Archive for the ‘labor’ Category

Teachers say GSIS deductions illegal

March 8, 2009

BAGUIO CITY — The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) criticized the Government Social Insurance System’s (GSIS) automatic deductions from the salaries of those members with arrears on their benefits upon claiming.

ACT National Chairperson Antonio Tinio said the move is so unilateral, summary and not subject to appeal.

In a forum organized by ACT-Metro Baguio held at the People’s Multi-Purpose Hall in city hall, Tinio lambasted the GSIS for being unfair to its members for implementing such policies without looking first into the welfare of its members.

Under the Claims and Loans Interdependecy Policy (CLIP) which was introduced in mid-2002 by GSIS President and General Manager Winston Garcia, automatic deduction and posting of the deducted amounts as payments of outstanding loan arrearages with the system will be allowed. The CLIP is said to cover loan Accounts such as salary Loan , housing loans, emergency loans, pension loans and policy Loans. It will also include claims and benefits, life insurance benefits, such as maturity, cash surrender value, disability and death, retirement benefits, survivorship and funeral benefits.

Tinio said GSIS should first establish members who really have outstanding arrearages and who are the responsible because it is not automatically the member’s fault.

“Tama lang na singilin ang mga nakautang pero dapat idaan muna sa due process bago gumawa ng hakbang na makakaapekto sa kalakhan ng miyembro,” Tinio added. He also said if they found out that a member is really liable then they should file a case against that particular member.

Tinio, an instructor in the Filipino department in University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City cited Section 41(w) of the GSIS Act of 1997 which stipulates that the GSIS board of trustees must file a legal suit before the proper court or body in order to recover any arrears incurred by its members.

“This process provides members with an opportunity to challenge or disprove the claims of GSIS,” he said.

Tinio said there are cases that the premiums of public teachers are being deducted by the Department of Education (DepEd) from salaries but are not posted in the GSIS books.

Tinio accused GSIS, for being notorious in maintaining an incomplete and erroneous membership database. “While GSIS itself acknowledges that it is currently engaged in a massive ‘reposting’ project to bring these up to date, this does not keep it from using this flawed database to deduct alleged arrears” he explained.

He further explained in most cases these so-called premiums in arrears are false, merely the result of the failure to post premium payments, thus making members to be subjected to double deductions.

The forum is a part of the nationwide coordinated activities of ACT in its campaign against illegal deductions. Forms were given to teachers to help document their experience from the deductions.

Tinio said the nationwide ACT campaign against illegal deductions entitled “GSIS refund now!” will involve the suing GSIS officials responsible for the policy and filing a motion to nullify the automatic deduction policy and a demand for a refund of all allegedly illegal deductions GSIS made. # Aldwin G. Quitasol

Japan ignores appeal, sets to deport Filipino family

February 14, 2009

TOKYO: Japan on Friday ordered the parents of a 13-year-old Filipina to prepare to leave within two weeks, giving them a choice to leave their daughter behind or face deportation.

In a case closely followed by human rights activists, Noriko Calderon—who was born in Japan in 1995—has publicly appealed to authorities to let her family stay together.

Her parents entered Japan in the early 1990s with illegal passports and stayed in the country undetected until two years ago when her mother was arrested but later released.

Noriko has grown up speaking only Japanese and attending local schools. Japan, which imposes tight controls on immigration, is likely to allow her to stay to complete her studies.

“I have decided not to grant a special residential permit to the entire family,” Justice Minister Eisuke Mori, who oversees immigration, told reporters.

Friday was the deadline for the family’s temporary residential status.

Shogo Watanabe, a leading human rights lawyer handling the case, said the immigration bureau told the parents to decide by February 27 on the date to fly to the Philippines.

“We accept neither the deportation of the whole family nor sending back only the parents,” said Watanabe, who warned that the immigration authority could detain Noriko’s 36-year-old father if he refused to leave.

Out of options

The parents have refused to leave without their daughter but ran out of legal options when the Supreme Court in September last year rejected their appeal to stay in Japan.

“She is 13 years old,” the father, Arlan Cruz, Calderon told reporters. “She cannot survive or protect herself alone.”

Lawyer Watanabe said he would keep negotiating with the immigration authority to let the family stay at least until the girl graduates from middle or high school.

About 500 families were in the same situation as the Calderons, according to Watanabe, who has accused Japan of not respecting the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Japan, with a falling birth rate and shrinking population, is considering allowing more foreign workers but has long rejected wide-scale immigration.
–AFP

200,000 Pinoys face layoffs But government looking to hire 60,500 in 2009

February 14, 2009

The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) on Friday predicted that between 40,000 and 200,000 Filipinos would be laid off from work this year because of the global economic crisis.

“That’s the range for the whole year, a big range. Definitely, it will raise the unemployment rate,” said Dennis Arroyo, the chief of the authority’s national planning and policy staff. He pointed out, though, that the unemployment rate would not reach 10 percent.

No massive job losses face those working in the government, however.

On the contrary, Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya Jr., said also on Friday, the government would hire a total of 60,500 state workers this year.

Arroyo said the expected adverse impact of the job losses in the private sector is already being addressed by the Department of Labor Employment by shifting overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) from host countries with weak demand to those with a strong one.

“The Middle East countries are responding to the crisis by pump-priming and spending on infrastructure projects,” he added. “That would [offset] OFW unemployment in construction. There are also new markets in Guam, New Zealand and Australia.”

Arroyo said he is optimistic that the 2009 gross domestic product (GDP) would not fall below the low-end target of 3.7 percent for 2009. GDP is the total value of goods and services produced in a country in a year.

Last year, the economy grew 4.6 percent from the previous year’s 7.2 percent.

“The crisis began in September and hit hard in October, November and December. Hence, the fourth quarter of 2008 was already in the crisis era. Yet, the economy still grew by 4.5 percent,” Arroyo said.

He added that the 2009 GDP target range of 3.7 percent to 4.7 percent assumed merchandise export growth of 1 percent to 3 percent. Arroyo said that in the fourth quarter of last year, export growth was at negative 9.2 percent.

“One would have expected the economy to post growth lower than 3.7 percent. But what happened was that manufacturing for the domestic market compensated for the drop in exports,” he added. Manufacturing growth accelerated to 3.2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2008, compared with 2.6 percent in the fourth quarter of 2007. It was buoyed by food manufacturing, beverage, chemicals and chemical products.

Winners and losers

Arroyo said that he expects fertilizer and fuel prices to go down, a possibility that would boost agriculture, forestry and fisheries, in particular.

Mining projects would be delayed because of “hesitance to invest” under the global crisis.

Manufacturing, according to Arroyo, would be dragged by exports but eventually would shift to the domestic economy. There also would be a big public-construction push, positive response from private construction, power-sector reforms and expansion of water-service areas.

The services sector, Arroyo said, would see lower fuel prices in 2009 than in 2008 that would spur the transport, communication and storage subsector.

“Lower inflation will boost retail trade but there will be an overhang of weaker consumer confidence because of the crisis,” he added. For the finance subsector, banks would be healthy but the stock market and insurance industry would still be weak.

Funds for mass hiring

In assuring job stability in the government sector, Budget Secretary Andaya pointed to “mass hiring” there and funds “for that purpose have already been earmarked in the 2009 national budget.”

“While the economic crunch had resulted in mass layoffs in the private sector, it is not true in the public sphere,” he said.

Andaya made the assurance in reaction to concerns aired by Courage, a public-sector union, that the rationalization plan of the government would displace a significant number of government workers.

Countering Courage, Andaya cited the budget of the Department of Education that alone allows for the hiring of 10,000 teachers and another 2,000 non-teaching personnel this year.

“This [recruitment] will bring the number of teaching and non-teaching personnel of the department to 506,000,” he said.

Andaya added that funds have been earmarked too for the hiring of 500 jail guards for the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology and the Bureau of Corrections.

Jobs in demand

Also, around 3,000 policemen will also be recruited this year to strengthen the Philippine National Police under the Department of the Interior and Local Government.

Andaya said that under the recently announced Nurses Assigned in Rural Areas (NARS) program, 5,000 nurses would be employed to serve in far-flung villages.

He added that around P2 billion in the 2009 budget has been allocated for the government reforestration program, which authorizes the hiring of 40,000 workers for the program and energy projects as well.

Besides the money given to the Education department, Andaya said that state colleges and universities had been authorized to hire additional academic personnel under their respective charters.

“All of these [jobs] are aimed at cushioning the effect of the global economic crunch on the private sector, which had no choice but to cut down the number of employees because of the financial slowdown,” he added.

The Budget secretary said that these government vacancies had been allocated funds. Earlier, Malacañang said it plans to order government agencies to set aside 1.5 percent of their maintenance and operating expenses, estimated to be at P7 billion, for the hiring of 180,000 casual employees for six months.

Andaya clarified that a plan to abolish redundant positions in the government had been advanced not only because of the cost of maintaining such but to improve service delivery by cutting red tape through systems and reorganization.

State employees affected by the rationalization will not include professionals, such as policemen, teachers, doctors, midwives and firemen, he said.

The implementation of the plan will be democratic, consultative and non-coercive, all part of creating a “smarter government,” Andaya added.
–Darwin G. Amojelar And Angelo S. Samonte(ManilaTimes)

10,000 nursing jobs in RP—labor chief

February 11, 2009

By Izah Morales

INQUIRER.net

MANILA, Philippines – There are 10,000 job openings available for nurses here, Labor Secretary Marianito Roque announced Wednesday.

But Roque said most of these employment opportunities were in the provinces so that those who lived there need not go to Manila to apply.

Roque said the nurses would get P8,000 a month in these community hospitals. ”This will be good for those who want experience.

And then they can apply overseas,” Roque said.

Workers picket DOLE, SSS P12-B fund release, lay offs protested

February 11, 2009

By Marjorie Gorospe
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 12:21:00 02/11/2009

Filed Under: Protest

MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATE) Some 100 workers from the provinces of Cavite and Laguna picketed the Department of Labor and Employment Wednesday against the massive lay-offs, which employers have blamed on the global financial crisis.

Earlier in the day, a smaller number of protesters went to the Social Security System office in Quezon City to protest the decision of its president Romulo Neri to release P12.5 billion of SSS funds as aid to the government to ease the impact of the economic crunch.

Hermy Marasigan, spokesman of the Pagkakaisa ng Manggagawa sa Timog Katagalugan (United Workers of Southern Tagalog, Pamatnig-KMU), said that multinational companies in the region have been using the “financial crisis” as an excuse to fire their employees without due process.

Marasigan said there would be upcoming movements from the workers of Southern Tagalog against the unjust lay offs by these companies and the continuous corruption in government.

“This is a loss of job security for workers in the region,” Marasigan said in Filipino during the protest in DOLE.

Meanwhile, Joel Palacios, SSS spokesman, said that the protesters’ accusation was “speculative” since the release of the P12.5 billion has not yet been approved.

Palacio said certain criteria have to be met before the money could be released and used as potential investment.

“It is our duty to protect that [money] and make it grow,” Palacio added.

12,500 laid off at PEZA zones

February 11, 2009

By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 18:34:00 02/11/2009

Filed Under: Unemployment, World Financial Crisis

MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATE) Some 12,500 workers have been laid off at Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) zones since October, PEZA Director General Lilia de Lima said.

Some companies at the zones have shortened workweeks from seven days to six and workdays from three eight-hour shifts to two, De Lima said.

“They’re adapting shorter work hours so that they can hold on to their people, because it is difficult and costly to train” new personnel, she said.

On the other hand, the PEZA has approved applications of 560 companies to set up factories in PEZA zones, De Lima said.

“They’re now starting to create. They’re also starting to hire,” she said. “I want also to emphasize that some companies are also expanding: medical instrumentation, disposable syringes.”

Employment at PEZA zones was up 2.54 percent last year said.

Regarding US-based chipmaker Intel Corp., which announced last month that it would close down its Philippine plant and lay off the last thousand or so of its workers, De Lima said an Intel sister company, Numonyx, had hired 600 former Intel employees and would hire 400 more.(PDI)

P250-M pondo para OFW dapat isiwalat

February 5, 2009

Soliman A. Santos

Hiniling ng Migrante-Middle East sa gobyernong Arroyo na isiwalat kung sino ang makikinabang sa P250-M Expatriate Livelihood Support Fund na nagmula sa pondo ng OWWA (Overseas Workers Welfare Administration).

“Nais naming linawin sa administrasyong Arroyo kung sino ang makikinabang sa pondong ito, para makasiguro na ang pera ay mapupunta sa dapat nitong puntahan at hindi sa bulsa ng kurakot na mga opisyal,” ayon kay John Leonard Monterona, tagapag-ugnay ng Migrante-ME.

Ipinaliwanag pa ni Monterona na ang mga OFW ang tunay na may-ari ng pondo ng OWWA na kompulsrayong nagbabayad ng US$25 na membership fee. “Kaya karapatan ng mga OFW na malaman kung saan gagastusin ang pondong ito,” sabi niya.

Matatandaang pinirmahan ni Pangulong Arroyo ang Administrative Order No. 248 noong Disyembre 4, 2008 para bigyan ng kabuhayan ang umuwing mga OFW dahil sa pandaigdigang krisis pampinansya.

Ayon sa Migrante International, ilang OFW na pinauwi mula Taiwan ang inimbitahan ng Malakanyang noong nakaraang Disyembre at binigyan ng tseke. Gayunman, agad umano itong binawi matapos silang makuhanan ng litrato kasama ni Pangulong Arroyo.

Ani Monterona, niloko lamang ng gobyerno ang mga OFW para sa publisidad. Dagdag insulto rin umano ito sa nararamdaman ng napauwing mga OFW.

Nagbabala pa si Monterona na babantayan nila, kasama ng kanilang mga tsapter sa buong mundo ang pondo ng OWWA na gagastusin ng gobyernong Arroyo.

“Sa pagkakataong ito, gusto naming makasiguro na ang P250 milyong ito ay hindi mapupunta sa mga kurakot na opisyal ng administrasyong Arroyo,” ani Monterona.(PinoyWeekly)

Husgahan Natin: Pagbabago ng modelo bilang solusyon sa krisis

February 4, 2009

Atty. Remigio D. Saladero Jr.

NALATHALA sa mga peryodiko kailan lamang ang panukala na ginawa ni Senador Chiz Escudero ng oposisyon kay Pang. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo kung paano dapat harapin ang napipintong economic recession na inaasahang makakaapekto sa milyun-milyong Pilipino na nagtatrabaho sa ibang bansa.

Isa sa mga paraan umano na inihayag ni Sen. Escudero ay ang pagpalakas sa lokal na merkado at posibleng pagtigil sa eksportasyon ng ating financial resources. Binanggit ng senador na panahon na siguro para ang mga government financial institutions tulad ng Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) at Social Security System (SSS) ang gumastos ng kanilang pera para sa lokal na mga proyekto o investments at hindi para sa mga foreign financial investments. Nang sa ganoon, sabi ng senador, makakatulong ang perang galing dito para makapagtayo ng lokal na negosyo na tiyak na magbibigay ng dagdag na trabaho sa ating mga mamamayan, hindi tulad ng global o foreign investments na nagbabagsakan na dahil sa global economic meltdown. Dapat ding samahan ito, ayon kay Sen. Escudero, ng pagsulong sa patakarang “Buy Filipino” upang mapalakas ang lokal na ekonomiya. Sa ganitong paraan, makakapagbigay tayo ng maraming trabaho, makakaimpok ng dolyar, maiiwasan ang pagsara ng mga pabrika at makakaiwas din sa smuggling.

Sang-ayon kami dito sa panukala ni Sen. Escudero. Kung tutuusin, matagal na itong panukala ng ating makabayang mga mambabatas (Bayan Muna, Anakpawis at Gabriela) at makabayang mga ekonomista tulad ni Alejandro Lichauco at Hilarion Henares. Pero hindi ito pinapaniwalaan ng rehimeng Arroyo. Bagkus, pinaparatangan pang komunista at kaaway ng gobyerno ang mga lider-masa na aktibong nakikipaglaban para sa panukalang ito. Pero kung ating pag-aaralang mabuti at balikan ang ating kasaysayan, makikita natin na ang ugat ng ating paghihirap ay ang “export-oriented, outward-looking development policy” ng ating pamahalaan na lalong kilala ngayon sa pangalang globalisasyon.

Magsimula tayo sa panahon ng mga Kastila. Bilang mga kolonyalista, pinagsamantalahan ng mga Kastila ang ating likas na kayamanan at walang intensiyong magtayo ng lokal na industriya para sa ating kapakanan. Ito ay nagsadlak sa atin sa matinding kahirapan.

Nang dumating ang mga Amerikano, pormal nilang isinailalim ang Pilipinas sa patakarang “free trade” sa pamamagitan ng Payne-Aldrich Act na nagkabisa noong 1909. Makakabuti raw sa Pilipinas ang malayang pamilihan. Ayon kay Claro M. Recto, nakabuti ito sa Estados Unidos ngunit hindi sa Pilipinas. Bagamat maaari tayong mag-eksport sa US, walang laban ang ating mga produkto sa produkto nila kaya walang bumibili ng ating eskport. Pagdating naman sa import, wala pa ring laban ang ating lokal na produkto sa produktong ini-eksport ng US kaya nawalan ng gana ang mga Pilipinong negosyante na magtayo ng negosyo o paunlarin ang lokal na industriya dahil puro produktong US ang binibili ng mga tao. Dahil dito, nanatili tayong isang underdeveloped country na nakasandal sa US.

Pagkatapos tayo mabigyan ng US ng huwad na kalayaan noong 1946, ang sistemang free trade ay nagpatuloy sa pamamagitan ng Bell Trade Act na nagbigay ng parity rights sa mga Amerikano. Noong 1962, tinanggal ng Pilipinas ang exchange control na ang ibig sabihin ay higit na kalayaan sa mga dayuhang korporasyon sa kanilang pagninegosyo sa ating bansa. Dito na pati nagsimulang lumaki ang ating pagkakautang sa International Monetary Funds at World Bank na ang hinihinging kondisyon sa pagpapautang ay ibayong pagbubukas ng ating ekonomiya sa dayuhang negosyante. Nitong 1990s naman nauso ang salitang globalisasyon bunga sa pagsali natin sa World Trade Organization kung saan export-oriented o outward-looking pa rin ang tinuturo sa preskripsiyon para sa pag-unlad.

Ngunit umunlad ba tayo sa preskripsiyong ito? Gumanda ba ang ating ekonomiya dahil sa “export-oriented, outward-looking development model” na ito? Hindi, mga kasama. Lalo tayong nabaun sa kahirapan at isa sa pinakakulelat na bansa sa Asya ngayon.

Panahon na para ibahin natin ang ating paraan para sa pag-unlad. Panahon na para maging inward-looking naman tayo sa ating mga patakaran. Panahon na para ibasura ang globalisasyon at bigyan ng proteksiyon ang naghihingalo na industriyang Pilipino sa ating bansa. Kung malakas at puwede nang makipagkumpetensiya sa dayuhang mga produkto ang ating lokal na produkto, maaari na tayong maging “outward looking.” Ngunit hanggang mahina pa tayo, dapat munang bigyan ng proteksiyon ng pamahalaan ang sariling atin.

Tala ng tanggalan

February 4, 2009

Jeffrey Ocampo

Manggagawang Pilipino (KR Guda / PW File Photo)


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Manggagawang Pilipino (KR Guda / PW File Photo)

LUBHANG nakababahala ang tantos ng malawakang tanggalan. Ulo ito ng balita sa telebisyon, radyo at mga pahayagan sa kasalukuyan. Mismong ang datos ng pamahalaan ang nagpapatunay sa tindi ng suliraning ito. Lubhang apektado nito ang mga manggagawa sa Calabarzon, Gitnang Luzon, Cebu at iba pang lugar sa bansa. Narito ang ilang tala ng tanggalan na kasalukuyang pinapasan ng obrerong Pilipino:

● Kompanyang Amerikano na nakabase sa California, ang Intel Corporation ay lumilikha ng mga semiconductor. Ang chip testing plant nito sa Cavite ay magtatanggal ng 1,800 na mga manggagawa. Pahayag ng pamunuan nito, “wala talagang demand [sa produkto].” Ang Texas Instruments naman sa Baguio Economic Zone Authority, isa sa pinakamalaking semiconductor manufacturer sa buong mundo, ay nagtangal ng 392 na manggagawa noong Disyembre. Mayroon pa itong “second wave” ngayong taon.

● Sa Fujitsu Ten sa Canlubang Laguna, 1,750 sa 5,000 na regular na mangagawa nito ay inaalok ng voluntary resignation. Ayon sa ulat ng mga manggagawa sa Pamantik, kung hindi bibigay ang mga manggagawa sa alok, magbabawas ang kompanya sa pamamagitan ng “performance evaluation.”

