmented.

“We bear the brunt of the failure of this neo-liberal globalization. Trying to keep itself afloat, this flawed economic system veered towards even more virulent cruelty and blatant forms of exploitation – contractual employment, decreasing real wages and increasing costs of utilities and public services as a result of privatization and deregulation,” said Frank Mero, president of the Philippine Metalworkers’ Alliance (PMA).

The industry and sectoral unions vowed to reverse the “reign of blood-sucking terror of a failed system that sustains the concentration of wealth and political power amongst the elite of big business, both foreign and local, and their political henchmen.”

SENTRO is deeply committed to work with other major labor groups in forming a broad labor unity that would equal the record of the great Crisanto Evangelista when he founded the Congreso Obrero de Filipinas together with Herminigildo Cruz in 1913 to unite the labor movement.

SENTRO’s nationally-coordinated actions on April 16 will call for the passage of Security of Tenure bill now pending in Congress to stop contractual employment, and increase in minimum wage of workers as initiated by several groups while calling for reforms in the wage fixing mechanism under the regional wage boards.

SENTRO will collectively campaign for the removal of EVAT in oil products and power rates to help bring down prices. “Removing EVAT is only the first step, ultimately we have to scrap the Oil Deregulation Law,” Ernie Cruz, president of the National Confederation of Transportworkers Unions (NCTU), said.

When the labor center marches to Mendiola on Monday, they will remind President Benigno Aquino III that it is in his power to implement practical solutions that would lower the cost of electricity: stop the indexation of the prices of natural gas to international prices of oil and pegging the prices of geothermal steam to the international prices of coal; correct the implementation of ERC’s performance-based rate (PBR) methodology so power firms will not be able to increase rates in anticipation of future expansion and other capital expenditures; and, reform the ERC and insulate it against regulatory capture.

SENTRO will lead the workers’ action in Davao city tomorrow (April 13) on the occasion of the Mindanao Power Summit to protest what they feel are “artificial power shortages”. “The proposed solution to the rolling blackouts – the selling of the Agus-Pulangui Hydro Power Plant – would only worsen the problem,” Jose Apollo Ado, president of the Workers’ Solidarity Network (WSN) said.

“After ten years, it is clear that the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) has miserably failed. EPIRA should be rescinded,” Fatima Cabanag, secretary general of Kapatiran ng Maralitang Obrero (KAMAO), added.

“These are staple workers’ issues. With the commitment of industry and sectoral unions to build up workers’ power and attack this systemic enslavement, we may have hope that the next generations, our offsprings, will not suffer a heavier, more backbreaking and dehumanizing yoke,” said Joann Desiderio, secretary general of the Philippine Independent Public Sector Employees Association (PIPSEA). “We certainly deserve a better Philippines,” she added.

SENTRO is composed of: Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL)– APL Youth –Automotive Industry Workers’ Alliance (AIWA)–Federation of Coca-Cola Unions (FCCU) — Kapatiran ng Maralitang Obrero (KAMAO)– League of Independent Bank Organizations (LIBO)– MARINO– National Alliance of Broadcast Unions (NABU)– National Confederation of Transportworkers Union (NCTU)– National Union of Workers in Hotel, Restaurant and Allied Industries (NUWHRAIN)– Philippine Independent Public Sector Employees Association (PIPSEA)– Philippine Metalworkers’ Alliance (PMA)– Pinag-isang Tinig at Lakas ng Anak-Pawis (PIGLAS)– PKI Employees Welfare Union (PEWU)– Postal Employees Union of the Philippines (PEUP)–Workers’ Solidarity Network (WSN)

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