On Bonifacio Day, workers demand freedom from poverty

Aika Rey
On Bonifacio Day, workers demand freedom from poverty
'Hindi pa rin tayo malaya sa kontraktuwalisasyon. Hindi tayo malaya sa mababang sahod. Hindi tayo malaya sa kahirapan,' says Makabayan bloc leader Neri Colmenares

MANILA, Philippines – On the 155th birth anniversary of Philippine hero Andres Bonifacio, workers demanded genuine freedom from contractualization and poverty.

Several labor groups and unions on strike marched to Mendiola near the presidential palace on Friday, November 30. About 300 workers from Sumifru banana plantation in Compostela Valley joined the protest.

Aerrol Tan, one of the union leaders, told Rappler they traveled all the way to Manila to demand that Sumifru recognize them as regular employees, and not merely as employees of service provider North Skilled workers cooperative.

“Kaya nga kami nagwewelga kasi hindi kami kinikilalang regular ng Sumifru, dina-dummy nila ‘yung service provider. Kaya walang kasiguraduhan sa trabaho,” said Tan, who has been working with Sumifru for 16 years.

(We’re on strike because we are not recognized as regular workers by Sumifru. Their service providers are dummy firms. There is no security of tenure.)

Tan added that the extended martial law in Mindanao made it harder for them to stage a strike, as government military forces violently disperse them from their picketlines.

Workers who service condiments giant NutriAsia in Bulacan also joined the protest, in another call to boycott the company. (LOOK: Why NutriAsia workers are on strike)

Duterte’s pivot to China threatens Filipinos’ rights

Leftist leaders said that the protest on Friday was “symbolic,” but noted that Filipinos are yet to be liberated from poverty.

Makabayan bloc leader Neri Colmenares said Filipinos’ rights are also in danger, with the Duterte administration’s pivot to China. (READ: [ANALYSIS] Is Duterte selling out the Philippines to China?)

“Ang ginugunita ngayong araw ay ang kilusan ng pagkilala at pagpalaya ng mamamayan ni Andres Bonifacio. Ngayon, hindi pa rin tayo malaya eh. Hindi pa rin tayo malaya sa kontraktuwalisasyon. Hindi tayo malaya sa mababang sahod. Hindi tayo malaya sa kahirapan,” Colmenares said.

(We are commemorating today Andres Bonifacio’s movement for the recognition and liberation of the people. But we are not yet free. We’re yet to be free from contractualization. We’re yet to be free from low wages. We’re yet to be free from poverty.)

“Dagdag pa diyan, meron namang nakaamba na threat doon sa kilusan para sa ganap na kalayaan, ang Tsina,” he added. (Add to that the threat of China, that may hinder attainment of genuine freedom.)

Higher minimum wage

Earlier this year, Makabayan lawmakers filed a bill seeking a P750 national minimum wage for Filipino workers.

The bill also seeks to abolish the Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Boards that determine the minimum wage of regions based on their respective poverty thresholds, employment rates, and cost of living.

Kilusang Mayo Uno chairperson Elmer Labog told Rappler the passage of the bill would help Filipinos to live decent lives amid higher prices of goods brought on by inflation.

“‘Yung ‘Duter-Train,’ imbes na magbigay kaluwagan sa buhay ng mga manggagawa at mamamayan, ay lalo lamang dumiin sa kahirapan sa mga manggagawa lalo’t hindi sapat ang kanilang kinikita,” Labog said, referring to the Train Law or the first tax reform package of the administration.

(The “Duter-Train,” instead of easing the lives of workers and people, only buries them deeper into poverty, especially that their wages are not enough.)

With economic managers backtracking on their recommendation to suspend the fuel tax hike in 2019, Labog said this would only push poor Filipinos into poverty despite the mitigation measures by the government.

“Kami ay matinding tumututol at lumalaban sa layunin ng gobyerno na muling ibalik ‘yung excise tax next year sa produktong gasolina at petrolyo. Anumang mumong ibinigay at ibibigay pa lamang sa mangggagawa ay madali na lamang lamunin ng bagong imposisyon na ito,” he said.

(We are strongly against and fighting the government’s plant to reimpose excise taxes for gasoline and fuel products next year. Any scrap given and to be given to the workers will easily be consumed by this new imposition.)

In late October, the labor department confirmed the P25 across-the-board wage hike for minimum wage earners in Metro Manila, bringing daily pay to at least P500.

The “meager” increase has been widely slammed by labor groups. Partido Manggagawa said that the hike is “30% short” of making up for the P35.84 “erosion” in wages brought by inflation.

In September 2016, Bello said the government was considering a national minimum wage law which would adjust minimum salaries comparable to Metro Manila. (READ: Is it time for a national minimum wage?)  Rappler.com

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Aika Rey

Aika Rey is a business reporter for Rappler. She covered the Senate of the Philippines before fully diving into numbers and companies. Got tips? Find her on Twitter at @reyaika or shoot her an email at aika.rey@rappler.com.