● Sa Zirtex, isang electronics company sa LTI, pinasakay umano ang humigit-kumulang na 200 kababaihang manggagawa sa shuttle ng kompanya at pinauwi dahil wala na raw silang trabaho. Ito ay ayon sa salaysay ng mga sinisante. Isa pang kompanya sa LTI na nagtanggal ng 800 na manggagawa noong Enero ang Hoya Glassdisk Philippines.

● Masaklap naman ang sinapit ng mga manggagawa ng Daiho Philippines na matapos makapagtayo ng unyon ay nagsumite ng papeles ang kumpanya hinggil na napipinto umano nitong pagsasara. Ayon sa Pamantik, magpapatupad ito ng limang araw lamang ng paggawa.

● Sa Sanyo Plastic Philippines, natanggal ang 32 na kontraktual na mga manggagawa ng wala man lamang notice.

● Ang Ebbara Benguet, isang steel fabrication company sa LTI, ay magbabawas ng oras ng paggawa. Nagdedeklara din umano ito ng “no work days” sa mga departamento nito. Nagkakaroon din umano ng rotation ng mga manggagawa.

● Ayon din sa ulat ni Sen. Villar, ang Woo Su at Phils Star sa Cavite EPZ ay nagsara na ang pagawaan noong Oktubre ng nakaraang taon dahil sa “insufficient orders” mula sa mga kliyente nito.

● Marami ring car and automotive parts manufacturing companies ang nagtanggal ng mga manggagawa. Liban sa Toyota Motors Philippines na nagpatupad ng “Monday-no-production day” noong Enero, nagbawas din ng mga manggagawa at oras ng paggawa ang Nissan, Keihin, Isuzu at Ford.

Pinabulaanan naman ng Ford ang naiulat na pagmamantina na lamang ng 18 manggagawa sa dating 400 na bilang.

● Ilang kumpanya rin sa Gitnang Luzon ang nagtanggal ng daang mga manggagawa nito. Sa Clark Freeport sa Pampangga, mayroong 629 na natanggal habang sa Subic Bay Free Port sa Zambalez, 1, 644 ang natanggal. Maging ang Luisita Industrial Park sa Tarlac ay nagtanggal ng 1,992 na mga manggagawa.

Marami pang ibang kompanya sa Gitnang Luzon ang nagtanggal ng mga manggagawa. Sa kabuuan, mayroon 18 kompanya sa rehiyon ang nagtanggal ng trabaho, ayon sa DOLE.
● Sa mga ulat, lumalabas na sa bilang na 18,000 na mga manggagawa na natanggal sa trabaho, mahigit 2,000 nito ay nanggaling sa mga pagawaan sa Cebu. Kabilang dito ang supplier ng automotive parts na Lear Automotive. Ang iba pang kompanyang nagtanggal ng mga manggagawa ay ang Maitland Smith Cebu Incorporated at Taiyo Yuden.  Sa pagitan naman ng kalagitnaan ng 2007 hanggang Disyembre 2008, natanggal ang 11,000 manggagawa sa kilalang industriya sa Cebu, ang furniture industry. Maging ang pagawaan ng Timex, sikat na brand ng relo, ay napabalita ding nagtanggal ng mga empleyado.

● Ang tinuturing na “sunshine industry” ng business process outsourcing (BPO) ay napapabalitang nagtatanggal na rin ng mga empleyado. Ang Accenture, ayon sa ulat ni Senador Manny Villar ay magpapatupad ng “redundancy program” na makakaapekto sa 500 empleyado. Ang Advanced Contact Solutions naman, ayon sa Eiler, ay ang naiulat na nagtanggal 900 na empleyado matapos mawalan ng mayor na Amerikanong kliyente. Ayon sa mga eksperto, aabot sa 90,000 na mga empleyado ng industriya ng BPO ang matatanggal sa trabaho kung magpapatuloy ang kasalukuyang sitwasyon.

● Ang Toledo Mining Corporation ay nagtanggal ng 600 na empleyado at contractors dahil umano sa mababang demand at presyo ng nikel sa pandaigdigang merkado.

●  Maging ang ahesiya ng pamahalaan, ang National Food Authority, ay nagtanggal din ng mga kawani nito. Bahagi ng “rationalization program” ng ahensiya, nagtanggal ito ng 1,242 na mga kawani na may “redundant position.” Nagtanggal naman ang Intramuros Administration ng 44 na mga empleyado.

● Bago umugong ang usapin ng tanggalan sa loob ng bansa, nauna nang napabalita ang tanggalan ng mga manggagawa sa mga pabrika sa Taiwan. Noong Disyembre, umabot ng 3,000 ang OFW sa bansang ito ang pinauwi sa Pilipinas. Samantala, ang bilang na ito ay aabot sa 6,000 sa Hunyo, ayon sa DOLE.(PinoyWeekly)

Kalbaryo ng obrero sa Calabarzon at iba pang tala ng tanggalan

February 4, 2009

Jeffrey Ocampo

"Timaura," Antipas Delotavo, 1991

Manggagawang Pilipino: lalong nasasadlak sa kahirapan
dahil sa dependensiya ng ekonomiya ng bansa sa ekonomiya
ng US (“Timaura,” likhang sining ni Antipas Delotavo, 1991)

UMAGA ng Enero 5, inatasang mag-ulat ang manggagawang si Miriam Loyola, 25, sa human resources department ng Gemphil Technologies, isang semiconductor company sa Laguna Technopark Incorporated (LTI) sa Biñan.

Ito na ang ikatlong pagawaan na kanyang pinasukan. Matapos ang kanyang tig-limang buwan na kontrata sa SPI Corporation at Unilane Electronics, pumasok siya sa Gemphil noong Enero 2007. Sa loob ng dalawang taon, hindi naging regular si Miriam bagamat aniya, nitong nakaraan ay pinangakuan siya ng manedsment na gagawin siyang regular. Disyembre ng nakaraang taon, maraming manggagawa ng GemPhil ang pinapirma ng clearance at pinakuha ng kanilang huling sahod at 13th month pay. Kaya nangamba si Miriam sa maaaring dahilan kung bakit siya pinag-ulat.

Pagdating sa pabrika, sinabi sa kanya ng assembly line leader ng kanilang departamento na siya ay kasama sa sinisante na mga manggagawa.

Kuwento ni Miriam, napaluha na lamang siya sa binalita sa kanya.

Isa lamang si Miriam sa libu-libong manggagawa na natanggal sa trabaho mula noong huling kuwarto ng 2008 hanggang sa kasalukuyan. Ayon sa kalihim ng Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) na si Marianito Roque, bunsod ito ng tumintinding resesyon sa Estados Unidos at iba pang mga bansa. Aniya, kung magpapatuloy ang ganitong kalagayan, aabot sa 200,000 ang mawawalan ng hanapbuhay sa loob lamang ng unang hati ng taon.

Nakababahalang daan-daang katao ang natatanggal sa trabaho kada araw habang walang tiyak na patutunguhan ang mga ito. Maging ang pamahalaan ay wala pang malinaw at kongkretong hakbang upang sila’y tulungan. Sa ganitong kalagayan, ang kabuuang 2.7 milyong Pilipino na walang hanapbuhay sa bansa noong 2008 ayon sa Bureau of Labor and Employment Statistics (BLES) ay madadagdagan pa ng signipikanteng bilang.

Malawakang tanggalan sa Calabarzon

Sa kasalukuyan, mayroon nang 18,641 na tuluyan nang natanggal sa trabaho ayon sa DOLE. Samantala, umabot naman sa 33,568 na manggagawa ang binawasan ng oras at araw ng paggawa bilang iskema ng iba’t ibang kompanya sa “pagtitipid ng gastos sa  operasyon.”

Sa lahat halos ng rehiyon sa bansa nagaganap ang malawakang tanggalan ng mga manggagawa. Sa mga ulat, ang mga rehiyon ng Gitnang Luzon at Timog Katagalugan ang may pinakamalalaking kaso ng tanggalan. Samantala, marami ring natanggal at matatanggal pa sa trabaho sa Baguio, Cebu, at Davao.

Malaking bahagdan ng  bilang nito ay nanggaling sa export processing zones (EPZs) ng Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batanggas, Rizal at Quezon). Nasa industrial belt na ito ang mga planta at pagawaan ng iba’t ibang industriya partikular ang garments, semiconductor at electronics. Marami ring car at automotive manufacturing na kompanya sa rehiyong ito, laluna sa Laguna. Paliwanag ng manedsment ng mga kompanya, bumaba ang pandaigdigang demand sa kanilang produkto kaya kailangang babaan din ang production volume.

Ito umano ang lohika kung bakit kailangan ding magbawas ng mga manggagawa.

Ayon sa Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research (Eiler), natural na tatamaan ang mga EPZ  dahil sa “inaasahang pagbaba ng pandaigdigang konsumo” sa mga produkto na linilikha sa mga ito. At dahil export-oriented umano ang bansa, apektado nito ang buong daloy ng lokal na ekonomiya.

Paliwanag naman ni Emilia Dapulang, presidente ng unyon sa NXP Semiconductors Incorporated, bihira ang nakakapagbuo ng unyon sa mga EPZ kaya mas madali para sa mga kompanya na magpatupad ng tanggalan at iba pang polisiya na tatama sa karapatan ng mga manggagawa.

Sa taya ng Pinagkaisang Lakas ng Manggagawa sa Timog Katagalugan-Kilusang Mayo Uno (Pamantik-KMU), aabot ng 40,000 ang matatanggal sa trabaho sa mga EPZ at iba pang pagawaan sa Calabarzon sa loob lamang ng anim na buwan.

Nagpahayag na ang Intel Corporation, isang chip testing plant sa Trece Martirez, Cavite, noong kalagitnaan ng Enero na sila ay magsasara na ng pabrika. Ayon sa kanilang pahayag, “wala talagang demand [sa produkto].” Kaugnay ng napipintong pagsasara, mayroon umanong ipagkakaloob na severance package sa 1,800 na manggagawang mawawalan ng hanapbuhay.

Ayon sa mga pag-aaral, ang pagsasara ng Intel ay siyang hudyat ng tuluy-tuloy pang pagsuong ng bansa sa pandaigdigang krisis pampinansiya. Dagdag ng Eiler, ang ordinaryong mga manggagawa – sa porma ng sahod at kalagayan sa paggawa – ang  bubuno sa pinakamalulupit na hagupit ng krisis na  ito.

Kaugnay nito, sunud-sunod na ang mga kaso ng tanggalan ng mga manggagawa sa Calabarzon ang naganap. Ayon sa ulat ng mga manggagawa sa Pamantik, tinanggal sa Amkor Technology Incorporated, isang electronics company sa LTI, ang 3,000 na kontraktuwal na mga manggagawa nito noon pang Setyembre. Sunod nitong sisisante ang 2,000 na regular na mga manggagawa.

Samantala, umabot din ng 3,000 ang tinanggal na kontraktual na mga manggagawa sa Integrated Microelectronics Incorporated (IMI) sa LTI. Sa EDS Manufacturing Incorporated (EMI)-Yasaki sa Imus Cavite, 1,500 ang tinanggal sa trabaho. Sa Laguna Dai-Ichi, ang 77 bilang ng tinanggal ay madadagdagan ngayong Pebrero.

Bukod sa mga nabanggit, talamak din ang tanggalan sa Daeyoung at American Power Conversion sa Cavite EPZ at Zirtex, Sanyo Plastic Philippines at Testech sa LTI. May power plants at pagawaan din sa Quezon at Batangas ang magtatanggal ng mga manggagawa.

Iba pang iskema

Liban sa tuwirang pagtatanggal sa mga manggagawa, may iba pang mga iskema ang ginagamit ng manedsment ng mga kompanya upang “makaagapay” sa pandaigdigang krisis pang-ekonomiya at “maiwasan ang pagkalugi.” Kabilang dito ay ang forced leave, reduced at compressed working days at pagbabago sa shifts ng mga manggagawa. Mayroon ding inaalok ng separation pay sa ilang kompanya upang tuluyang nang magbitiw ang mga manggagawa.

Ang lahat ng ito, sa mismong pagsusuri ng mga manggagawa, ay hakbang lamang upang tuluyan silang masisante.

Isa sa mga nagpatupad ng forced leave ay ang IMI. Umabot sa 1,000 na regular na empleyado nito ang sapilitang pinatigil sa pagtatrabaho. Ganito rin ang nangyari sa mga manggagawa at empleyado sa Achi-Wool Industrial Plant Technology sa Rosario, Cavite.

Ipinapatupad naman sa car at automotive manufacturing na mga kompanya ang pagbabawas ng oras at araw ng paggawa. Sa Toyota Motors Philippines, ipinatupad ang “Monday-no-production day.” Samantala, sa EMI-Yasaki, 3 araw na lamang magtratrabaho ang mga manggawa sa loob ng isang linggo, ayon sa mga ulat.

Bawat oras at araw na ibabawas sa panahon ng pagtratrabaho ng mga mangggawa ay ibabawas din sa sahod ng mga ito. Ibig sabihin, kapag wala silang trabaho ay wala ring silang kikitain. Marami pang ibang kompanya ang magpapatupad ng tatlo hanggang apat na araw na lamang ng paggawa.

Sa NXP na nasa LTI din, inaalok ang mga manggagawa ng MSDP o management-decided separation pay upang manghikayat ng kusang pag-alis ng mga manggagawa.

Kalagayan ng mga natanggal sa trabaho

Lubhang napakahirap ng buhay ngayon ng mga natanggal sa trabaho. Si Miriam, na dating nakakapagpadala pa sa kanyang magulang sa Surigao, ay nakikitira na lamang ngayon. Dahil sa kakarampot ring kita noong nagtratrabaho pa sa GemPhil, hindi na niya nagawang makapag-ipon. Sa kasalukuyan, suliranin niya ang pang-araw araw na pangangailangan gaya ng pagkain at pamasahe. Liban dito, mabigat din para sa kanya ang paggastos para sa pagsusulit sa mga hiring agency upang makahanap muli ng trabaho.

Ang mag-asawa namang Levi at Christine Pasignahin ay kapwa natanggal sa trabaho. Ayon kay Levi, umaga ng Disyembre 15, hinarang ang mga manggagawa sa Laguna Dai-Ichi, isang plastic molding company sa LTI, ng mga guwardiya at sinabi na kailangan nilang mag-ulat sa kanilang hiring agency. Pag dating sa Topserve Manpower Supplier, sinabi sa mga manggagawa na natapos na ang kontarata nila sa Laguna Dai-Ichi kaya wala na silang trabaho. Ang kanya namang asawa ay natanggal sa pagawaan ng Ogino Philippines Corporation.

Hirap ngayon ang mag-asawa sa pang-araw-araw na gastos at sa buwanang renta sa inuupahang tirahan. Problema din nila ang gatas ng kanilang maliit na anak.

Ang kanyang kasamahang natanggal na si Blesildo Rosario ay hirap din sa paghahanap ng bagong trabaho. Umabot siya ng 12 na taon sa Laguna Dai-Ichi kaya ngayon ay overaged na siyang tinuturing sa mga kompanyang inaasam niyang pasukan. Aniya, tinutulungan na lamang niya pansamantala ang kanyang asawa sa sideline nito na pagtitinda ng saging at itlog upang maitaguyod ang kanilang dalawang anak.

Lunas?

Malalim na suliranin ang kawalan ng trabaho sa bansa sa gitna ng pandaigdigang krisis pampinansiya. Sa kasalukuyan, 36 milyon ang lakas paggawa ng bansa. Ngunit ayon mismo sa DOLE, katlong bahagi nito ay unemployed o kaya’y underemployed. Iba sa datos ng BLES, ginigiit pa ng Ibon Foundation na umabot ang bilang ng walang trabaho sa 10.7 milyon noong nakaraang taon.

Ang laksa-laksang matatanggal sa trabaho, dadagdag pa sa bilang na ito.

Marami nang mungkahi ang pamahalaan at iba’t ibang mga grupo upang lunasan ang kasalukuyang suliranin ng mga manggagawa. Ayon sa pamahalaan, maaaring bigyan ng livelihood program, skills training at job seminars ang natanggal na mga manggagawa upang makapagsimula ng negosyo. Ngunit ayon kay Dapulang, dadaan pa sa proseso ang pagpapalago nito habang kailangang ibsan sa kagyat ang hirap ng mga natanggal sa trabaho.

Sinasabi rin na maaaring mangibang bayan ang mga manggagawa. Ngunit tanong ng marami, paano ito ngayong marami nang overseas Filipino workers ang nagbalik na sa bansa dahil na rin sa mismong tanggalan sa ibayong dagat.

Para naman sa Makati Business Club, maaaring gawing option ang pagbabawas ng sahod ng mga manggagawa upang maiwasan ang tanggalan. Subalit inaasahang lalong isasadlak lamang ng hakbang na ito ang aba nang kalagayan ng mga manggagawa. Ang kasalukuyang sahod pa lamang ng mga manggagawa ay wala pa sa kalahati ng cost of living ng kani-kanilang rehiyon.

Sa kasalukuyan, ang family living wage sa Calabarzon ay umaabot na sa P809 para sa pamilyang may anim na miyembro. Ang ipinapatupad namang minimum wage sa rehiyong ito ng Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity ng DOLE ay P236 hanggang P320 lamang. Halimbawa, ang sinasahod ni Miriam noong nagtatrabaho pa siya sa GemPhil bilang kontraktuwal na manggagawa ay P298 lamang. Ang mga regular, P15 lamang ang lamang sa mga kontraktuwal, ayon kay Monalisa Larion, manggagawa rin ng Gemphil.

Ayon naman sa mismong mga manggagawa gaya nina Miriam, Levi at Blesildo, kailangang ilaan ang napapabalitang stimulus package na nagkakahalaga ng P330 Bilyon para sa dapat paglaan nito: ang mga Pilipinong nawalan ng trabaho at iba pang naghihirap na mga mamamayan bunsod ng krisis pampinansiya. Maaari umano itong gawin sa porma ng subsidyo sa pang-araw araw na pangangailangan ng mga manggagawa.

Ayon naman sa KMU, kagyat at kongkretong solusyon ang pagtataas ng sahod at pagbabawas sa buwis ng mga manggagawa na sa kasalukuyan ay umaabot sa 19 hanggang 30 porsiyento.

Pahayag naman ng Eiler, matagal nang kailangang pagtuunan ng pamahalaan ang pambansang industriyalisasyon na magtitiyak ng maramihang paglikha ng hanapbuhay sa mga manggagawa at magbubunsod ng tunay na pag-unlad sa sambayanang Pilipino.
(PinoyWeekly)


RECORD JOBLESSNESS AMONG ARROYO GOV’T’S GREATEST FAILURES

February 3, 2009

The Philippines’ record-high unemployment is considered among the greatest failures of the Arroyo administration and is seen to even worsen this year, according to research group Ibon Foundation.

Estimates made by IBON put the number of unemployed and underemployed Filipinos at 10.7 million in 2008. This was computed using the original National Statistics Office (NSO) definition of employment and assuming a labor force participation rate of 66.1% in 2008. The estimate tries to correct for official underestimation of joblessness since April 2005, when the NSO revised its definition and greatly reduced unemployment reports.

This year, joblessness is likely to increase at least 11 million or more, assuming that the labor force increases by 915,000 (the average increase over the last eight years) and that only 500,000 jobs are created, which implies an additional 415,000 jobless. This figure could be higher, as the employment situation is already far worse than the aftermath of the 1997 Asian Crisis when unemployment rate averaged 10% in 1998-1999 compared to nearly 11% in 2008.

The most recent severe worsening of the Philippine economic crisis in 2000 and 2001 may help illustrate what the country is now going through. Like today, the global slowdown in 2000 was precipitated by serious US financial and economic troubles– then it was the bursting of the “dot-com” or “new economy” bubble. The ranks of the unemployed swelled by an additional 640,000 Filipinos in 2000 and 2001 which brought the number of unemployed to 3.7 million in 2001 and the unemployment rate to 11.1% (from 9.8% in 1999). While there is strong reason to believe that the Philippine economy will again go in these directions or even worse, as the current global economic financial turmoil is not just deeper and farther-reaching but will also last for much longer.

Despite claims of economic success, job creation under the Arroyo administration since 2001 has been tepid and its policies have not been able to create enough jobs for Filipinos. The average real employment rate of over 11% since 2001 is the worst period of unemployment in the country’s history. The persistence of high unemployment despite supposedly sustained economic growth is also unprecedented.

All this highlights the need for a radical change in government’s economic policies. Measures that would yield immediate benefits include increasing public spending for social services, removing the VAT on oil products, freeing public resources by stopping debt payments, among others. More than these, the government’s elite-biased and free-market oriented policies, which have kept the Philippine economy backward, should be drastically changed. (end)

IBON Foundation, Inc. is an independent development institution established in 1978 that provides research, education, publications, information work and advocacy support on socioeconomic issues.(PinoyPress)

President Arroyo’s Assistance Package a Hoax – Migrante

February 3, 2009

Migrante International together with retrenched OFWs from Taiwan today trooped down the office of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) to denounce the government’s failure to deliver its promises of assistance to OFWs who were laid off due to the global financial crisis.

