What brought workers, students to Labor Day 2018 rally

According to Philippine Statistics Authority, around 25% of Filipino workers have “elementary occupations” or jobs that require “simple and routine tasks which may require the use of handheld tools and considerable physical effort,” like the construction and factory work of Adrales and Mercado.

They too composed the majority of the crowd in the Labor Day rally. 

Bookkeeper Rox Fernandez was just one of the few workers in the crowd who earned more than the minimum wage. But this does not mean she enjoys the benefits of a regular employee. 

Fernandez, 33, has been working for 3 years as a bookeeper at the National Anti-Poverty Commission, a government agency.

Although she enjoys better pay than most, Fernandez reiterates that there are many others in the agency who receive much less, and that this practice is prevalent in all other government agencies as well. 

“What we’re fighting for here is [the rights] of our utility workers, and drivers [in government agencies] who receive lower salaries, and are still contractual,” she said in Filipino. 

“What we’re asking for is permanent positions, and that House Bill 7415 be passed as soon as possible, which should impose that contractual workers like us be given permanent positions, for as long we have worked for 6 months or more,” she said.  

Future workers 

Others present in the rally were students who wished to express their support for the rights of Filipino workers.

Holding a banner that calls for a national minimum wage, University of the Philippines student Gabby Lucero said she felt it was important to stand in solidarity with workers on Labor Day as she too could possibly be in the same position as theirs a few years from now. 

“We want to ask for results from Duterte’s failed promise of ending contractualization,” she said. “As a student, this is one of the things I will face after I graduate. I too will be in the same working conditions,” she added in a mix of English and Filipino.

Medical student Leonel Javier, who just got off his shift at the Philippine General Hospital, joined the waiving of flags around the burning effigy of a “Devil Duterte” or “Dutertemonyo.” 

Javier said a big part of the Filipinos’ sickness come from “the sickness of our society,” which includes contractualization and low minimum wage.

He said he encounters many patients who cannot even afford to buy a syringe, what more actual medicine, because of their meager salaries. 

“Definitely [with minimum wage] they can only think about the food they will eat every day. They will not have enough to spend for when their child needs medical care or is hospitalized,” he said. 

“Today really is a large battle of just surviving. And we want a future with a more sensible way of living…. You cannot heal a person and let them suffer in the same environment that they got sick in,” Javier said. “We want a future that’s not just hopeful that this will change, but [a future in which] we use our angers and frustrations to actually overthrow the administration that causes this suffering.” – Rappler.com