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Workers' strikes result of Duterte's policy failure – labor groups

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Labor groups hit back at President Rodrigo Duterte, saying that strikes are a result of the Chief Executive's failure to uplift working conditions.

In a live interview with Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo on on Tuesday, September 11, Duterte said investors were leaving the country because workers were staging strikes. 

Duterte particularly cited the Kilusang Mayo Uno: "Itong KMU, sige strike. Eh di magsara ano [ang mga negosyo]. Sino magugutom? Pilipino." (KMU keeps on holding strikes. So businesses close. Who goes hungry? The Filipinos.)

"Walang negosyante papasok. After 3 months, mag-strike kayo. Malulugi kapital niya, kaya sila nagsiawatan. Sa China, walang strike. Trabaho lang," he added.

(Businessmen won't come here [because when they do], after 3 months, you hold strikes. There will not be enough returns for their capital, that's why they are backing out. In China, they don't have strikes. They only work.)

The KMU reminded the President that the right to strike is a "universal workers' right guaranteed by international and domestic laws."

"The upsurge of workers' strikes these past months are results of Duterte's failure to end contractualization, refusal to address the rising prices of commodities by implementing a significant wage hike, and of the government's fascist attacks against trade union and human rights," KMU chairperson Bong Labog said in a statement.

In a text message to Rappler, Sentro secretary-general Josua Mata said Duterte had failed to understand the country's economic situation. (READ: [ANALYSIS] Why is Philippine inflation now the highest in ASEAN?)

"There are certainly a number of reasons why investors are leaving – the terrible state of our infrastructure, gargantuan traffic, high power rates, unpredictable policy environment, corruption – but the labor movement's advocacy for workers' rights is not one of them," Mata said.

"It’s red tape, corruption, poor and ageing infrastructure that discourages investors not labor advocates," Alan Tanjusay said, spokesperson of Associated Labor Unions-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (ALU-TUCP).

Labor groups have slammed the administration's policies, and accused Duterte of siding with businesses instead of the workers for failing to end contractualization. This year's Labor Day observance brought together 20,000 workers and various groups – the biggest protest in years.

The groups have called for a wage increase due to higher prices brought by high inflation rates.

The Global Workers' Rights Index 2018 shows the Philippines is ranked among the worst countries to work in. – Rappler.com

Stories related to Duterte's interview with Panelo:

Aika Rey

Aika Rey covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler. Before writing about politicians, she covered budget, labor, and transportation issues.

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