“This Filipino Expatriate Livelihood Support Fund is a hoax. Just like the cheques that were handed down in Malacanang, the President’s assistance package has yet to be seen and felt by OFWs who were unjustly laid-off from Taiwan,” says Gina Gaborni, Deputy Secretary General of Migrante International.

Gaborni criticized the Government for its continued negligence of the retrenched OFWs. Ironically, this happened after President Arroyo issued Administrative Order 248 in December, 2008 – its supposed ‘payback’ to the heroic efforts of the Filipino workers.

“The Government allotted PhP250 million for this Program but so far, has not benefited any returned OFW. And to add insult to injury, the Government’s assistance package is actually a loan, which OFWs must repay to OWWA,” Gaborni insisted.

According to Migrante, only 10 percent or PhP5,000 of the allotted P50,000 for each expatriate worker is available, the rest are in goods. They also claimed that before anyone can benefit from the Program, one has to attend seminars, training activities, draw a feasibility study for a livelihood program plus other requirements.

“OFWs have to go through a lot of red tapes before the said Fund is availed of. The process was intentionally designed to actually discourage anyone to claim the said assistance package. This is utterly evil,” exclaims Gaborni.

Overcharging OFWs

Gaborni also slammed recruitment agencies for collecting overpriced placement fees from outbound OFWs and the POEA for tolerating such actions. Furthermore, she urged the Philippine Congress to probe on this matter.

Migrante documented most of the retrenched OFWs in Taiwan worked from three to eight months only against their supposedly two-year contracts.

“These OFWs want payment for the unexpired portion of their contracts because they paid PhP135,000 as placement fees, which is four times the allowable ceiling amount set by the Government,” Gaborni said.

One of the retrenched OFWs is Angelina Arroz, 28, who arrived in the country last January 5. She paid PhP135,000 as a placement fee to Forever Manpower Services Inc., which is now offering her only PhP10,000.

“This is not fair since I only stayed in Taiwan for eight months. During those months, I was not able to work everyday. I want payment for the remaining months in my signed contract,” Arroz said.

Arroz also paid PhP2,500 for a jacket, which bears the said Recruitment Agency’s name and PhP750 for her Identification Card aside from the placement fee.

In Taiwan OFWs also pay NT1,800 for their meal, NT1,200 for board and lodging and NT1,800 as a broker’s fee. These are paid even when there was no work provided.

“Right now, I’m still paying for a PhP60,000 loan, a part of the amount I paid for the placement fee,” Arroz said.

Migrante said the Government should not sit idly and do nothing for expatriate because more and more OFWs will come back to the country as a result of the global financial crisis.(PinoyPress)

Q&A with ILO Economist: ‘Issue in Philippines Is Quality of Jobs, Not Job Creation’

February 2, 2009

Interview with Steven Kapsos, ILO Labour Economist on the Global Employment Trends Report

What are the trends and projections for South-East Asia in particular the Philippines based on the Global Employment Trends Report?

STEVEN KAPSOS: The ILO has developed three scenarios based on labour market data available to date which illustrate that the regional unemployment rate for South-East Asia and the Pacific (which includes the Philippines) could increase from 5.5 per cent in 2007 to between 6.0 and 6.4 per cent in 2009. This would represent an increase of 2 to 3 million unemployed people in the region.

The number of working poor and workers in vulnerable employment (lacking benefits and without a safety net to guard against loss of incomes during economic hardship) also appears to be on the rise in this region. In addition to the 45 million workers in the region living with their families in extreme poverty (US$1.25 per person per day), an additional 23 million are living only marginally above the poverty line and are in danger of becoming poor if the right action is not taken.

What is the impact of the global economic crisis on employment trends in the Philippines and other Asian countries?

STEVEN KAPSOS: Economic growth in the Philippines has shown a sharp decline from 7.2 per cent in 2007 to 4.2-4.5 per cent in 2008 and is expected to fall further to 2.3-3.4 per cent in 2009. We haven’t yet seen large increase in unemployment in the Philippines, but the crisis is also likely to affect workers in other ways that are somewhat more difficult to measure, such as declining hours of work (an increase in part-time work), pressure for lower wages and less job security.

Based on the report, the three Asian regions which included the Philippines accounted for 57 per cent of global employment creation in 2008 as compared to low global creation in developed economies, what are the reasons for such trends?

STEVEN KAPSOS: Much of this is due to demographic trends – Asia is a very young region with relatively rapid population and labour force growth.

The employment rate in the Philippines based on the Labour Force Survey showed an increasing pattern amidst the global financial crisis, what can you say about the trend when other countries have decreasing employment?

Date Employment rate (%)

January 2008 92.6

April 2008 92.0

July 2008 92.6

October 2008 93.2

STEVEN KAPSOS: The issue in the region is not so much employment creation, but rather whether good quality jobs are being created – for instance jobs that pay a decent wage that opens the way to a better future and allows workers and their families to escape poverty and jobs that allow economies to move to higher value production. It is important to remember that Asia still has a large share of workers in vulnerable employment – an estimated 60 per cent of the workforce and more than 400 million workers living with their families in extreme poverty.

In the Philippines, there were about 10.5 million informal sector operators identified in the 2008 while the Global Employment Trends projected an increase in vulnerable employment, what do you think are the factors for such increase? What are possible actions to be taken to protect those in vulnerable situations?

STEVEN KAPSOS: Direct transfer payments and spending on health care can be effective ways of ensuring that people are able to continue spending and consuming, which will support growth. Loans to small and medium-sized enterprises, which employ most workers in the region and which are being hard hit by problems accessing credit, are another good tool for policymakers to consider. Longer term, increased investment in education and training can help to ensure that workers have up-to-date skills that will be in demand when the recovery begins to take shape.


What is the ILO doing amidst the global financial crisis which has now become a global job crisis?

STEVEN KAPSOS: The ILO, in collaboration with the Asian Development Bank is organizing a High-Level regional Forum in Manila, 18-20 February 2009 on “Responding to the Economic Crisis- Coherent policies for Growth, Employment and Decent work in Asia and the Pacific”. The aim is to promote policy dialogue between regional and international experts and policy makers from governments, business and labour on concrete steps to counter the economic and social consequences’ of the crisis.


Do you think the Philippine economy is safe from the global crunch with large foreign exchange reserves and fiscal surplus?

STEVEN KAPSOS: Growth in the Philippines is slowing, which is likely to have adverse impacts on the labour market and, more directly, on people’s lives and livelihoods. Large reserves and a fiscal surplus provide space for addressing the problems of the crisis, but policymakers should not be complacent. Appropriate policies must be designed and implemented. It is important to identify ways to create jobs amidst the crisis and to ensure that the poor and most vulnerable do not slip further behind. This will help to ensure that a recovery occurs sooner rather than later.


What is the worst scenario especially for a country like the Philippines with large level of remittances?

STEVEN KAPSOS: A prolonged crisis could result in a negative cycle of declining demand, falling output and rising joblessness and poverty. But we feel that if appropriate action is taken and there is international coordination, this outcome can be avoided. It is important to ask what the impact will be on migrant workers, as they are important in both receiving countries, where they often perform vital jobs in the economy and in their home countries such as the Philippines, which benefit from remittances. Migrant workers may be at risk if rising unemployment puts pressure on policymakers to try to free up jobs for nationals. Migrant workers should not be used as a political football. This would not only be harmful to them – it would also be harmful to the firms where they work as they may have difficulties finding appropriately qualified workers to replace migrants that have acquired skills over time.

What are the necessary steps or measures for Asian countries like the Philippines now that the whole world is confronting this economic crisis?

STEVEN KAPSOS:
1) Ensure that the patient survives – that credit markets are unfrozen so that business and lending can resume. A lot of progress has been made on this front.

2) Give the patient the appropriate medicine – monetary and fiscal stimulus, with an explicit goal in fiscal stimulus packages of creating employment, improving labour market outcomes and protecting the poor and vulnerable.

3) Begin to rehabilitate the patient for the long-run – focus on building skills and education of the workforce so that they are able to run once the race starts again.

What are your projections for 2009 based on the Global Employment Trends globally and locally for the Philippines? Do you think we could ever survive this economic crisis?

STEVEN KAPSOS: Most certainly yes, if we act quickly and bring in the right policies. We may not be able to prevent the onset of the crisis but to a large extent how quickly we get out of it, and in what sort of shape, is in our hands.


Do you think it is possible to achieve decent work amidst the crisis when people are unemployed or have no other choice but to settle for whatever jobs are available?

STEVEN KAPSOS: It may certainly be difficult, but the onset of the crisis – and the way it was created – is producing a fundamental re-evaluation in all countries of the aims and objectives of growth and development. People know that for growth to be sustainable and stable it must be more inclusive. The benefits of progress must trickle down. Jobs that trap people in poverty, rather than releasing them from it, do not allow people or societies to grow economically and socially, or to be competitive in the long term. So the lesson of this crisis is that Decent Work is not an optional luxury, it is essential for stable, equitable growth.(PinoyPress)

CBCP president backs calls for job summit

January 31, 2009

A top Catholic cleric called yesterday for an employment summit to tackle the reported massive layoff of workers in the economic zones.

Speaking over Catholic Church-run Radio Veritas, Archbishop of Jaro, Iloilo Angel Lagdameo, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines president, said unemployment is a “serious problem” that the government must address.

“Well, it (unemployment) is a serious problem… that’s why the government must lead the discussion on how to help those Filipinos who will be losing their jobs (because of the global financial crisis),” he said.

“If the problem can be solved through a summit then they should push through with it…”

Earlier, Caloocan Bishop Deogracias Iniguez said the government must initiate the employment summit, especially now that the number of workers being displaced due to the global economic crisis continues to increase.

Iniguez, who heads the CBCP’s committee on public affairs, said although the government is implementing measures like employment facilitations and livelihood assistance to the workers, it is important that a summit between the government and the labor sector be held for the government to hear the workers’ side.

The Church is willing to help resolve the looming unemployment problem, he added.

Some multinational companies in the Philippines have closed down, while others have scaled back their operations in the country.

A labor official earlier predicted that about 250,000 workers nationwide are likely to lose their jobs in the next six months due to the global financial crisis.

The Department of Labor and Employment has reported that 30,000 workers have been displaced since December, and that the figure could reach 35,000 by month’s end.

Government won’t stop layoffs

Labor Secretary Marianito Roque ruled out yesterday the possibility of government imposing a “no retrenchment” policy.

“We are looking at measures to address the ill effects of the economic crisis, but we cannot enforce a no retrenchment policy because we cannot force employers from continuing with their operations if they do not have the capacity to do it,” he said.

Roque said the government has already granted a tax break for minimum wage earners and additional exemptions in their income tax returns for those receiving more than the minimum wage.

The Department of Trade and Industry is also reviewing the possibility of regulating the prices of rice and other essential commodities, he added.

Roque said concerned government agencies are discussing a proposal to suspend the implementation of the planned rationalization program.

“We are discussing if we could delay the rationalization program because of the economic crisis,” he said.

Meanwhile, Roque said commercial firms must adopt flexible working arrangements to cope with the financial crisis.

“Employers and workers should consider adopting such arrangements as a better alternative rather than outright termination of the workers’ services and total closure of their establishment,” he said.

Roque said flexible work schedules allow reduction of business costs while saving jobs and maintaining competitiveness and productivity in industries.

However, the adoption of the “compressed workweek” scheme should be voluntary and must have the consent of both employers and workers, he added.

Roque said the employer must notify the DOLE Regional Office in the workplace before adopting any flexible work arrangements.

DOLE Regional Offices are instructed to visit establishments wishing to adopt flexible work arrangements to validate whether it is in accordance with the DOLE advisory, he added.

Under the CWW scheme, normal workweek is reduced to less than six days but the total number of 48 work hours per week shall remain.

The normal workday is increased to more than eight hours but not to exceed 12 hours, without corresponding overtime premium.

However, implementation of reduced workdays must not exceed six months.

Meanwhile, Roque said he will set up “Help Desks” in the different regions nationwide to facilitate the delivery of assistance and services to displaced workers.

The help desks shall serve as a one-stop center bringing the delivery of DOLE programs and services closer to local and overseas Filipino workers who have been adversely affected by the global crisis, he added.

The Desks shall be comprised of personnel from OWWA, Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, Bureau of Local Employment, and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.

The DOLE Regional Directors shall oversee the operations of the help desks.

On the other hand, Roque called for a united response to the effects of the financial crisis on employment.

Speaking before the participants of the Multi-Sectoral Conference on the Global Financial Crisis, Roque said, a united effort is essential to effectively mitigate the impact of global financial crisis.

“Assistance and intervention for some 33,000 affected workers who have begun to experience shorter working hours, along with the more than 40,000 workers displaced by the global economic crisis are urgent,” he said. – Helen Flores, Mayen Jaymalin(PhilStar)

1,900 Cordillera workers displaced by financial crisis

January 29, 2009

Retrenched workers properly compensated, DoLE says

By DEXTER A. SEE

BAGUIO CITY – At least 1,900 workers at different companies in the Cordillera comprised the first batch of employees displaced by the global financial crisis, it was reported.

But despite this bleak development, lawyer Ana Dione, regional director of the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) in the Cordillera, said the region is in a good position to face the crisis because the mass layoff taking place in other regions is not happening in companies in the economic zone here.

While the Texas Instruments Philippines (TIP) retrenched over 500 workers last year and bared plans to lay off another batch of workers this year, Dione said the future is still bright for the TIP as it has already started to operate even on a medium level.

She said this is an indication that orders for electronic chips are still being placed with the firm.

Furthermore, Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) officials informed DoLE that they expect investors to consider Baguio City as one of the areas where they can invest even with the global financial crisis.

The PEZA officials noted the increase in business process out-sourcing operations in the city.

Out of the 1,900 affected workers in the region, 1,376 are partially displaced as they are still holding on to their jobs but on a rotation or reduced-time scheme, which is authorized by the labor department to prevent mass layoff.

The other affected workers are considered totally displaced because they are no longer connected to the companies which had earlier employed them.

Dione said several industries in the region which were the initial victims of the global crisis included manufacturing, service, electronics, and mining.

Nevertheless, she said, DoLE made sure that the retrenched workers were properly compensated by their employers.

What is significant, Dione said, is that the labor sector is now inquiring from DoLE about the programs and projects of the national government for the development of skills or livelihood that would enable the workers to augment their meager income.

A concrete example cited by the Cordillera DoLE official is the labor union of the Lepanto Consolidated Mining Co. which had requested the labor department to re-train the mine workers on skills that could be used to generate income or livelihood.

The labor official said DoLE is providing emergency employment assistance as well as training to workers in the region who are interested in developing skills and knowledge that could make them productive amidst the global financial crisis.(MB)

Unemployed seen rising to 11M

January 28, 2009

BY REGINA BENGCO

THERE were 10.7 million unemployed and underemployed Filipinos last year, the research group IBON Foundation said yesterday.

The number is likely to increase to at least 11 million based on the assumption that the labor force increases by 915,000 every year and that only 500,000 jobs are created. This means the number of jobless Filipinos increases by 415,000 yearly, IBON said.

The group said the figure could be higher as the employment situation is already “far worse” than the aftermath of the 1997 Asian financial crisis when unemployment rate averaged 10 percent in 1998-1999 compared to nearly 11 percent in 2008.

It said the Philippines’ condition could be likened to the global slowdown in 2000, which was also caused by US financial and economic troubles, when unemployment rose to 3.7 million in 2001.

“There is strong reason to believe that the Philippine economy will again go in these directions or even worse, as the current global economic financial turmoil is not just deeper and farther-reaching but will also last for much longer,” it said.

IBON said job creation under the Arroyo administration since 2001 has been “tepid” and its policies have not been able to create enough jobs for Filipinos.

It recommended “radical change” in the government’s economic policies such as increasing public spending for social services, removing the value-added tax on oil products, and freeing public resources by stopping debt payments.

Press Secretary Jesus Dureza said the Cabinet is looking at a better response to job losses of some Filipino workers because of the global recession. He said President Arroyo will look at other job opportunities for displaced overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) when she goes to Switzerland, Italy and Bahrain at the end of the month.

Dureza said proposals such as giving emergency allowance to displaced workers has been the subject of further discussions by government’s economic managers.

“We always say that we can never tell what is going to happen in the future but we have been strengthening ourselves, preparing for any eventuality,” he said.

Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap said his department will implement at least 3,500 projects to create around some 130,000 jobs.

Among these projects are goat raising and dispersing, construction of farm-to-market roads, rehabilitation of irrigation systems, and production of organic fertilizers.

The projects are yet to be finalized in July. No time-frame has been set for implementation. — With Angela Lopez de Leon(Malaya)

Food agency cuts over 1,000 jobs Redundancy, not financial crisis, NFA clarifies

January 26, 2009

By Riza T. Olchondra
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 05:36:00 01/26/2009

Filed Under: Unemployment, Government offices & agencies

MANILA, Philippines—The National Food Authority (NFA) said over the weekend it would abolish 1,242 redundant positions as part of its rationalization plan.

That amounts to a 25-percent reduction in its current 4,983 work force.

NFA spokesperson Rex Estoperez said there was no cause for alarm because the rationalization plan had been in the works since 2003 and affected employees have until March 24 to decide on their options.

He said employees in redundant positions would be given other vacant jobs if they are qualified and willing to undergo retraining.

Estoperez said there were 679 vacant positions.

In cases where job skills and positions don’t match (for example, for redundant laborers who may not be able to meet standards for a clerk position), the NFA has recommended to the Department of Budget and Management that their positions be made “co-terminus” with their stay.

“When they go, their positions will be delisted and we will not get a replacement for that position,” he said.

Estoperez said many NFA employees were nearing retirement age and some were considering leaving the government service to start their own businesses or relocate abroad.

Those wanting to avail of early retirement or severance packages (for non-retirables who want to leave), depending on years of service, have until March 24 to apply, he said.

Not due to meltdown

Estoperez said he still could not say how many employees would opt for early retirement.

“I suppose we will know for sure by March,” he said.

Estoperez clarified that the rationalization plan was not a reaction to the global financial meltdown but a long-standing plan.

“The NFA has been around since 1972 and since times have changed, we also need to make internal changes to become leaner and more efficient,” he said.

Not all positions that were needed before are necessary now, and as the NFA evolves it may need to create new positions not yet on the existing payroll, he said.

“But of course our leaner staff would be no less capable of managing our mandate (to ensure food sufficiency). The rationalization plan has gone through a long approval process and the government would not have approved it if we would be shorthanded later,” Estoperez said.

Executive Order No. 366 or the Government’s Rationalization Plan aims to reduce costs and increase the efficiency of government agencies.

=================

My Take:

Redundancy?

How about the many Undersecretaries, Assistant Secretaries and Advisers in Malacanan?

Gov’t Urged To Take More Active Steps To Address Job Losses, Economic Slowdown

January 24, 2009

Written by IBON Media
Monday, 12 January 2009
‘Contingency Package’ Insufficient Amid Crisis

The government has yet to take real steps to address the adverse effects of the global crisis on the local economy, said research group IBON Foundation.
In an attempt to downplay the economy’s problems and insist on imaginary “sound fundamentals”, the administration calls its efforts a mere “resiliency” or “contingency” plan. However, this eventual package is inadequate, places the burden of adjusting to the crisis on the people, and borders on mere public relations gimmickry, said IBON research head Sonny Africa.

So far, the administration has not really introduced new and additional measures, and has merely engaged in ineffectual exercises to give the impression that something is being done, he said. The labor department has allegedly prepared “alternative” livelihood programs and loans for retrenched workers and displaced overseas Filipino workers (OFWs). However, if the administration is really capable of creating domestic jobs and livelihood to begin with, then this is something that should have been done for the over 4 million jobless Filipinos even before the recent descent into crisis, said Africa.

At best, the administration has showcased pockets of success, even as these efforts do not reach the majority. For example, an additional P5 billion was allocated for the Pantawid Pamilya Pilipino program, which will double the number of beneficiaries from 320,000 households to 640,000 households. However, the 2006 FIES show that 8.7 million families or the poorest half of the country’s families have incomes of less than P8,300 per month. The program thus reaches less than 4% of just these families even assuming, given the weaknesses of the government bureaucracy such as corruption, that the money will even reach them.

The administration’s continuing denial of the economy’s deep-seated problems contributes to its inability to deal with the crisis, said Africa. As it is, the poor are being left on their own to deal with their long-standing problems. But it is possible to immediately arrest the slowdown in economic activity and mitigate the worsening of joblessness, incomes and poverty by taking more active measures to care for people’s welfare.

Some of these measures include giving sufficient attention to health, education, social welfare and emergency support, and taking substantial steps to develop the domestic economy and make it less vulnerable to external shocks in the future, he said. (end)

Militant labor center slams AFP’s dirty tactics to red-tag leaders

January 23, 2009

Kilusang Mayo Uno – southern Mindanao region (KMU-SMR) condemns in strongest terms the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) for its statement that KMU-SMR vice president Omar Bantayan and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Southern Mindanao secretary general Jeppie Ramada have been seen in the company of the New People’s Army in Compostela Valley Province.

We believe that this is not merely a case of rumor-mongering on the part of Major Medel Aguilar of the 5th Civil Relations Group of the AFP. Such is part of a grand plan under the Oplan Bantay Laya 2 (OBL2) to facilitate whatever devious schemes they have against our leaders and legal political organizations.

Omar Bantayan, who also serves as the vice [resident for Mindanao of the Anakpawis partylist, has been designated to take care of our unions. His presence might not be seen during press conferences and rallies since he has to hop from union to another for both Socsargen and the Davao regions. With these, Bantayan would frequent the offices of the Department of Labor and Employment and its attached agencies in relation with the cases that are being faced by the unions.

Recently, in his capacity as a member of the national executive committee of the KMU, he attended the 1st Industrial Summit upon the invitation of councilor Edgar Ibuyan of Davao City. He was instrumental in the formation of the Davao Workers’ Alliance which was conceived during that summit.

Aside from looking into and helping our unions with their respective Collective Bargaining Negotiations, Certification Elections and other local struggles, ka Omar prepares the campaign and propaganda materials for the labor center. From time to time, he would deal with media personalities and outfits, other advocates and political leaders to explain and articulate issues concerning the workers and the Filipino people.

It is not a surprise to us that both were targeted since they have figured in many protest actions in the past. Both, Bantayan and Ramada, were members of the “Davao 8″, the 8 Davao militant leaders whom the CIDG attempted to charge with rebellion after the declaration of a State of National Emergency in 2006.

Gunmen, believed to be hired killers, also attempted to kill Bantayan in 2006.

We are outraged by this desperate move of the US-Arroyo Regime and its mercenary AFP. They want to salvage what is left of the botched and failed OBL2. Scenarios such as extra-judicial killings and the filing of trumped up charges against Bantayan and Ramada are not far-fetched. The regime employed such dirty tactics in southern Tagalog wherein they accused leaders of legal organizations through fabricated charges.

One of the victims of such machination is Atty. Remigio Saladero Jr., KMU chief legal counsel, who was arrested and now detained somewhere in Mindoro. We caution the public to be vigilant since the fascist machinery of the Arroyo regime in the region has something tucked under its sleeves.

We will not be cowed by such fascist attacks. All the more, we shall intensify our campaign for the advancement of the people’s interests. We shall mount protests for the toiling masses’ livelihood, land, wages, jobs and rights. The Arroyo war machine shall not be able to stop us.#

2008: Workers Under Attack, but Gains were Made

January 21, 2009

The year 2008 was for the most part a bad year for Filipino workers, as their rights were under attack. But there were some rays of light.

BY ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO
YEAREND REPORT – LABOR
Bulatlat

The labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU or May 1st Movement) suffered a hard blow with the arrest of its chief legal counsel, Remigio Saladero, Jr., at his own home where he has his law office in Antipolo City last Oct. 23.

Saladero – who is also with the Pro-Labor Legal Assistance Center (PLACE) and was traveling to the city almost everyday from his home in the suburbs of Rizal, while juggling most of PLACE’s over 700 cases – had been implicated in the March 3, 2006 ambush by the New People’s Army (NPA) against the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Oriental Mindoro. He is among 72 activists from Southern Tagalog – including a polio victim and a diabetic long confined to a wheelchair – facing multiple murder and multiple frustrated murder charges in connection with the said ambush.

Besides this, Saladero is also among 27 Southern Tagalog activists facing arson charges in relation to the torching of a Globe tower in Lemery, Batangas last Aug. 2.

Saladero’s arrest is clearly part of what the non-government Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR) has called the “abuse” of laws, regulations and courts to attack the rights of workers.

CTUHR documented a total of 12 unjust arrests of workers and trade unionists, involving 36 victims, from January to November 2008. Seven of these, CTUHR data further show, took place from October to November alone.


Workers press for P125 across-the-board wage increase.(Photo by Kilusang Mayo Uno)

There were also six recorded cases from January to November last year in which workers and trade unionists were slapped with criminal charges either due to their political beliefs or in connection with labor disputes. These involved 45 victims all in all.

It is not only the “legal offensives” that the labor movement had to put up with in 2008 though: it also had to face killings and attempted killings.

The labor movement lost three people last year: Gerardo Cristobal, former president of the EMI-Yazaki union in Cavite; Maximo Baranda, former chairman of the Compostela Workers Association (CWA) in Davao del Norte; and Rolando Antolihao, a worker of Global Fruits/Lapanday Food Corporation. Their deaths brought to 89 the number of workers and trade unionists killed since President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo assumed power, through a popular uprising, in 2001.

Arnold Cerdo, an organizer of the Cabuyao Workers Alliance (CAWAL) and vice president of the Sensuous Unified Labor Organization-Independent (SULO-Independent) in Cabuyao, Laguna was the victim of an attempted killing.

There were those who, while “fortunate” enough not to have been killed, were abducted and tortured. Among them is Melvin Yares, an organizer of Kahugpungan sa Kabus sa Basak (KAKABAS), an informal workers’ group in Lapu-Lapu City, Cebu. He was forced to claim to being an NPA returnee and to spread black propaganda against the party-list group Anakpawis (Toiling Masses), the urban poor group Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay), and other organizations.

Other assaults on workers’ civil and political rights include union-busting, of which CTUHR documented 11 cases last year; attacks on picket lines (three in 2008); and violent dispersals of workers’ actions (five in 2008, involving 1,025 victims).

The attacks on workers’ civil and political rights took place against a backdrop in which their economic, social and cultural rights are also being violated.

The following table from the government’s National Wages and Productivity Commission (NWPC), which was posted on the agency’s website last Dec. 22, shows that wages have eroded by as much as more than P100 in some regions since 2000, which is used as the base year.

CTUHR, using data from the NWPC, has estimated that workers’ wages are pegged at around only 34 percent of the family living wage for a family of six – the size of the average Filipino family.

CTUHR also recorded a total of 58 cases of inhumane working conditions – a 62-percent increase from the 22 reported in 2007.

Still, not all is lost

But while 2008 for the most part was a bad year for Filipino workers, there were some rays of light. The unions of Bleustar Manufacturing, Inc. and Triumph International won their struggles for just wages and benefits, and against sexual harassment – proving that even at a time when the labor movement is confronting attacks left and right, the old formula of solid unity and organizing can bring substantial gains to the working people. (Bulatlat.com)

Unions Need Unity, But More

January 20, 2009

A new direction in labor requires linking unions with other social and economic justice movements. Defending immigrants from raids and helping them win legal status is just as important to the growth of unions as passing the Employee Free Choice Act. U.S. workers need a new trade policy, which stops using poverty to boost corporate profits abroad, impoverishing and displacing millions of people in the process.

BY DAVID BACON
New America Media 1/12/09

http://news.newamericamedia.org/news/view_article.html?article_id=0c2996367123ca87ed33e99d42dc3f7a

INTERNATIONAL
Posted by
(Bulatlat.com)

OAKLAND, CA (1/10/09) — Twelve unions met in Washington DC last week, and announced they’re considering rejoining the two labor federations, the American Federation of Labor/Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) and Change to Win (CTW), that split apart five years ago. And one large independent union, the National Education Association, is thinking of joining them. The initiative came from the incoming Obama administration, which told union leaders it didn’t relish the idea of dealing with competing union agendas.

Many progressive labor activists greeted the idea with a sigh of relief. “Dividing the labor movement was never a good idea to begin with,” says Bill Fletcher, former education director for the AFL-CIO, and past president of TransAfrica Forum. Fletcher and many others believe that while U.S. unions have big problems, they can’t be cured by division, competing federations, or simple changes in structure. Instead, they call for a reexamination of labor’s political direction.

Unions are at their lowest point in membership since the 1920s, representing less than 12% of the workforce. Obama’s election, which they pulled out all the stops to achieve, promises some degree of change from Federal policies that have accelerated that decline. The president-elect has appointed potentially the most pro-union labor secretary since the 1930s – Congresswoman Hilda Solis. A potential Congressional majority could pass the Employee Free Choice Act, which would make union organizing much easier and protect workers from retaliatory firings while they unionize. Obama has promised to sign the bill if Congress passes it.

In industry after industry, the impact of revived unions and growing membership could be enormous. For the first time in U.S. history, for example, unions have gained the strength to organize the rest of the hospital and nursing home industries. That would radically improve the jobs and raise the income of hundreds of thousands of nurses, dietary workers and bed changers, in the same way the CIO and the San Francisco General Strike turned longshoremen from day laborers on the waterfront into some of the country’s highest-paid blue-collar workers. An organized healthcare industry, in alliance with consumers, could finally convince Congress to establish a single-payer system guaranteeing healthcare to every person in this country.

Yet while the 12 leaders were sitting down in Washington to discuss unity, the healthcare division of country’s largest union, the Service Employees, may be torn apart in a fight between the union’s national leaders and its largest local, United Healthcare West. Such a fratricidal conflict could not only jeopardize hopes for organizing healthcare workers, but even labor’s larger political goals of the Employee Free Choice Act and single-payer healthcare.

Decisions made by unions often affect workers far beyond their own members. The labor upsurge of the 1930s and 40s led to national contracts in the auto, steel, longshore and electrical industries, establishing pension and medical benefits, raising wages, and forcing the creation of the unemployment insurance and Social Security systems. All workers benefited. And when many master agreements were destroyed in the early 1980s, workers’ middle-class lifestyles began to erode everywhere.

Joining the AFL-CIO and CTW back together is a sensible step in marshalling the resources needed to take advantage of the openings presented by a new Obama administration, and begin rebuilding what was lost. But that larger sense of responsibility should inspire unions to face a basic question. They cannot rebuild their own strength, much less improve life for all workers, by themselves.

A new direction in labor requires linking unions with other social and economic justice movements. Defending immigrants from raids and helping them win legal status is just as important to the growth of unions as passing the Employee Free Choice Act. U.S. workers need a new trade policy, which stops using poverty to boost corporate profits abroad, impoverishing and displacing millions of people in the process. But that policy can’t be won by unions negotiating with the administration by themselves, outside of a much broader coalition.

Health care reform requires an alliance between health care providers and working class consumers. The communities in which all workers live need real jobs programs and a full employment economy, especially Black and Latino communities. People far beyond unions will help win the Employee Free Choice Act and rebuild the labor movement if they are willing to fight for everyone.

Unions need not just more unity and better organizing techniques, but a vision that will inspire workers. They need to speak directly to their desperation over insecure jobs, home foreclosures and falling income, and then lead them into action, even (or especially) if it makes a Democratic administration and Congress uncomfortable. As much as Obama has done labor a favor by forcing it to discuss reunification, political calculations in Washington can’t be the guide to what is possible. Workers need a movement that fights for what they really need, not what beltway lobbyists say legislators will accept.

In the period of its greatest growth, labor proposed an alternative social vision that inspired people to risk their jobs and homes, and even lives – that society could be organized to ensure social and economic justice for all people. Workers were united by the idea that they could gain enough political power to end poverty, unemployment, racism, and discrimination. “Workers are looking for answers,” Fletcher says. “Without them we’ll get further despair. What we need instead is to organize for an alternative.”(Bulatlat)

Firing the Boss

January 20, 2009

On December 5, 2008, over 200 recently fired workers at the Republic Window and Doors factory in Chicago occupied their plant, demanding they be paid their vacation and severance checks. The occupation ended victoriously six days later when the Bank of America and other lenders to Republic agreed to pay the workers the approximately $2 million owed to them.

But the workers didn’t stop there.

BY BENJAMIN DANGL
Truthout
INTERNATIONAL
Posted by
(Bulatlat.com)

On December 5, 2008, over 200 recently fired workers at the Republic Window and Doors factory in Chicago occupied their plant, demanding they be paid their vacation and severance checks. The occupation ended victoriously six days later when the Bank of America and other lenders to Republic agreed to pay the workers the approximately $2 million owed to them.

But the workers didn’t stop there. They are now seeking ways to restart the factory and potentially operate it as a worker-run cooperative. The workers are also filing charges against their former employer for failing to give the workers sufficient notice of plans to shut the factory down; the workers were only given three days’ notice, and the management refused to negotiate with the workers’ union about the closure.

In this interview, Mark Meinster, the International Representative for the United Electrical Workers (UE) – the union the Republic workers belong to – talks about his role as the coordinator for the plant occupation, connections between the struggle of the Republic workers and workers’ struggles and tactics in South America, the fight to reopen the plant and what the Republic workers’ strategies say about social change in an economic downturn.

Benjamin Dangl: First, please briefly describe your role in the union, in the occupation of the Republic Windows and Doors factory, and the ongoing struggle of the Republic workers.

Mark Meinster: I’m an International Representative for the United Electrical Workers (UE). My primary responsibility is to oversee the union’s organizing work and staff in Chicago, Illinois, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I was the lead organizer on the effort to organize the Republic workers into UE in 2004 and led negotiations for a first contract in 2005. Since then, I and UE Field Organizer Leah Fried have worked with the local on leadership and steward training, grievance handling and contract negotiations. I coordinated the plant occupation at Republic Windows and Doors and participated in negotiations with the employer and the financial institutions involved and continue to work on efforts to reopen the plant.

BD: Could you please talk about some of the connections you see between the Republic workers’ struggle and actions and the strategies and experiences of similar workers’ groups in Argentina and Venezuela and the landless farmers in Brazil? How did you learn about these struggles and come to apply them in Chicago as a union organizer?

MM: Obviously there is a long history of workers taking actions of this type, both within the US and in other countries. Because there have been very few plant occupations in the US since the 1930s, we needed to look to workers’ struggles in other countries for recent guidance. For example, the Canadian Auto Workers, who have engaged in similar actions over the past 20 years to protest plant closings and win severance benefits, provided us with invaluable technical advice.

But in many respects, workers’ struggles in Latin America were the biggest inspiration for the Republic occupation. I had read about the land occupations carried out by the Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra in an interview with Joao Pedro Stedile in 2002. I was struck by the MST’s focus on popular education and leadership development, and especially the way they placed the occupation tactic within the context of the right to unused land enshrined in the Brazilian constitution. The occupation, although technically an illegal tactic, was used to enforce a legal right. This gives workers confidence and places the struggle on a moral plane, allowing for more significant community and political support. We drew on this concept in planning the Republic occupation.

Current UE Local 1110 President Armando Robles attended the World Social Forum in Caracas, Venezuela, in 2006. There, he heard from workers from Inveval, a “recovered” factory in Venezuela. They had inspired a movement of workers occupying and running factories, with the help of the government, that had been abandoned by bosses who had fled the country. Armando returned from that experience politicized and inspired. I visited Venezuela in 2007 and spent time visiting worker-run co-ops. I was struck by the workers’ investment in the revolutionary process and their ability to run production without management.

We drew on the Argentine factory occupations to the extent that they show that during an economic crisis, workers movements are afforded a wider array of tactical options. Militant action can win public support during a downturn in ways that would have been impossible before. In fact, the film “The Take” was screened in the factory during the occupation in a makeshift movie theater set up in the locker room.

BD: Is there a plan to transform the Republic factory into a worker-run cooperative? If so, how did the decision to do this come about? At this point, how is the process going of setting this up?

MM: At this point we are working to find a buyer for the factory, focusing on firms specializing in energy-efficient windows. Though, we are also exploring the idea of a cooperative enterprise; the fact that no real movement of worker-run enterprises exists in the US makes this option much more difficult at this point. The workers have set up an entity called the “Windows of Opportunity Fund,” to help provide technical assistance and study this and other possibilities for restarting production.

BD: Could you comment on the role the Republic workers’ struggle in inspiring workers across the US to take up similar tactics to confront unemployment and problems related to the current US economic downturn?

MM: I think the Republic struggle shows we can win support for bold tactics, especially when we think carefully about how we project the struggle to the public. Time will tell whether the Republic struggle will be viewed as a bell-weather event or a flash in the pan. On the one hand, the occupation led to a huge outpouring of support – from solidarity rallies all across the country to donations of money, food and essential supplies. That this support was on a scale unthinkable only a year ago is proof that this action spoke to the desire of working-class people to seek ways to resist the current economic onslaught. On the other hand, for this event to be a spark, others will have to pick up the baton. That means organized labor will have to take some measure of risk, embracing militant tactics when necessary and abandoning its reliance on political maneuvering as the primary means for the advancement of a working class agenda.

Benjamin Dangl is the author of “The Price of Fire: Resource Wars and Social Movements in Bolivia” (AK Press). He is the editor of TowardFreedom.com, a progressive perspective on world events, and UpsideDownWorld.org, a web site on activism and politics in Latin America.

http://www.truthout.org/articles/by-author/external/Benjamin+Dangl(Bulatlat)

20,000 local nurses needed in Middle East

January 3, 2009

At least 20,000 Filipino nurses are urgently needed in Middle East countries for work in military hospitals and other medical centers, the recruitment industry reported yesterday.

Lito Soriano, executive director of the Federated Association of Manpower Exporters, Inc. (FAME), said representatives from King Fahd Armed Forces Hospital arrived last Jan. 2 to recruit qualified Filipino nurses for vacancies in its medical facility in Jeddah.

“The estimated job vacancies by the industry for our nurses in the Middle East, mostly in Saudi Arabia also include those unfilled in 2008. Officials of King Fahd are already here to interview applicants,” he said in a phone interview.

Soriano, president of LBS-E Recruitment Solutions, said representatives from the Prince Sultan Cardiac Center-Riyadh and the King Khalid Military City Hospital—Hafr Al Batin in Saudi Arabia are scheduled to visit the country this January to recruit medical staff.

“Our nurses to be hired in Saudi Arabia will get an increase of 10 percent in their inflation allowance that would range from $ 600 to $ 1,000 a month of their salaries. They are entitled to free housing, travel costs, and yearly vacation,” he said.

Soriano said technical medical workers like X-ray technicians and respiratory technicians are also needed the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Kuwait and Oman.

He said that despite the worldwide financial crisis, salaries for skilled Filipino workers and professionals are expected to increase from $ 1,200 to $ 3,000 a month.

“Labor markets in Gulf economies have shown resiliency and it’s now experiencing a construction boom that led to the rising demand for foreign workers,” he said.

The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), however, released the list of “threats” to employment opportunities for Filipino workers in the Middle East in 2009.

On top of its list were nationalization policies, scrapping of the bids by Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) for its P Station project, the Kingdom’s downstream joint ventures and the reduction of the costs of Saudi Aramco, the world’s largest national oil company. (Raymund F. Antonio)(MB)

11-M Filipinos jobless in ’09–economist

January 2, 2009

By Thea Alberto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 14:23:00 01/02/2009

MANILA, Philippines — As the global economic crunch is expected to fully hit the country in 2009, at least 11 million Filipinos will lose their jobs, an economist said Friday.

In his forecast, former budget secretary Benjamin Diokno said millions of Filipinos would either go unemployed or be underemployed as the export sector would continue to slow down.

Labor Secretary Marianito Roque had admitted that there would be job losses although not on a massive scale.

“Unemployment will worsen, like those in the manufacturing, telecommunications, and banking,” Diokno told INQUIRER.net in a phone interview.

Diokno also noted that aside from the worsening labor situation, unemployment would increase because of the additional 1.5 million Filipinos who would be graduating from college this year and joining the labor force.

However, construction activities will hopefully continue to provide jobs, he said.

And as with previous reports, Diokno said jobs abroad would also be definitely affected by the crisis and more overseas Filipino workers would be expected to come home, especially domestic helpers, skilled workers, and medical personnel.

“Workers will continue to struggle,” said Diokno, noting that it will also not be a good time to ask for a raise.

“In an event, the supply for jobs is high and the demand is low and you ask for a raise, the usual move of employers is babaratin ka sa presyo [they will be stingy] or even fire employees,” added Diokno.

This early, employees must also start learning new skills as certain “jobs and industries will evaporate.”

He said if you were working in a bank but the industry was shaky, anticipate what kind of new jobs would emerge and equip yourself with the necessary skills.

Meanwhile, Diokno said he expects growth this year to be at 3 percent vis a vis an expected 4.6 percent for 2008. He added inflation was expected to be at 7 percent with food prices to go up by 10 percent.

Militant labor center slams AFP’s dirty tactics to red-tag leaders

December 31, 2008

Kilusang Mayo Uno – southern Mindanao region (KMU-SMR) condemns in strongest terms the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) for its statement that KMU-SMR vice president Omar Bantayan and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Southern Mindanao secretary general Jeppie Ramada have been seen in the company of the New People’s Army in Compostela Valley Province.

We believe that this is not merely a case of rumor-mongering on the part of Major Medel Aguilar of the 5th Civil Relations Group of the AFP. Such is part of a grand plan under the Oplan Bantay Laya 2 (OBL2) to facilitate whatever devious schemes they have against our leaders and legal political organizations.

Omar Bantayan, who also serves as the vice [resident for Mindanao of the Anakpawis partylist, has been designated to take care of our unions. His presence might not be seen during press conferences and rallies since he has to hop from union to another for both Socsargen and the Davao regions. With these, Bantayan would frequent the offices of the Department of Labor and Employment and its attached agencies in relation with the cases that are being faced by the unions.

Recently, in his capacity as a member of the national executive committee of the KMU, he attended the 1st Industrial Summit upon the invitation of councilor Edgar Ibuyan of Davao City. He was instrumental in the formation of the Davao Workers’ Alliance which was conceived during that summit.

Aside from looking into and helping our unions with their respective Collective Bargaining Negotiations, Certification Elections and other local struggles, ka Omar prepares the campaign and propaganda materials for the labor center. From time to time, he would deal with media personalities and outfits, other advocates and political leaders to explain and articulate issues concerning the workers and the Filipino people.

It is not a surprise to us that both were targeted since they have figured in many protest actions in the past. Both, Bantayan and Ramada, were members of the “Davao 8″, the 8 Davao militant leaders whom the CIDG attempted to charge with rebellion after the declaration of a State of National Emergency in 2006.

Gunmen, believed to be hired killers, also attempted to kill Bantayan in 2006.

We are outraged by this desperate move of the US-Arroyo Regime and its mercenary AFP. They want to salvage what is left of the botched and failed OBL2. Scenarios such as extra-judicial killings and the filing of trumped up charges against Bantayan and Ramada are not far-fetched. The regime employed such dirty tactics in southern Tagalog wherein they accused leaders of legal organizations through fabricated charges.

One of the victims of such machination is Atty. Remigio Saladero Jr., KMU chief legal counsel, who was arrested and now detained somewhere in Mindoro. We caution the public to be vigilant since the fascist machinery of the Arroyo regime in the region has something tucked under its sleeves.

We will not be cowed by such fascist attacks. All the more, we shall intensify our campaign for the advancement of the people’s interests. We shall mount protests for the toiling masses’ livelihood, land, wages, jobs and rights. The Arroyo war machine shall not be able to stop us.#

UP Academic Employees Clinch First CNA; Workers Get their Third

December 31, 2008

Academic employees of the University of the Philippines (UP) were able to clinch their first ever Collective Negotiation Agreement (CNA) with the UP administration just before the University’s Centennial celebration ended.

The All-UP Workers Union also signed their third CNA with the UP administration since 2001.

BY RONALYN V. OLEA
LABOR WATCH
Bulatlat

Academic employees of the University of the Philippines (UP) were able to clinch their first ever Collective Negotiation Agreement (CNA) with the UP administration just before the University’s Centennial celebration ended.

The All-UP Workers Union (AUWU) also signed their third CNA with the UP administration since 2001.

Officers and members of both the All-UP Academic Employees Union (AUAEA) and the AUWU from UP campuses in Diliman, Manila, Los Baños and Baguio witnessed the simultaneous signing of the two Collective Negotiation Agreements (CNA), December 12 at the Quezon Hall in UP Diliman.

Dr. Judy Taguiwalo, head of the AUAEA negotiation panel, national vice chairperson for faculty of the union, and newly-elected faculty regent, said the signing of the first CNA is a victory for the faculty, Research, Extension and Professional Staff (REPS) and other academic personnel of the university.

Dr. Ermelinda Roman, UP president and Dr. Erlinda Castro-Palaganas, national president of the AUAEA, led the signing of the CNA.


Dr. Ermelinda Roman (R) and Dr. Erlinda Castro-Palaganas sign the Collective Negotiation Agreement. (Photo by R. Olea)

Other members of the union’s negotiation panel include Dr. Leticia Tojos, Dr. Melania Lagahit-Abad, Dr. Teodora Mendoza, Prof. Roland Simbulan, Dr. Ramon Guillermo, Ms. Guillermina Panizales and Dr. Simplicio Medina.

The UP administration panel is headed by Prof. Theodore Te, vice president for legal affairs and Dr. Arlene Samaniego. Other members are Dr. Orlino Talens and Dr. Roberto Rañola.

Workers

The AUWU signed their 3rd CNA with the UP administration. Arnulfo Anoos, national president of the AUWU and Dr. Roman led the signing of the CNA.

Other members of the union’s negotiation panel include Jossel Ebesate, Alexis Mejia, Benjamin Santos Jr., Florendo Sambrano, Francisca Vera Cruz, Clodualdo Cabrera, Rolando Golondrina and Jesusa Besido.

Anoos thanked the union members for their support. He said, “Sana’y maisabuhay nang buong-buo ang nilalaman ng CNA. Sana’y madagdagan pa [ang mga benepisyo] sa pana-panahong negosasyon.”
(I hope that the CNA will be fully implemented. I also hope that the workers would receive more benefits in the next negotiations.)

Principles, benefits

The new CNA upholds the rights of workers, REPS and faculty members to a living wage, security of tenure, career development, good working conditions, free movement and right to organization, right to strike, right against any form of discrimination and the right to be consulted on matters affecting the rank-and-file workers and academic personnel.

Economic benefits include three sacks of rice per year at P1,500 per sack ($31.178 at the current exchange rate of $1=P48.11); P 1,000 ($20.785) grocery allowance and P10,000 ($207.856) CNA incentive or signing bonus.

Committees were also formed to look into the implementation of the hazard pay and the provision on comprehensive medical insurance.

Rank-and-file faculty, REPS and workers are also entitled to three (3) days sick leave and a maximum of six (6) days of special leave privileges every year. Nursing mothers are also entitled to a two-day leave.

Centennial

Roman said the signing of the two CNA has made the celebration of the UP Centennial more meaningful and historical.

She said she considers the faculty and staff as the most important assets of the university. “Natutuwa ako, kahit may nagra-rally dito sa Quezon Hall buwan-buwan, tayo naman ay nagkakasundo. Kung nakikita nating dapat lamang, hinahanapan natin ng paraan.” (I am happy that even if there is a rally here at Quezon Hall every month, we manage to arrive at an agreement. If we see that it is right, we find the means to fulfill it.)


Roman and AUWU President Arnulfo Anoos sign the CNA. (Photo by R. Olea)

Militant unionism

Palaganas said it took them one-and-a half years to clinch the CNA with the UP administration. “Napatunayan nating muli na walang hindi maaatim sa sama-samang pagkilos,” (We have proven once again that nothing is impossible to achieve when we are united.) she said.

Anoos said, “Kung hindi sa patuloy na pagkilos, hindi ito magtatagumpay. Nasa kamay ng mga kawani, mga faculty at REPS ang kahihinatnan ng ating CNA.” (If not for our continuous action, we would not have succeeded. What would come out of the CNA is in the hands of the employees, faculty and REPs.)

Meanwhile, Ferdinand Gaite, national president of the Confederation for the Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (COURAGE) said the CNA of the two UP unions is a success of the sector of government workers.

Gaite said, “The COURAGE is in solidarity with the workers, faculty and REPS of UP and rest assured, we will continue to monitor the implementation of the two CNAs.”

Antonio Tinio, national chairperson of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) also witnessed the signing of the two CNAs. He welcomed the signing of the CNA between the All-UP Academic Employees Union and the UP administration. “For so long, the academic employees have been lagging behind. That has already been corrected. Their CNA can be considered as among the most advanced in the country.”

Tinio added, “Ito ay mahalagang ambag sa pagpapalakas ng unyonismo sa hanay ng akademya sa buong bansa.” (This is a significant contribution to the strengthening of unionism within the ranks of the academe in the whole country.)(Bulatlat.com)

Laid off OFWs in Taiwan Duped by Malacañang

December 30, 2008

Retrenched overseas Filipino workers from Taiwan went to Malacañang hoping to receive assistance from the government. Instead, they were used for Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s photo gimmicks, and went home empty handed.

BY ANGIE DE LARA AND RONALYN OLEA
MIGRANT WATCH
Bulatlat

On December 5, Labor Secretary Marianito Roque and Overseas Workers Welfare Administration official Carmelita Dimson accompanied overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who were laid off in Taiwan to Malacañang. They were hopeful that President Arroyo would give them financial assistance and would order the proper agencies to act on their case. But they were terribly disappointed.

In a press conference, Dec. 11, Cristina de Borja, one of the retrenched OFWs related, “We were expecting to meet and talk with the President. But the President only came when the cameras started rolling. While in front of the cameras, President [Gloria] Arroyo herself handed checks to four of our representatives.”

De Borja said that the checks worth P50,000 ($1,055.408 at the current exchange rate of $1=P47.375) were turned over to the Technological Resource Center after the ceremony. The OFWs were told that the funds were for a livelihood program that the OFWs still have to apply for.

De Borja said, “We want President Arroyo to tell us that the Philippine government would do everything in its power to enforce our valid contracts…But she did not speak to us at all. After the photo gimmick, she left without a word…”

De Borja, 30, is from Angono, Rizal. Her contract is supposedly for two years but she was laid off after eight months of work due to the crisis.

De Borja said that their creditors have been running after them after seeing on television that Mrs. Arroyo handed to them P50,000 ($1,055) worth of checks. She said that each of them owe P85,000 to P120,000 ($1,794 to $2,532) and the amount increases due to the interest.

Meanwhile, the so-called ‘assistance package’ given to the OFWs actually contained brochures of the Social Security System (SSS), PhilHealth, flyers from the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) and referrals to the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA).

May Ruiz, another OFW from Taiwan lamented, “Dismayado kami sa naabutan namin sa OWWA lalo na sa Malacañang. Ang ine-expect po namin ay immediate action na ibibigay nila sa amin at hindi itong laman ng bayong na puro certificate, kasi pag- uwi po namin sa pamilya namin, hindi po ito magta-transform into cold cash para ipambili namin ng pagkain para sa pamilya namin.” (We are dismayed at what happened to us at the OWWA and especially at Malacañang. What we were expecting is immediate action to help us and not this bag, which is full of certificates. Because when we go home to our families, these could not be converted into cash to buy food for our families.)


Assistance package’ inside “Bayong” given by Press. Arroyo at Malacañang during the visit of Retrenched overseas Filipino workers from Taiwan. (Photo by Angie de Lara)

Ruiz added, “Tinatawag nila kami na bagong bayani, ang katumbas na lang pala ng bagong bayani ay isang bayong ng mga papel.” (They call us modern-day heroes. But apparently modern-day heroes are just worth a bag full of paper.)

Ruiz, 23, was an employee of the Advanced Semiconductor Engineering in Taiwan. She is the breadwinner of the family.

A mother of another retrenched OFW who is sill in Taiwan, Annie Redelicia, 52, said that her daughter Reggie left for Taiwan on October 6 this year and lost her job as an electronics worker on November 20.

Annie said the company has ceased supplying food to her daughter since November 30. She said she does not know if her daughter has something to eat.

Annie also said that the P80,000 ($1,688) debt they had incurred from the agency continues to gain interest. By November, the money they owe has increased to P100,000 ($2,110) because of the interest. “Baka po idemanda na kami ng agency e wala po talaga kaming ibabayad sa kanila, kasi kakaalis lang po ng anak ko tapos nawalan na kaagad ng trabaho,” (The agency might sue as because we really do not have money to pay them. My daughter has just left and she is already out of work.) she said.

Elvira Dungca, 25, another OFW from Taiwan, said they were offered a ‘no work, no pay’ scheme. The company would just call them if their services are needed. She said, “Paano kami habang walang trabaho? Paano kami mabubuhay sa araw-araw?” (How would we survive while we are out of work? How would we survive each day?)

POEA response

After the December 11 press conference, the laid off OFWs, along with some Migrante International officials, went to the POEA and sought a dialogue with POEA officials.

Lawyer Hans Leo Cacdac, deputy administrator for licensing and adjudication, talked with the OFWs.

The OFWs told Cacdac their predicament.

Ruiz said that that she was made to pay P85,000 ($1,794) as placement fee to the recruitment agency but the amount written in the receipt was only P25,000 ($527).

Cacdac said the POEA only allows the charging of a maximum of P55,000 ($1,160) for placement fee.

Ruiz said that some OFWs owed a balance of P7,500 ($158) for their placement fee. When they arrived in Taiwan, the amount was converted to 7,500 NT or P10,771.69 ($227).

She related that when the retrenched OFWs insisted that the company pays the remaining amount stipulated in the contract, the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) replied that they just have to follow their employer and abide by the law in Taiwan.

Borja said MECO told them that the government will talk with the lending agencies. When she arrived home, Borja asked OWWA about the matter and the OWWA referred her to the POEA.

Connie Bragas-Regalado, former chairperson of Migrante who also joined the dialogue asked the POEA to punish the agencies collecting more than P55,000 (($1,160) as placement fee.

Regalado also said that the contracts of the OFWs stipulate that the employer and/or the recruitment agency should pay for the ticket in case of retrenchment or repatriation. The retrenched OFWs said their employer only gave them P1,500 NT; the air ticket costs 5,500 NT.

Regalado said the employer should also pay the whole amount of the contract.

Nimfa D. de Guzman, officer in charge of the POEA Welfare and Employment Office said they could only offer to facilitate conciliation meetings between the recruitment agencies and the OFWs. She said the POEA will act as mediator.

Cacdac said the POEA could give the OFWs referral letters for possible employment in other countries. The OFWs retorted they would be referred to the same recruitment agencies they have been complaining about.

Cacdac said recruitment agencies that collect beyond the maximum amount allowed for placement fee could face cancellation of licenses.

Demands

De Borja said, “Ang hinihingi lang naman po naming ay ibigay yung rights naming mga OFWs.” (What are we are asking for is for them to give us what is due to us.)

She said the projects offered by the Arroyo government could not provide an immediate solution to their problems.

Garry Martinez, chairperson of Migrante International said the retrenched OFWs need a financial assistance package.

Martinez said, “Sabi ng gobyerno may inilabas na silang P250 million para sa mga na walan ng trabajong OFWs, saan yon napunta?” (The government said they have released P250 million [$5,277,044] for OFWs who would lose their jobs, where did the amount go?)

Martinez said some of the retrenched OFWs have been charged with estafa by lending agencies.


Retrenched overseas Filipino workers from Taiwan ripped the papers that the government gave them as ‘assistance package’. (Photo by Angie de Lara)

He said that the December 5 incident in Malacañang only shows that the Arroyo government is not ready and not serious in dealing with the crisis. He criticized Malacañang for deceiving the OFWs amid the crisis.

Martinez said the OFWs are demanding for a reimbursement of their plane tickets, financial assistance, payment of the remaining amount of the contract, and the release of the P10 million OWWA ($211,081) funds to help the OFWs.

Cordi mine areas militarized, multiple human rights violations documented

December 21, 2008

BAGUIO CITY — Heightened militarization in the boundaries of Kalinga, Mountain Province, Abra and Ilocos Sur led to various human rights violations of the collective rights of the residents in these areas, reported a human rights watchdog in the Cordillera region.

Exactly 49.92% or 55,140 hectares of the total 1,111,995 hectares mining applications registered at the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) is in the tri-boundaries of the said provinces. The Cordillera’s total land area is 1.8 million hectares.

The Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) claimed in its 2008 report that government troops’ bombings and shelling, cannons stationed and fired within communities, illegal searches of houses, and the military use of schools, medical, religious and other public places and private residences are the notable violations committed in the said areas.

Nineteen cases of illegal search and seizures affecting at least 108 persons were documented by the CHRA while three cases of bombing and shelling were documented with the same number of persons affected.

CHRA reported there are eight cases where military used of schools, medical, religious and other public places and private residences where at least 9,102 persons were affected.

It identified the 50th Infantry Batallion of the 503rd Brigade as involved in the said cases.

CHRA said that the headquarters of the 503rd Brigade was transferred from Narvacan, Ilocos Sur to Lagangilang, Abra “marking shift of military attention from Ilocos Region to the Cordillera.

Mine protector?

Some residents of villages in the boundaries of the four provinces claimed earlier that the military deployment is due to mining applications.

In the MGB mining tenement statistic report to MGB National Director Horacio Ramos, there were six applications for Financial or Technical Agreement in the boundaries of the four provinces which total to 480,492.775 hectares; five Exploration Permit Application (EXPA) which cover 65,657 hectares; and two Applications for Production Sharing Agreement (APSA) which cover 8,991 hectares.

All of these applications total to 555,140.775 hectares where 15 % of the area is found in Ilocos Sur while 85 % in Kalinga, Abra and Mountain province.

However, AFTA 3 by Newcrest Explorations that covers Abra and Kalinga, which was converted to EXPA, has no indicated area in hectares in the MGB document. Also AFTA 25 by Shipside, alleged subsidiary of Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company (Lepanto) covers 80,684.8712 hectares in the provinces of Ifugao, Mountain Province and Nueva Vizcaya.

Violating right to life

CHRA also reported four cases of extra-judicial killings which involved four persons.

The victims were all farmer/hunters from Abra and Kalinga and the incidents took place one quarter apart from its other, stated the CHRA report which was released on December 10, the 60th commemoration of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.

CHRA also reported a sole case of enforced disappearance. Its report stated that Cordillera Peoples Alliance founding member James Moy Balao was forcibly taken by alleged military intelligence forces on September 17 near Camp Bado Dangwa in Tomay, La Trinidad, Benguet. The family and the CPA filed a petition for a Writ of Amparo in a Benguet Court but no decision has been issued by the court yet.

CHRA also reported that four cases of restriction or violent dispersal of mass action had happened in the city which covered at least 1,495 persons.

CHRA report pointed out that people worldwide are commemorating the 60th adoption of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, human rights situation in the Philippines remains deplorable as the rights to life, liberty, security, self-determination and development are far from being fully realized.

It also demanded the demilitarization of the country sides. # Arthur L. Allad-iw(NorDis)

Miners hit by global crisis

December 20, 2008

MANKAYAN, Benguet — Mine workers here start to feel the effects of the global financial crisis as Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company implements its work rotation scheme.

All departments would be subjected to the new work program which cuts down workers’ working days from 26 to 10, President Manuel B. Binhaon Jr. of the Lepanto Employees Union (LEU) told delegates to the 4th General Assembly of Mankayan, Quirino, Tadian, Cervantes Dangayan a Gunglo (Maquitacdg) in Barangay Bulalacao, here on November 30.

The mine department will be on a 10-day work, surface workers are to work for 15 days, while those in the mill are allowed to work for 20 days.

“If the rest day and holiday fall within the 15-day work period, a worker has only 13 days to work,” Tony Sulang, union treasurer disclosed.

Binhaon said the reduced work scheme started in November and is expected to be enforced until July.

For Sulang and other union officers, the no-work days give them enough time to look into union affairs. They see the new work scheme as a union-busting technique employed by the company to rid itself of the militant genuine trade unionism.

Ordinary mine workers, however, find the time out from the mines to look for odd jobs elsewhere, especially in lowland rice farms to earn for their family’s needs.

“Once they get more stable and better-paying jobs, workers do not return to work until they are considered absent without leave and eventually terminated,” Sulang clarified.

Binhaon observed that many college students from Mankayan did not enroll this semester because of the lack of income of workers and their families.

Besides the new scheme, Lepanto workers get their pay in two to three installments, usually receiving only P1,000 to P1,500 on the first installment. They could not avail of social security systems loans because Lepanto has not remitted some P60 million in SSS premiums collected from workers since 2000.

They could notavail of rice loans either, because similarly, the company has not remitted P2 million in rice loan payments it has collected from workers.

“Uray coop, awan ti mautang,” (We could not avail of cooperative loans), due to the company’s failure to remit coop payments totaling some P8 million, according to Binhaon.

The union is presently gathering evidence for the immediate filing of charges.

Meanwhile, in another interview, Atty. Sixto Rodriguez, assistant regional director of the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) said it is management prerogative to implement the work rotation scheme. He said, however, it has to be approved by the labor department before it could be imposed.

“It should not be used to terminate or force workers to resign,” Rodriguez said. # Lyn V. Ramo(NorDis)

Unemployment up, at 6.8% in October

December 17, 2008

By Darwin G. Amojelar, Reporter

The number of unemployed Filipinos rose slightly in October to 6.8 percent, dragged by the weak performance of the economy, particularly the services and industry sectors, the government reported Tuesday.

The government earlier reported that the economy, as measured by gross domestic product (GDP) slowed to 4.6 percent in the first three quarters of this year compared with 7.1 percent in the same period last year. GDP is the total value of all final goods and services produced in a country within a year.

The economy in the third quarter has been damaged but not quite ravaged by the global financial turmoil and high oil prices, the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) earlier said.

The National Statistics Office (NSO) said the unemployment rate rose to 6.8 percent, or 2.53 million, in October from 6.3 percent, or 2.25 million, in the same month last year.

But the unemployment rate in October was lower than the 7.4 percent registered in July.

Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ralph Recto said the global financial crisis and high oil and food prices restrained the country from gaining more employment in 2008.

“The higher unemployment rate signals that the government needs to take immediate actions in creating and safeguarding employment and livelihood for the Filipinos,” he added. “As two-thirds of the world economy is now entering recession and the global financial crisis has already afflicted the real sector of the country’s economy, it is imperative that the government pays utmost attention to the objective of creating and saving as many jobs as possible. This will help minimize the adverse impact of the crisis to the most vulnerable sectors of the economy.”

Statistics breakdown

The statistics agency reported that the highest unemployment rate was recorded in Metro Manila at 12.8 percent, followed by Calabarzon (the provinces of Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon), 10 percent and Central Luzon, 8.1 percent.

The National Statistics Office said 32.9 percent of the unemployed Filipinos were high-school graduates; 22.1 percent, college undergraduates comprised about one-fifth, while the college graduates, 18.9 percent.

Out of about 58.2 million population 15 years old and over in October, 37.1 million persons were in the labor force or 63.7 percent. Last year’s labor force participation rate was 63.2 percent.

The number of employed persons in October was estimated at 34.5 million or an employment rate at 93.2 percent, lower from last year’s 93.7 percent.

The statistics office said the National Capital Region posted the lowest employment rate at 87.2 percent. Besides that region, Central Luzon with 91.9 percent and Calabarzon, 90 percent had employment rates below the national value of 93.2 percent.

Of the total employed Filipinos, the agency reported that 49.6 percent were in the services sector—down by 1.6 percent from last year’s 51.2 percent.

Employment in industry sector also decline to 14.7 percent from 15.2 percent last year, and agriculture to 35.7 percent from 36.1 percent.

In terms of occupation, laborers and unskilled workers constituted the largest group at 32.6 percent of the total employed persons in October 2008. Farmers, forestry workers and fishermen were the second-largest group, accounting for 17.7 percent of the total employed population.

Underemployment rate

The country’s underemployment rate in October was estimated at 17.5 percent or about 6 million people.

Around 3.7 million or 61.8 percent of the total underemployed persons were reported as visibly underemployed or working fewer than 40 hours during the reference week.

“Most of the underemployed were working in the agriculture sector [48.8 percent] and services sector [36 percent]. The underemployed in the industry sector accounted for 15.2 percent,” according to the National Statistics Office.

Recto, also the director general of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), said the government would speed up the creation of employment by ensuring that the allocated budget is fully and efficiently spent.

“Resources will be shifted from slow to fast-moving and uncomplicated projects with visible employment results,” he added.

Recto said another step to be taken is to encourage firms and households to make the recent income tax measures like lower corporate income tax rate, exemption of minimum wage earners from paying income taxes, increase in personal exemption of non-minimum wage earners an opportunity for business expansions and entrepreneurial activities.

Common action plan

He also said the tripartite (government, business, and labor) common action plan would be continued through “decisive dialogue on coping mechanisms to preserve as much employment as possible, while making industries cost-effective and productive.”

Another measure for employment generation is to intervene for the young labor force by offering more training vouchers and scholarships, Recto said, adding that this initiative would “help create a better human resource that is ready for the economic upturn.”

Recto said the allocated budget would also be maximized by increasing and fast-tracking the employment of educators, health workers and law enforcers commensurate to the needs of the sectors.

But he warned that while “this could help safeguard the nation from the social fallouts of the global slump, it should be done efficiently by ensuring that problems of misallocation of government employees are addressed.”

Helping SMEs

The authority official likewise said government would intensify support to small and medium enterprises and entrepreneurs by facilitating the provision of credit, technology and marketing assistance.

Recto outlined these initiatives as part of the economic sustainability plan in the light of the global slowdown, which he said must be “multi-pronged in creating and safeguarding Filipino employment and livelihood.”(ManilaTimes)

Pagpaparusa sa opisyal na magpapabaya sa OFW suportado ng Migrante

December 14, 2008

Soliman A. Santos

Suportado ng Migrante Middle East ang isang panukalang batas na naglalayong maparusahan ang mga opisyal ng embahada, paggawa at serbisyong pangkalingan na tumanggi o hindi nakatulong sa mga (overseas Filipino workers).

Ang House Bill No. 5461 ay inihain ni Rep. Cynthia Villar sa Kamara dahil sa patuloy umanong pang-aabuso sa mga OFW dahil na rin sa kapabayaan ng mga opisyal.

Ayon kay John Leonard Monterona, coordinator ng Migrante-ME, suportado nila ang panukalang batas dahil para ito sa kagalingan ng mga OFW.

“Nanawagan kami sa mga kapwa-OFW na suportahan ang pagsasabatas ng HB-5461,” ani Monterona.

Nagpahayag naman ng tuwa si Monterona dahil kinikilala ni Villar ang lumalalang kalagayan ng mga OFW lalo na ang mga domestic helper at construction worker na patuloy na nagdurusa sa kamay ng mga abusadong employer, di makataong kalagayan sa paggawa at iba’t ibang paglabag sa kanilang karapatang pantao.

Sinabi pa ni Monterona na lalo lamang nakakainsulto sa mga OFW ang mga kapabayaan ng mga opsiyal ng embahada na dapat sanang tumutulong sa mga nagdurusang migrante.

Tinatayang mahigit sa isang libo nang mga kaso ng OFW ang nakarating sa tanggapan ng migrante sa taong ito.

Ayon pa kay Monterona, hihikayatin nila ang kanilang mga miyembro na sumulat sa mga kongresista para sa agarang pagpasa ng HB No. 5461.

PinoyWeekly

Stranded na OFW sa Middle East dapat ding tulungan ng gobyerno

December 14, 2008

Nanawagan ang mga migrante sa Middle East sa agarang pagpapauwi sa mga OFW (overseas Filipino workers) na stranded at nangangailangan ng tulong sa naturang rehiyon.

Ito ang naging reaksiyon ng Migrante-Middle East sa utos ni Pangulong Arroyo na agad na pauwiin ang mga stranded na OFW sa Bangkok dahil sa pampulitikang kaguluhan doon.

Ayon sa grupo, bagamat natutuwa sila sa utos ng pangulo, nagtataka naman sila dahil hindi nito magawang utusan ang mga opisyal ng embahada para pauwiin na rin ang daan-daang stranded na OFW sa Middle East.

Sinabi pa ng grupo na lagi na lamang nilang ipinanawagan sa gobyernong Arroyo na tulungang makauwi ang mga OFW na nakakulong at nanunuluyan sa Filipino Resource Centers subalit hindi sila pinapakinggan.

Kinuwestiyon pa ng Migrante-ME kung bakit hindi nagpapalabas ng pondo ang Pangulo para makauwi, lalo ngayong panahon ng kapaskuhan, ang mga stranded na OFW.

Pinatutunayan lamang umano nito ang pagpapabaya ng gobyernong Arroyo sa mga OFW na ang tanging kasalanan ay lumayas sa kanilang abusadong employer para iligtas ang kanilang mga sarili.

Narra nickel cuts 469 mining employees

November 20, 2008

By Celeste Anna R. Formoso

A GLOOMY Christmas awaits 469 employees of the Narra Nickel Mining and Development Corporation (NNMDC) who lost their jobs following uninterrupted slides in nickel prices in the world market, absence of buyers and financial loses.

On October 13, separation notices were sent to the first batch of 290 contractual and job order status employees by the management of the NNMDC; followed by 179 more probationary and regular workers on November 16, a news release sent to media stations disclosed.

The NNMDC informed the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) that the employees who were retrenched received separation benefits: salary for the month of October, payment for unused sick and vacation leaves, 15-day compensation for every year of service in the company and 13th month pay.

In the press statement, Engr. Roland F. Rodriguez, chief operating officer of NNMDC, said they “sympathize” with the employees, especially because it happened with Christmas time just about a month away.

He implied that the NNMDC might also be suspending operations in their mining activities that would incur more expenses considering the crisis that world economies are experiencing.

The anti-mining activities that are being done by “militant NGOs” are also discouraging foreign investors to contemplate positioning more funds in mining in Palawan.

“Although the company is considering the return of employees with good records and performances when the prices of nickel go back to normal, foreign investors are adamant too, to put in additional capitals allegedly due to the non-stop anti-mining activities that militant non-government organizations (NGOs) are putting up against the mining industry,” the news release claimed.

From a US$50.00 per pound of laterite and garnerite nickel last year, the current price drastically dropped to US$3.80 last week, said Bimbo Fernandez, the NNMDC’s community relations officer.

“The company will focus on surviving the crisis, reviewing lessons, monitoring prices and planning ahead when the market stabilizes,” he said.

In related news, the multipartite monitoring team (MMT) for the NNMDC has been created on October 23 following an orientation-seminar held at Maydavian Resort in Barangay Caguisan, Narra.

The orientation-seminar was attended by representatives from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Region IV Environmental Management Board, Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), Mining Regulatory Board (MRB), Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO), Provincial Mining and Regulatory Board (PMRB), Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD), local government unit officials of Narra municipality, Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) of Narra, Palawan NGO Network, Inc. (PNNI), Calategas Irrigators Systems Association (CISA), barangay officials of Calatuigas and San Isidro and the management staff of the small scale mining company.

The MMT was created to monitor the activities of the NNMDC and to make sure that the environment within its areas of operations, as well as the residents in the direct impact area are safe from irresponsible mining.

Within the days of the activity, the attendees conducted an ocular inspection of the mitigating measures in the environment that the NNMDC has set up, such as its dams, beaver dams, siltation ponds and slope stabilization that are stated in the environmental clearance certificate (ECC) it was issued.

A strict inspection of the NNMDC’s laboratory, motorpool, mine site, stockyard and pier, including the examination of the sound, and quality of air and water, to make sure that pollution is avoided was also done. Additionally inspected too, are the community projects funded by the mining company: the fish pens provided for coastal fishermen, vegetable farms for the indigenous peoples, tilapia project and roads that were rehabilitated and improved.

Engineer Percival Ladub of the MGB-Region IV and the team leader of the MMT, said all members have roles to play to better give the practice of responsible mining an edge in the province.(ThePalawanTimes)

Miners protest work rotation scheme

November 18, 2008

BAGUIO CITY — Miners, their wives and other community members Thursday assailed Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company’s (LCMCo) new policy of reduced working days, which calls for a work rotation scheme in a a protest rally in front of the company’s general office in Mankayan.

Spearheaded by the Lepanto Employees’ Union-NAFLU-Kilusang Mayo Uno (LEU-NAFLU-KMU) the protest action demanded the mining firm to retract its order for a reduction of working days for its employees.

Lepanto management released a notice to its workers on October 27 announcing its plan to reduce the working days to 20 per month with the implementation of the work rotation scheme for all its surface employees and about 119 underground employees supposed effective November 1.

The company’s reason for the reduction of work days is its low production and eventual losses it may incur.

Atty. Ana C. Dione, regional director of the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) Cordillera said during the weekly Kapihan sa Baguio, she has received an informal report from the mining company about its plans for the reduced workdays.

“Lepanto would be undergoing reduced workdays because according to them the price of copper in the global market went down,” said Dione. She added some workers hoped the said scheme would only last for three months to prevent a massive financial effect on them.

According to Dione, this could be an effect of the global financial crisis.

Aside from Lepanto, DoLE also reported one occasion of termination in one of the sub-contractors of Texas Instrument (TI) in the export processing zone in Loakan, due to the financial crisis.

“Other than that, we have not received any other report, but our office is now undergoing a heightened monitoring on possible effects of the global crisis to the local industries specifically here in the region,” added Dione.

Meanwhile, Lepanto employees who were frustrated in having a dialog with the company’s management, are planning to stage a series of protest actions against the said scheme and other unfair labor practices of the company.

The reduced workday scheme prompted LEU to hold a general membership assembly on October 31.

“This is a gross violation of the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) and comprises an unfair labor practice,” said LEU Chairperson Manuel Binhaon during the rally.

Lepanto reportedly failed to remit some P52.2 million social security contributions and loan payments and another P3.2 million employees premiums in a government housing fund. It has also neglected the payment of backwages since November last year.

“The company uses diversionary tactics to evade its financial obligations to workers,” Bihaon said. # Cye Reyes(NorDis)

Cordi, Asian migrants in HK hit global confab

November 18, 2008

BAGUIO CITY — Cordilleran migrant workers organizations based in Hong Kong (HK) in solidarity with other migrant workers organizations of Asia strongly criticized the objectives of the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) held in Manila last week.

In an interview, Migrante Metro Baguio spokesperson Flora Belinan said that there are some eight thousand migrant workers from the Cordillera in HK. There are several specific Cordillera provincial and town organizations who are in solidarity with other asian migrant organizations.

These organizations through the Asian Migrants Coordinating Body (AMCB) have come together to collectively criticize the GFMD that has just concluded its second forum in Manila.

Before the HK Asian Migrants Assembly, Dolores Balladares, spokesperson of the AMCB said, “Asian migrants in Hong Kong say no to GFMD and the sellout of migrants. The GFMD is an anti-worker meeting of migrants’ rights violators.”

The HK Asian Migrants Assembly was participated in by more than a thousand protesters from organizations of Indonesians, Filipinos, Thais, Sri Lankans and Nepalese migrants joined by hundreds of Filipino members of the Bangon Pilipinas Movement – HK.

The action was held at Harcourt Garden near the office of the Philippine Consulate General in HK.

“This protest is our contribution to the parallel forum on the GFMD, the International Assembly of Migrants and Refugees (IAMR),” said Balladares. She added that the action was also a run up to the global Zero Remittance Day last October 29, the first day of the GFMD meeting.

The IAMR was also held in Manila, simultaneous to the Philippine government hosted GMFD meeting.

Balladares expounded that they see the GFMD as dangerous to migrants for as a forum, it is merely concerned with how migration can be a profitable industry for labor-sending governments, labor-receiving governments, banks, recruitment agencies and a host of other businesses related to migration and migration processes.

“Neoliberal globalization has already destroyed our lives and GFMD is but globalization schemes applied to migration. This will surely affect in a negative way our wages, job security, services and rights, especially now in the face of an unprecedented worldwide economic crisis,” Balladares said.

According to her, the GFMD is more interested in how to use the more than US$200 billion remittances than the rights of migrants. For the group, any talks of rights in GFMD will be empty for attending states are known human rights violators of migrants and refugees.

After the program, the protesters marched to the Hong Kong Central Government Office to urge the HK government to not follow the GFMD design and instead address the issues of migrants in HK such as a legislated minimum wage, job security and discrimination.

Belinan also said the Migrante Metro-Baguio, the organization of migrant workers and their families, agree and are one with what Balladares said – “our stand against the GFMD is a stand for our rights and our future. We will continue to resist infringements to our rights and well being that the GFMD shall surely come up with.” # Kathleen T. Okubo (NorDis)

Lepanto unions oppose work suspension

November 18, 2008

BAGUIO CITY — Three labor unions in a giant mining firm and its subsidiaries are opposing the implementation of a planned work suspension and work stoppage.

According to the unions, this measure will mean wage cuts and a threat to the workers’ security of tenure. The workers also demanded for the immediate payment of their unpaid earned wages. The management had been delaying release of wages for months now.

The Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company (LCMCo) planned to implement on November 1, 2008 a work rotation scheme for all surface workers and some 119 underground workers belonging to the Lepanto Employees Union-NAFLU-KMU.

On the other hand, work operations of the Shipside, Incorporated, the Paramina and the Diamond Drilling Company of the Philippines have been suspended causing the indefinite work leave-without pay of hundreds of workers. These companies are owned largely by the Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company.

Leading the workforce, the Lepanto Employees Union-NAFLU-KMU submitted to the company a letter demanding the non-implementation the work rotation scheme; the company’s labor cost program guidelines and implementation.

Earlier, the labor unions complained of several violations of their labor rights which included: non-remittance of their social benefit contributions to the Social Security System, the Philhealth and Pag-Ibig that amounts to millions of pesos since 2006, this preventing the workers to avail of loans and other benefits due them; partial releases of already delayed wages; non-compliance of the management to some provisions of their collective bargaining agreement; and illegal dismissal of officers and members of the Shipside Employees Union-NAFLU-KMU.

The labor center, Kilusang Mayo Uno-Cordillera expressed strong criticism to this schemes by management.

They also said that the company did not comply to the agreement signed between them and the unions. The company agreed to pay at least P10 million monthly for unremitted SSS contributions that shall start on July 2008. They also agreed to pay the workers their back wages from the implementation of the collective bargaining agreement starting November 2007. But none of these were complied with.

“This scheme being implemented by the Lepanto company is a trend towards the contractualization of labor and eventually busting the labor unions. This is an outright attack against the growing number of genuine trade unions in the region,” said Manuel Binhaon, president of the LEU-NAFLU-KMU.

“We are no longer in a slave-master society. The Lepanto company should recognize the employer-employee relationship that has requisites, terms and conditions they have agreed on,” said Binhaon. # Leonida E. Tundagi (NorDis)

Public school teachers in rural areas lash at GSIS

November 17, 2008

VIRAC, Catanduanes: Public school teachers in far-flung villages here scored the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) for harassment, cheating and negligence over their perceived accountabilities.

At least five Government Service Insurance System members who have recently retired or in the process of retiring complained that the government insurance agency has been warning them to settle their unpaid salary loans while others said they were not being paid their matured policies after the proceeds due them had been paid to cover unpaid loans, even when they do not have any loans.

Oscar Uchi, a high school teacher at the Tambogñon national High School in a coastal village in Viga town, who had retired recently said the GSIS database indicated that a salary loan of P84, 200 that he made in 2003 has not been paid when records of his pay slips including that from the Department of Education for salary deductions, had appropriately been submitted to the GSIS.

Another GSIS member-teacher from the same school, Gregorio Villaray, lamented that he is retiring by January next year but the GSIS is forcing him to pay his salary loan of P74, 500 when his records showed it was already paid in full.

Maria Salome Tosic and Maria Filipina Liveta, also teachers of the said school claimed they have not obtained loans from the agency but when their policies matured, the agency would not pay them alleging the proceeds due their policies were made to cover for loans they made.

Avelino Tumala, also a teacher said his P60, 000 GSIS insurance policy have already matured but he was informed by the agency its proceed was paid to his unsettled loans. “I don’t have a single unpaid loan,” Tumala said.

The teachers said the mounting problems confronted by public school teachers was never experienced under the old GSIS setup. If there was, these were minor the teachers added.

Salvador Manlangit, a retired agriculture technician at the coastal Gigmoto Municipal office said he was required by the GSIS to fill up forms for his e-card in Virac town in June. Then he was assured the e-card would be received in 15 days. As it were, he has not received until now the e-card that is the instrument for the withdrawal of his monthly pension.

GSIS members here also complained that even educational policies for their children could not be collected when their children reach college. They said some beneficiary-students have already graduated and their GSIS policy still remains uncollected.

The teachers appealed to the government and the GSIS to save teachers from this kind of mess saying they are retiring poor only to become victims of injustices from the state-owned firm. This is double jeopardy, the teachers said adding that their counterpart in the private sector never encountered similar injustices from the Social Security System.
– Manny T. Ugalde

Another union leader nabbed in Laguna

November 15, 2008

By Maricar Cinco
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 03:43:00 11/15/2008

SAN PEDRO, LAGUNA – A labor leader was arrested Thursday noon in front of the Calamba City hall in Laguna, a labor group reported.

Herme Marasigan, of the Organized Labor Association in Line Industries and Agriculture (Olalia) Federation, identified the labor leader as Emmanuel Dioneda, 42, executive director of the Labor Education Advocacy Development Response Services (Leaders), an institution working for labor rights.

Dioneda was arrested with his girlfriend Sailani Catindig at around 12:30 p.m., Marasigan said.

He said the last contact with Dioneda was at around 10 a.m., before joint forces from the Calamba City Police Office (CCPO) and the regional intelligence arrested the two.

“They took his wallet and cell phone,” Marasigan added.

He said the two were first taken to the Canlubang jail for interrogation and were later detained at Camp Vicente Lim at around 4:43 p.m.

Catindig was released at about 5 p.m.

Marasigan described Dioneda’s left leg as smaller than the other due to polio and therefore, was unlikely to participate in an ambush as charged against him.

Dioneda is the sixth among the 72 activists facing multiple murder and multiple frustrated murder charges, wherein three policemen were killed in an alleged New People’s Army ambush in Calapan City in Oriental Mindoro.

A press release sent by the Laguna Provincial Police Office said Dioneda was arrested by virtue of a warrant of arrest issued by Judge Tomas C. Leynes of the Regional Trial Court Branch XC (40) in Calapan City for multiple murder and multiple frustrated murder with no bail recommended.

Supt. Christopher Tambungan, chief of the CCPO, confirmed the arrest in a brief phone interview with the Inquirer (parent company of INQUIRER.net).

“There is an arrest warrant issued for multiple murder and multiple frustrated murder,” he said.

Tambungan said Dioneda would be transferred to the Calapan provincial jail, where the warrant originated.

At around 7 a.m. Friday, members of the police and the regional intelligence left Camp Vicente Lim to take Dioneda to Calapan City, said Marasigan.

=========

My Take:

Why is it that it is easy for them to catch a union leader, and not the drug lords, the corrupt public officials, the gambling lords and even the perpetrators of extra-judicil killings?

The Sour Taste of Pineapple

November 14, 2008

International Labor Rights Forum

http://www.laborrights.org/creating-a-sweatfree-world/resources/1758

SINCE the 1960s, pineapple production has quadrupled and export has tripled worldwide. While profits for some have tremendously expanded under such development, this report demonstrates how pineapple workers, their families and communities, and the environment in the largest pineapple producing nations have not enjoyed the benefits of such growth.

ILRF’s partner labor advocacy NGOs in Costa Rica, ASEPROLA, and in the Philippines, the Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research (Eiler), have found abundant evidence that labor rights abuses, inhumane working conditions, and environmental degradation have plagued the industry around the world. These groups conducted field research on pineapple plantations and processing facilities.

Increased corporate control in export supply chains has prevented small farmers and workers in pineapple producing countries from sharing in the products’ growing revenue. Dole and Del Monte, through their subsidiaries, compete as the largest global suppliers of both fresh and processed pineapple as both operate plantations, distribution centers, and processing facilities all over the world. Dole and Del Monte have also been expanding their operations through the purchasing and leasing of new land for pineapple production. Dole’s subsidiary, Dole Philippines dominates the pineapple industry in the Philippines, while Fresh Del Monte’s subsidiary, PINDECO, dominates Costa Rican fresh pineapple production.

The major labor and environmental abuses documented in the report are as follows:

  • Pineapple plantation and processing workers work long hours. On average they work 10-12 hours a day, six days a week, often in the hot sun. Both in Costa Rica and the Philippines, unrealistically high production quotas and low piece rate wages have led to long workdays. Work without overtime pay compels workers to work longer in order to make a meager living. Costa Rican workers earn between $1-2 an hour while workers in the Philippines earn even less. The instability and seasonal nature of the work forces workers to maximize their income when the work is available, thus putting their safety at risk. Pineapple workers have not seen their incomes rise as living costs rise. This perpetuates the reality that pineapple workers, like other agricultural workers, live below the poverty line.

  • Freedom of association and right to collective bargaining, recognized by the International Labor Organization (ILO) as core labor rights, have been blatantly violated in both Costa Rica and the Philippines according to ILO reports. Union leaders have been systematically fired and laid off to obliterate any union presence in pineapple production. This is particularly true in Costa Rica, where companies install “Permanent Committees,” or company selected worker representatives to replace union leaders. Union representation has also been significantly reduced in the Philippines, due to a widespread increase in contract labor. Less than 2% of workers in Costa Rica are currently unionized and as a result major anti-union actions have been carried out by companies while governments remain complicit.

  • Dole Philippines has been able to evade its responsibilities to its workers by replacing the majority of its regular workforce with contract labor from “labor cooperatives.” Approximately 77% of workers producing pineapple supplied to Dole are contract laborers and cannot be in the union representing regular workers. Contract workers systematically earn less than directly employed, regular workers as a result of production quota systems or piece-rate based remuneration and the lack of ability to engage in collective bargaining. They are denied most of the basic labor rights and social benefits granted to regular workers. Subcontracting labor, which also prevails in Costa Rica, undermines unions, as temporary/contract workers are legally stripped of their rights to organize into unions and bargain collectively. Most women working in the industry are contract workers.

  • Workers are frequently exposed to toxic chemicals through pesticides and fertilizers such as endosulfan in the Philippines, and diuron in Costa Rica. Companies do not always provide proper protective gear and family members or workers are frequently exposed to the chemicals when laundry is done at home. Numerous reports have shown that chemical application in the pineapple fields is more harmful and bothersome to workers than in other agricultural sectors. Side effects range from allergies, nausea and skin rashes to more serious, long term conditions. On average, pineapple plantation workers only have a work life of four years.

  • Pineapple industry expansion has threatened communities and the natural environment in areas of cultivation and processing. Agrochemicals have contaminated the water supplies in pineapple growing regions of Costa Rica and the Philippines. Community groups in Costa Rica claim that small farmers have lost many of their cattle to pests attracted to the pineapple crop. Deforestation and monoculture have altered the biodiversity of the region.

The labor and environmental issues associated with the industry stem from a number of factors. Rapid expansion of the industry has been met with an inability and unwillingness of producing countries to impose regulations, partly as a result of corporate pressure. Trade agreements such as the Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership, soon to become the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), have not sufficiently encouraged the enforcement of labor and environmental standards.

The abuses can also be attributed to more systematic factors surrounding the international agricultural supply chains. Multinational companies that buy and distribute pineapples are pressured into reducing costs to be able to compete for a place on the supermarket shelf. Since input costs such as fertilizers and gas are often fixed or rising, supplier companies such as Dole and Del Monte will often seek to maximize profits by minimizing their labor costs. Labor costs only account for a small percentage of the total selling price of the pineapples. Nevertheless, these companies consistently take advantage of high unemployment, migrant workers and weak labor standards in impoverished regions like Central America and Southeast Asia.

ILRF recommends that companies in the pineapple supply chain follow all national and international labor laws; take a positive, public position in support of legal restrictions on the abuse of short term contract labor and dispatched labor schemes; respect workers’ rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining; introduce fair production quotas and fair wages; provide protective equipment to guard against agrochemicals and reduce chemical use.

We recommend that the US government push both the Costa Rican and Filipino governments, as trading partners, to strengthen, rather than weaken, their labor laws. These governments should grant equal rights to temporary, contingent, or contract workers in regards to remuneration, workday, rights to join a union and receive social benefits, and any other rights granted to regular workers. Finally, we ask that US consumers advocate for pineapple workers through government and corporate pressure.

Dole is currently seeking to increase its investment in the Philippines by expanding production, and is requesting special trade benefits from the U.S. government to help fund the expansion. ILRF has testified that before any additional special benefits are granted to fuel Dole’s expansion, U.S. government officials must require that Dole take measures to ensure that pineapple workers enjoy their internationally recognized rights and decent working conditions.

Sa selda ng inuusig na tagapagtanggol

November 14, 2008

Beth Pagtalunan

ALA-UNA ng madaling-araw nang marating namin ang pantalan ng Calapan, Oriental Mindoro. Ilang kilometro ang layo bago makarating sa Calapan Provincial Jail kung saan dinala si Atty. Remigio Saladero Jr., abogadong maka-manggagawa at maka-karapatang pantao at kolumnista ng Pinoy Weekly.

Alas-otso rin ng umagang iyon, pinuntahan namin ng kanyang asawa na si Maricel ang kulungang pinagdalhan sa kanya. Escort ng isang jailguard, lumapit sa kinauupuan namin ang pawisang si Atty. Saladero. Kinamayan at kinumusta namin ang kanyang kalagayan sa loob ng selda.

Bakas sa kanyang mga mata ang lungkot at pagod. Parang hindi siya nakakatulog, ang sagot niya sa aming pagtatanong. Tulad ng inaasahan, nahihiga siya sa malamig na semento, walang anumang kagamitan sa pagtulog. May nagmagandang-loob lamang na nagbigay ng banig para isapin sa kanyang hinihigaan. Mainit ang kuwarto dahil kulang sa bentilasyon at marahil sa dami na rin ng detainee na kasama nyang umookupa sa Selda 1.

P21 ang badyet sa pagkain para sa isang preso bawat araw. Mula sa gripo ang kanilang inumin. Pinapa-iskuwat sila pag umaga pero di siya makasabay dahil mahina na ang katawan bukod pa sa sakit na diabetes at high blood kaya medyo hirap at di makasunod.

Sa narinig na pahayag ng asawang nakakulong, nakita namin ang pamumuo ng luha sa mata ni Maricel. Nag-alala siya sa kasalukuyang kalagayan ng asawa na nagmamantini pa ng gamot para sa karamdaman nito.

Sa manggagawang katulad ko, iilan lamang marahil ang di nakakakilala kay Atty. Saladero. “Sa dami ng taong lumapit at natulungan ng asawa ko na walang pambayad upang kumuha ng abogado wala siyang hiningi o hinintay na kapalit,” sabi ng asawa niyang si Maricel.

Kung ang isip at talino ay ginamit sa pansariling interes, marahil isa na si Atty. Saladero sa mayamang abogado. Pero pinili niyang pumanig at tulungan ang mga manggagawa.

Nakakalungkot makita na ang isang magaling, respetado, tagapagtanggol ng karapatang-pantao at maka-manggagawang abogado ay ikulong at akusahan ng gobyernong ito ng gawa-gawang kaso.

Sa sandaling nag-uusap si Atty. Saladero at ang kanyang asawa, nagkaroon kami ng pagkakataon na makausap ang iba pang detainee na nasa aming likuran. Ikinuwento nila sa amin ang pagdating doon ni Atty. Saladero. Nakaposas ito habang nakapalibot at todo bantay ng anim na PNP na armado ng armalite rifle. Sa unang tingin, di sila makapaniwala na kayang gawin ng taong ito ang multiple murder at multiple frustrated murder na ibinibintang at ikinaso sa abugado. Sa ilang araw na nakasama nila ito sa kulungan, nakilala nila bilang tahimik,walang kibo, magalang makitungo at makipag-usap ang abogado.

Marami nga raw at halos tuwing umaga nakapila sila para ikonsulta at humingi ng legal advice sa kanya. Nagbiro pa nga kami na bawat konsulta magpabayad siya ng P10 para makadagdag sa pambili niya ng pagkain kasi nga di lahat ng rasyon ay puwede niyang kainin.

Dahil diabetic, madalas na hindi siya gaano makakain. Pero simpleng ngiti ang isinagot niya sa amin at sinabing di siya naghihintay ng anumang kapalit ng tulong na nagagawa para sa mga preso at masaya na sa simpleng paraan ay nakakatulong siya.

Labor Migration in the Philippines: A Dangerous Doctrine

November 12, 2008

The more the economy is stagnant, the less its ability to create jobs, the more dependent government becomes on overseas labor deployment.

By the Policy Study, Publication and Advocacy (PSPA) Program  |  Center for People Empowerment in Governance (Cenpeg)

If the state policy making and legislative agenda do not change course, the whole nation will wake up one day to find that remittances accumulated through off-shore migration or labor exportation have become government’s No. 1 pillar of economic sustainability. Right now, foreign trade and investment – steered by neo-liberal globalization – and reliance on overseas development assistance are the first two pillars, followed by the export of Filipino labor. The state policy of globalization as specified by privatization, liberalization, deregulation, and labor-only contracting binds the three major pillars together.

Labor migration has become the safety valve to the country’s unemployment crisis and a major source of foreign exchange: It has surged way past the domestic job market as the remaining option for many Filipinos. In 2000 alone, more than 800,000 Filipinos were deployed abroad while only less than 200,000 were effectively added to the domestic labor market.(1) As unemployment has worsened under the Arroyo administration compared to the past 50 years some 3,000 Filipinos leave the country every day for overseas jobs – or a total of more than 1 million every year. With remittances growing by the year – 14.4 billion US dollars in 2007 constituting 10 percent of the country’s GDP – the government target is to increase labor migration to 2 million by 2010.(2) And the government is determined to meet the target: From January to April this year there were 516,466 migrant workers deployed thus raising the daily departure to 4,314 from last year’s 3,000.

In fact remittances sent by overseas Filipinos have outstripped both foreign direct investment (FDI) and overseas development assistance (ODA) which have declined in the past several years. FDI was 2.93 billion US dollars in 2007 but minus payments to loans the actual investment inflows fell by 69.3 percent to only 341 million US dollars. Last year’s 14.4 billion US dollars remittances is equal to 25 percent of the total ODA received by the Philippines – that is, in 20 years or from 1986-2006 (39.9 billion US dollars).

In general, last year global foreign remittances already totaled thrice the amount of aid given by donor countries to developing nations: 300 billion US dollars against 104 billion US dollars . No wonder labor migration is now being trumpeted by the United Nations and other multilateral organizations as a centerpiece program for developing economies.

For a government whose economic policy is subordinated to bitter policy prescriptions of the IMF and WB and adherence to the World Trade Organization (WTO), the Arroyo regime’s agenda to make labor migration as a major source of government income received a boost from no less than UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon. Speaking before the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) on Oct. 29 in Manila, Ban Ki-moon, who is also South Korea’s former foreign minister, hailed migration as “a tool to help lift us out the (current global) economic crisis …(where) countries can draw the greatest possible development benefits.”

A model for migration

Organizers of GFMD chose Manila as the forum venue on account of the Philippines’ being a role model for labor migration among developing countries and chiefly because of the remittances accruing from foreign employment. Of some 8.2 million Filipinos(3) living and working in more than 193 countries/territories around the world, 43 percent are permanent immigrants while the rest or 4.7 million are temporary or contract workers. The Philippines is one of the leading sources of migrant labor in the world market. But it tops in the deployment of caregivers and domestics, 90 percent of them women, as well as in nurses, seafarers (30 percent of the world supply), and other medical workers and professionals.

Hypocritically since the Marcos years, the government denies the existence of a labor export policy. What it cannot hide however is the existence of a government infrastructure developed since the Marcos years that gives prime attention to the export of Filipino workers and professionals. This infrastructure promotes and processes out-migration, exacts – extorts, if you will – various exorbitant fees from outgoing OFWs, accredits recruitment agencies, provides skills training and immigration lectures, and supposedly earmarks benefits for the migrant workers and their families. This bureaucracy, which is headed by the President, includes the labor department’s Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA), Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC), Technical Education and Skills Authority (TESDA), and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) with its office of migrant affairs and various Philippine Labor Offices (POLOS) based in many countries.

The government also sends several high-level missions every year to market Filipino labor abroad while job fairs for overseas employment are constantly held at home. Before it hosted the GFMD, Arroyo officials joined the first annual Transatlantic Forum on Migration and Integration (TFMI) held last July in Germany. Last month, President Gloria M. Arroyo signed into law the controversial Japan Philippine Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) which increases the number of Filipino nurses and caregivers deployable to Japan in exchange for relaxing restrictions to the latter’s exports and investments in the country.

No domestic economy

The promotion of labor out-migration is driven by the fact that the country does not have a viable domestic economy to speak of – an economy that generates adequate jobs to its people. Despite government land reform, 70 percent of agricultural land remains in the hands of landlords leaving the country’s millions of farmers unproductive and without a stable income. Instead of basic industries, what the country has are globally-integrated assembly lines or repackaging plants that exploit labor with low wages and lack of job security because of government’s labor contracting policy.

Moreover, labor wages are frozen low in order to attract foreign investment. It is the same policy that government promotes abroad to market Filipino skills in the form of caregivers, construction workers, and other workers. Filipino seafarers are preferred by international shipping companies because the government tolerates the low wages paid them even if monthly benchmark salaries are higher.

Attribute all these to government’s adherence to neo-colonial and now neo-liberal policies which open the country’s weak economy to unrestricted foreign trade and investment threatening not only the productive livelihoods of many Filipinos but also resulting in the shutdown of small industries. Neo-liberal policies exacerbate poverty and unemployment and are generally counter-productive in terms of building a self-sustaining economy and giving jobs.

Epic proportions

With some 4 million jobless Filipinos and another 12 percent underemployed, unemployment under Arroyo has worsened – in epic proportions since the last 50 years. Thus out-migration is a safety valve to the unemployed, including thousands of professionals – the last exit from a country that is about to implode in a social unrest. Labor out-migration has also become a political tool of sorts used by the regime to arrest a growing restlessness – if not discontent – among the people against a corrupt and weak government for its inability to provide jobs and a better future for its people. Yet while its economic management increasingly relies on foreign remittances the government has not seriously taken steps to safeguard the rights of OFWs and improve their labor conditions. For instance, of 193 destination countries for Filipino workers the country has only a handful of bilateral labor agreements.

The more the economy is stagnant, the less its ability to create jobs, the more dependent government becomes on overseas labor deployment. What government cannot provide it sells in the world market to help sustain the economies of advanced countries – that bear constant crisis anyway – and the domestic needs of their ageing populations. But this is dangerous, and not only because even before the government would take this extreme option the whole economy would have collapsed. It will erode the urgency for drastic policy reform and new governance and it will calm the people into complacency and defeatism. Or it can be used by the government to evade comprehensive policy reform that would make the economy more responsive to the basic social and economic rights of the people.

But in the first place what can we expect from a government that persists in the doctrine established by previous regimes embedding economic policies to global, transnational business perspectives? Instructive at this point is a critique of the GFMD by the parallel International Assembly of Migrants and Refugees (IAMR)(4) last week: The GFMD and the UN secretary general’s pro-migration declaration “arose in the midst of the worsening world economic crisis – where far more advanced…countries are fighting their way out of this crisis even as they retain their…control and power, while poverty, unemployment, and underdevelopment continue to aggravate the lives of peoples of Third World countries.”

__________________________________________


End notes

(1) S.P. Go, “Remittances and International Labor Migration: Impact on the Philippines,” Metropolis Inter-Conference Seminar on Immigration and Homeland, May 9-12, 2002, Dubrovnik.

(2) Migrant labor remittances do not include those brought home directly by vacationing Filipinos or by door-to-door transactions, thus the total remittances could be more. In 2007, it is estimated to be as much as $18 billion.

(3) According to the government Commission on Filipino Overseas (CFO, 2008). Other estimates put the number at 10 million in nearly 197 countries.

(4) Held also in Manila on Oct. 28-30, 2008, the IAMR was organized by Migrante International together with the International Migrants Alliance (IMA), IBON Foundation, and other groups.

Imposibleng paratang sa kilusang paggawa

October 21, 2008

Ilang-Ilang D. Quijano

Atty. Remigio Saladero, batikang labor lawyer na kinasuhan ng arson at conspiracy to commit rebellion

HALOS 700 kaso ang hinahawakan ngayon ng Pro-Labor Legal Assistance Center o Place, opisina ng beteranong labor lawyer na si Atty. Remigio Saladero Jr. Para matugunan ang pangangailangan ng mga kliyenteng manggagawa, araw-araw dumadalo ang 50-anyos na abogado sa mga pagdinig sa korte at gabi-gabing gumagawa ng pleadings. Laking gulat na lamang niya nang biglang mapabilang sa 27 na akusado sa umano’y pambobomba ng NPA (New People’s Army) sa isang cell site ng Globe Telecom sa Lemery, Batangas noong Agosto 2.

Ayon sa testigong si Arvin Leviste, nagpakilalang Deep Penetration Agent ng Philippine Air Force, kabilang si Saladero sa mga nagbantay sa labas ng bakod ng cell site habang nagtatanim ng dinamita at nagsasaboy ng gasolina ang kanyang mga kasamahan. Sinalaysay ni Leviste ang pinagbatayan ng kasong arson at conspiracy to commit rebellion na isinampa sa Batangas City ng Globe Telecom noong Agosto 12.

Nagkakaisa ang progresibong mga grupo sa Timog Katagalugan na ang mga lider ay dinadawit sa nasabing akto ng rebelyon, bahagi ang kaso ng panghaharas ng gobyernong Arroyo sa mga aktibista sa ilalim ng programang kontra-insurhensiyang Oplan Bantay Laya. (Basahin ang balita rito)

Kung NPA ako…

“Kung NPA ako, dapat kumander ako at hindi simpleng tagabantay,” ani Saladero. Gradweyt ng abogasya sa San Beda College noong 1983, ika-17 siya sa mga pumasa sa bar exams sa sumunod na taon. Nagtapos din siya ng master’s degree sa Industrial Relations at Public Administration sa University of the Philippines Diliman. Miyembro rin siya ng Free Legal Assistance Group o FLAG mula noong 1990.

Noong nakabase pa siya sa Rizal, humawak si Saladero ng maraming kaso ng mga sibilyan, karamiha’y magsasaka, na pinagsususpetsiyahan ng militar na NPA. Kabilang dito ang lider-Dumagat na si Nicanor de los Santos, na binaril noong 2001 ng pinaghihinalaang mga miyembro ng Task Force Panther ng 2nd Infantry Division ng PA (Philippine Army). Ayon kay Saladero, ang pagtatanggol niya sa mga biktima ng mga paglabag sa karapatang pantao marahil ang dahilan kung bakit nagsimula siyang pag-initan ng militar. Bilang dating tagapangulo ng Bayan Muna-Rizal, aktibo rin ang abogado sa mga kilos-protesta na bitbit ang iba’t ibang isyu ng mga mamamayan.

Mula 1992 hanggang 1997, nagturo si Saladero ng Political Science, Business Law, at Labor Law sa Dominican College of San Juan at Lyceum College of Law. Kabilang siya sa mga nagtatag noong 2007 ng National Union of People’s Lawyers, pambansang alyansa ng progresibong mga abogado. Kasalukuyang legal consultant siya ng KMU (Kilusang Mayo Uno), militanteng sentro ng paggawa. Regular din siyang nagsusulat sa Pinoy Weekly ng kolum na pinamagatang “Husgahan Natin,” hinggil sa mga isyung legal sa paggawa.

Bukod sa marami niyang mga komitment, may sakit na diabetes at hypertension si Saladero. Umiinom siya ng anim na klase ng gamot araw-araw. Kabilang ito sa mga dahilan, aniya, kung bakit “imposibleng” maging kasapi siya sa pangkat ng NPA na nagpasabog sa cell site ng Globe Telecom.

Simula 2006, tiniktikan at hinaharas na ng pinaghihinalaang mga ahente ng militar si Saladero at iba pang abogado ng Place, ayon sa Center for Trade Union and Human Rights o CTUHR. Oktubre ng taong iyon, inamin ni Pfc. Rommel Felipe Santiago, nahuli ng pulisya matapos habulin ang mga unyonista ng Food Terminal Inc. sa Taguig City, na nagkokondukta sila ng surveillance sa Place. Noong Oktubre 2007, napansin ng mga istap ng Place na may di-kilalang kalalakihan na nagkokondukta ng 24 oras na pagbabantay sa opisina. Ito ay matapos hawakan ng law office ang kasong isinampa ng KMU sa Korte Suprema laban sa Human Security Act. Tumagal ang paniniktik nang ilang buwan.

Atake at paninira

Ayon kay Saladero, nakababahala ang lumalalang panliligalig ng Estado sa kilusang paggawa: “Pati abogado ng manggagawa hinaharas na. Para siguro wala nang magtanggol sa mga manggagawa at humina ang kilusang paggawa sa bansa. Kaliwa’t kanan pa naman ngayon ang mga atake at paninira rito.”

Noong Oktubre 7 bandang alas-tres ng umaga, isang di-nakilalang kalalakihan ang nagtangkang akyatin ang bakod ng Balai Obrero, opisina ng KMU sa Narra St., Project 3, Quezon City. Ayon sa isang saksi, may hawak itong kutsilyo. Nang sitahin ay bumaba ito at sumakay sa isang traysikel na lulan ang tatlo pa niyang kasamahan.

“Kung sila ay magnanakaw lamang, alam dapat nila na kami ay isang people’s organization na laging naghahanap ng rekurso…Marahil ang totoong motibo ay tiktikan kami, mag-iwan ng surveillance equipment, o magtanim ng ebidensiya na kami ay rebelde gaya ng iniimbento ng gobyernong Arroyo,” sabi ni Joselito Ustarez, executive vice-president ng KMU.

Naunang natuklasan ng KMU na inilista sila bilang “rebeldeng grupo” sa isang libro na inindorso ng Department of Education para sa mga estudyante ng hayskul. Sa pahina 27 ng librong Filipino I: Wika at Panitikan sa Makabagong Henerasyon, isinama ang KMU sa listahan ng mga rebeldeng grupo gaya ng Moro Islamic Liberation Front at NPA. Itinakdang aralin sa mga estudyante na magsaliksik hinggil sa mga “prinsipyong kanilang pinaniniwalaan” at magbigay ng mga paraan para makumbinsi silang “mapabalik sa pamahalaan.”

Binansagan ding “destabilisador” at “terorista” ang 30 opisyal ng Anita’s Home Bakehop Workers Union ng manedsment ng nagsusuplay ng tinapay para sa McDonald’s sa rehiyon ng Visayas. Iniulat pa ng mga manggagawa na binibisita sila ng mga pulis ng Mobolo, Cebu City habang sila ay nasa night shift para alamin ang kanilang mga aktibidad at kumbinsihin na huwag sumali sa unyon.

Samantala, ang mga unyonista ng International Wiring System sa Special Export Processing Zone ng Hacienda Luisita, diumano’y binibisita sa bahay, iniinteroga, at tinatakot ng mga miyembro ng 71st Infantry Batallion ng Northern Luzon Command at 7th Infantry Division ng PA. Pinadadalo ng militar ang mga manggagawa sa mga porum kung saan hinihikayat silang huwag makibahagi sa paggigiit ng mga hiling sa Collective Bargaining Agreement. Inaakusahan ding binibigyan ng unyon ng pondo ang Communist Party of the Philippines-NPA.

Kailangang organisado

Sa tugon ng gobyerno sa Petition to Review the Generalized System of Preferences Program Status na inihain ng International Labor Rights Fund, may binitiwang kontrobersiyal na mga salita si Arturo Brion, dating kalihim ng Department of Labor and Employment at ngayo’y Associate Justice ng Korte Suprema. “Ang kasalukuyang giyera laban sa mga rebeldeng komunista ay inilulunsad sa maraming mga prente. Sa kilusang paggawa ang pinakaprominente rito dahil naka-ugat ang kilusang komunista sa kilusang paggawa,” aniya.

Kinukumpirma nito na “sistematiko” ang tangka ng Estado na durugin ang militanteng kilusang paggawa sa pamamagitan ng malisyosong pag-uugnay nito sa kilusang komunista, ayon sa CTUHR.

Para kay Ustarez, nanganganib ang trabaho at buhay ng kanilang mga miyembro dahil maaaring gamitin ng manedsment ng iba’t ibang mga kompanya ang “rebelde” o “teroristang” bansag sa KMU para iharas at sibakin sila. Tangka rin umano itong pahinain ang lehitimong mga laban ng grupo para sa tunay na interes ng mga mangagawa gaya ng pagsasabatas sa P125 dagdag-na sahod at pagtatayo ng mga unyon.

Iginigiit ng KMU na ngayon higit kailanman, kailangan ng mga manggagawang Pilipino ang malakas at militanteng kilusang paggawa. May pitong porsiyento lamang (o 2.4 milyon ng 33.5 milyong manggagawa) ng buong puwersang paggawa ang organisado. Malayung-malayo pa ang minimum na sahod sa kinakailangan ng pamilyang Pilipino para mabuhay—34 porsiyento lamang ito ng Family Living Wage, ayon sa National Wages and Productivity Commission.

“Masamang pangitain ang mga pangyayari,” sabi ni Saladero. Gayunpaman, nangako siyang patuloy na ipagtatanggol ang karapatan ng mga manggagawa na ipinagkaloob ng batas pero niyuyurak naman mismo ng Estado.(PinoyWeekly)

Tanging hiling

October 21, 2008

Darius R. Galang

SA GITNA ng tumitinding krisis pang-ekonomiya na lumalaganap sa buong mundo, patuloy pa rin na hindi naibigyang ng karampatang umento sa sahod ang mga manggagawang Pilipino.

Sa halip, aamyendahan pa ang batas na nangangasiwa sa antas ng sahod ng mga kawani ng pamahalaan. At sa ganitong senaryo, tatamaan din ang mga kawani at manggagawang pangkalusugan na naglilingkod sa publikong mga pagamutan.

Kamakailan, nagsagawa ng pagkilos ang iba’t ibang grupo ng mga manggagawang pangkalusugan, kasama ang Alliance of Health Workers (AHW), Philippine Nurses Association (PNA), at ilang grupo mula sa iba’t ibang ospital tulad ng RITM upang tutulan ang pagpapasa ng Joint Resolution number 24.

Matagal nang hiling, nakabinbin pa rin

Kasama sa hinihiling ng mga manggagawang pangkalusugan ang pagbabasura sa Kamara ng Joint Resolution Number 24 na naglalayon na amyendahan ang kasalukuyang sahod at benepisyo ng mga kawani ng gobyerno.

Ayon kay Jossel Ebesate, pangkalahatang kalihim ng AHW, mapanghati ang naturang iskema dahil papalakhin pa lalo ang pagkakaiba ng mga sahod lalo na sa antas ng ordinaryong mga kawani ng pamahalaan.

“Bukod pa sa mapanghati nito, mapanlinlang rin dahil wala talagang magiging increase sa sahod, bagkus liliit pa lalo ang tatanggapin ng mga kawani dahil babawasan ang mga benepisyong tinatamasa ng ating mga health worker,” ani Ebesate.

Sa tala, may P20 Bilyon ang nakatalaga sa Joint Resolution, kahit hindi pa ito naaaprubahan. Kuwestiyunable rin sa ilan pang sektor ang pagtatalaga ng ganitong halaga. Para kay Lea Pacuiz, national president ng PNA, malaking katanungan ito dahil hanggang sa ngayon ay hindi pa naibibigay ang karampatang sahod ng mga nars kahit sa kasalukuyang paghahanay ng antas ng sahod.

Sa implementasyon ng Salary Grade 15 na nakasaad sa RA 9173 o Nursing Act of 2002 para sa mga nars, ipinaliwanag ni Pacquiz ang katagalan ng pagbibigay ng karampatang sahod ng mga nars. “The starting salary of nurses should start at SG 15 which is equivalent to P16, 003. 2002 pa na-approve, 2008 na ngayon, 6 years after, [it is] not yet implemented,” sabi ni Pacuiz.

Lahat apektado

Kahit ang karaniwang empleyado sa pagamutan ay apektado ng iskema na ipapatupad sa loob ng apat na taon.

Para kay Remedios Maltu, nursing attendant sa isang pampublikong ospital, “Kawalang-pag-asa lalo para sa mga health worker” ang iskema. “Ang hinihingi ng mga health worker ay dagdag sahod, pero ano ang sinagot ng gobyerno? Dagdag nga sa basic salary, pero ang kakaltasin na benepisyo namin [sa ilalim ng RA7305 ng magna carta] ay mas malaki kaysa sa idadagdag.”

Kuwestiyonable umano ang lohika ng Joint Resolution 24. Isinaad ni Maltu na kayang makakuha ng tatlo, apat, hanggang limang libong piso sa halaga ng benepisyo ang isang karaniwang manggagawa.

“Pero ang idaragdag lamang sa amin ay P600 sa isang buwan. So ano ang logic nung JR24 na ang effectiveness naman ay four years. Nakikita namin na itong ipinanukala ni Cong Prospero Nograles ay hindi niya napag-aralan ito,” sabi ni Maltu.

Pangingibang bansa?

Matagal nang laganap ang pangingibang-bansa ng manggagawang pangkalusugan sa bansa. Itinuturing ng karamihan maging sa mga manggagawang pangkalusugan na ang ganitong senaryo ay dulot ng kakulangan rin ng wastong pagbibigay ng pansin sa kalagayan ng gobyerno sa kanila.

Simple lamang ang hiling kahit ng karaniwang health worker: Itaas ang suweldo.

“Kung kami ay bigyan ng mataas na suweldo, hindi na kami aalis ng bansa dahil mas gusto naming maglingkod sa aming mga kababayan kaysa magpunta pa sa ibang bansa at maghirap doon,” ang pahayag ni Maltu.

At kung maipapatupad ang lahat ng hinihiling ng mga manggagawang-pangkalusugan?

“Mas bubuti ang kanilang kalagayan, baka mas gugustuhin na nilang manatili rito sa bansa. Hangga’t maaari, ang produksiyon ng mga nars, para dito sa ating bansa. Kailangan ang dapat mag-alaga ng mga Pilipino, mga Filipino nurse din,” dagdag ni Pacquiz.(PinoyWeekly)

(Pinoy Weekly Editorial) Migrante ang bulnerable

October 21, 2008

KAKAIBANG takot ang kumakabog sa dibdib ng bawat migranteng Pilipino na nagtatrabaho nang parang mga alipin sa halos lahat ng sulok ng daigdig. Ngayong unti-unting lumalatag ang pang-ekonomiyang resesyon sa bawat bansa, maunlad man o atrasado, na apektado ng pagbagsak ng malalaking bangko at pampinansiyang institusyon sa US, ibayong panghihigpit at kahirapan ang nakaamba sa lahat ng mga mamamayan lalo ang nasa pinakamabababang saray ng lipunan.

Sa kategoryang ito ang ating mga kababayang OFW (Overseas Filipino Worker). Kahit pa hikayatin ni Pangulong Arroyo, sa talumpati sa paglulunsad ng kampanya para sa Global Forum on Migration and Development o GFMD, na tawaging expatriate ang mga OFW na may magiginhawa diumanong buhay sa ibang bansa, maisasampal sa kanyang mukha ang baliktad na reyalidad.

Isa sa bawat tatlong Pilipino ang unskilled worker, ayon sa 2007 Survey on Overseas Filipinos ng National Statistics Office. Nakatatanggap lamang sila ng average na sahod na $200 hanggang $300 o maliit pa sa P10,000 hanggang P15,000 kada buwan. Milyun-milyong OFW pa ang di-dokumentado – patagu-tago, walang kaseguruhan sa trabaho at mga benepisyo, at bulnerable sa pang-aabuso.

Sa kabila ng kaliwa’t kanang horror story ng pagsasamantala at pang-aabuso sa mga OFW na lumalabas sa midya (at ginawa na ngang salalayan ng kampanya ng isang senador na may ambisyon para sa 2010), hanggang ngayon pilit pa ring niloloko ni Arroyo ang bayan na mabuti ang ani ng polisiyang labor-export ng gobyerno. Na masaya ang mga migranteng “bayani” na isinasalba ang naghihingalong ekonomiya ng bansa sa pamamagitan ng pagpapadala ng bilyun-bilyong remitans. Ito’y dahil simula’t sapul, kalakal lamang, at hindi tao, ang turing sa kanila.

Pampakalma ni Diwa Gunigundo, deputy governor ng Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, makakatulong ang mga OFW remitans na mabawasan ang tindi ng hagupit ng pandaigdigang krisis pampinansiya sa ekonomiya ng bansa. Pag-aalala naman ni Press Secretary Jesus Dureza, kapag natuloy ang resesyon, babagsak maging ang mga remitans na ipinapadala ng mga migranteng Pilipino. Pero positibo pa rin si Dureza. “Patuloy ang pag-eempleyo sa Gitnang Silangan at hindi ito apektado ng krisis sa US. Kahit papaano magpapatuloy ito; ito ang magiging salalayan natin kahit may pandaigdigang krisis. Maaasahan ang ating mga OFW. Sila ang ating mga bayani,” aniya.

Anu’t anuman, ipinakikita ng mga pahayag ng nasabing mga opisyal kung saan nakatingin ang gobyerno – sa remitans, at hindi sa kapakanan ng mga OFW at ng lipunang Pilipino. Tanda itong magpapatuloy ang palpak na neoliberal na mga polisiya ng liberalisasyon, deregulasyon, at pribatisasyon na nagbansot sa lokal na ekonomiya at kakayahan nitong lumikha ng disenteng mga trabaho. Tanda itong magpapatuloy ang pang-eenganyo ng pagluluwas ng paggawa, kalimutan na ang mga kabayaran gaya ng pagkawasak ng mga pamilya at paghuthot ng lakas at talino ng bayan.

Ayon sa International Migrants Alliance o IMA, tiyak ang paglala ng sitwasyon ng mga OFW. Gagamitin ng mga employer ang krisis at kaakibat nitong desperasyon ng mga migrante na makapagtrabaho para tapyasin ang mga sahod, ipagkait ang mga benepisyo, at maging mapang-abuso. Ibayong diskriminasyon at rasismo ang daranasin ng ating mga kababayan na aakusahang “nagnanakaw” ng trabaho, lalo’t tataas ang disempleyo sa ibang bansa. Para protektahan ang sariling merkado sa lakas-paggawa, maghihigpit ang mga bansa sa mga patakaran sa migrante at titindi ang pagtugis sa mga di-dokumentado.

Ano ang tugon ni Pangulong Arroyo? Safety nets umano at programa sa alternatibong kabuhayan na wala pang hugis. Magkahugis man, hindi pa rin nito napapawi ang uhaw ng ating mga kababayan para sa disenteng trabaho sa sariling bansa. Pero mas malamang, nagwiwika lamang siya ng pagkabahala sa mga OFW para magpapogi sa nalalapit na GFMD, isang porum na inisponsor ng United Nations. Dito inaasahang ibibida ni Arroyo ang polisiyang labor-export para tularan ng ibang bansa (na tutuusi’y wala nang ibang matutularan sa gobyernong itong walang kredibilidad sa pandaigdigang komunidad). Dito inaasahang pagtitibayin ang tiwaling konsepto na nagdudulot ang migrasyon ng pag-unlad.

Kokontrahin ang GFMD ng International Assembly of Migrants and Refugees o IAMR. Ang IAMR ang “tunay na boses” ng mga migrante, ayon sa IMA na organisador nito. Kaiba sa GFMD na kasangkapan ng kanilang pagsasamantala’t pagpapakaalipin, malayang maipapahayag ng mga OFW sa IAMR ang takot na kumakabog sa kanilang dibdib dahil sila ang pinakabulnerable sa lumalalang sitwasyong pang-ekonomiya saanmang panig ng daigdig. Malaya rin silang makapagpapahayag ng galit sa isang pangulong may kapal-ng-mukhang magsalita sa kanilang pangalan, gayong matagal nang umaakto laban sa kanilang tunay na interes. (IDQ)

(Husghan Natin) Lilipat dahil kailangan

October 21, 2008

Atty. Remigio Saladero Jr.

MAY katapatan bang ilipat ng kompanya ang kanyang pabrika? Paano kung ayaw ng mga manggagawa? Ang kasong Bisig ng Manggagawa sa Tryco , et. al. vs. National Labor Relations Commission , Tryco Pharma Corporation et. al. (G.R. No. 151309) na hinatulan ng Korte Suprema nitong Oktobre 15, 2008 ay mapagkukunan natin ng aral sa bagay na ito.

Sa nasabing kaso, manggagawa sa isang kompanya ng gamot sina Simplicio. Natapos ang kanilang collective bargaining agreement kaya’t nagsimulang mag-usap ang unyon nina Simplicio at ang manedsment. Sa masamang palad, hindi sila nagkasundo at nauwi sa deadlock ang pag-uusap.

Samantalang sila’y naka-deadlock, nakatanggap ng sulat mula sa Bureau of Animal Industry ang kompanya. Pinapalipat nito ang pabrika ng kompanya mula sa Caloocan City tungo sa San Rafael, Bulacan. Ito ay dahil sa ang license to operate na nakuha ng kompanya ay para sa San Rafael, Bulacan at hindi sa Caloocan. Dahil sa nasabing sulat, agad na tumalima ang kompanya. Nilipat nito ang kanyang pabrika sa San Rafael, Bulacan. Dahil sa nakatalaga sa pabrika sina Simplicio, inutusan sila ng kompanya na doon na magreport sa Bulacan.

Tumanggi sina Simplicio. Naghain sila ng notice of strike sa National Conciliation ang Mediation Board (NCMB). Kalaunan. Inurong nila ito at pinalitan na lamang ng demandang constructive dismissal at union busting sa tanggapan ng Labor Arbiter.

Hindi naniwala ang Labor Arbiter na may kasalanan ang kompanya at ibinsura niya ang kaso nina Simplicio. Nag-apela ang mga manggagawa pero natalo sila sa National Labor Relations Commission at maging sa Court of Appeals. Dinala nila ang kaso sa Korte Suprema bilang pinakamataas na husgado.

Ang paglilipat ng negosyo, sabi ng Korte Suprema, ay bahagi ng tinatawag natin na management prerogative. Bahagi ito ng karapatan ng may-ari na patakbuhin ang kanyang negosyo sa pamamaraang sa kanyang tingin ay nararapat.

Maaari lamang pakialaman ng batas ang kanyang gagawing paglilipat sa kanyang negosyo kung malinaw na ginawa ito para apihin ang kanyang mga manggagawa at bababa aang kanilang ranggo o sahod dahil dito.

Ngunit walang pruweba na ginawa ito ng manedsment upang apihin ang mga manggagawa. Ang malinaw ay sususunod lamang ito sa utos ng Bureau of Animal Industry na ilipat ang kanyang pabrika sa San Rafael, Bulacan mula sa Calolocan City. Ito ay sang-ayon sa patakaran ng pamahalaan na ilipat ang mga pabrika sa labas ng Metro Manila upang mabawasan ang kasikipan at pulusyon sa nasabing lugar. Kaya, malinaw na ginawa ang paglilipat upang sang-ayunan ang utos ng pamahalaan, hindi upang apihin ang mga manggagawa ng kompanya.

Wala ring pagbabawas sa sahod o ranggo nina Simplicio. Sa pagllipat ng kompanya, mananatili pa rin ang kanilang mga sahod at ranggo. Hindi rin kalayuan ang Bulacan sa Metro Manila, sabi ng Korte Suprema.

Wala ring indikasyon na ginawa ng manedsment aang paglilipat upang mapaparalisa ang unyon. Ganoon pa rin ang unyon, magpapatuloy itong kinikilala ng manesment. Nasa manggagawa na ang pagtalima sa utos ng paglilipat ng pabrika upang manatiling buo ang kanilang bilang. Kung nais nilang hindi sila mababawasan, wala silang gagawin kundi sundin ang kauutusan ng manedsment dahil legal naman ang ginawa nitong paglilipat ng pabrika.

Binalewala ng Korte Suprema ang kaso nina Simplicio at kinatigan ang paglilipat ng pabrika na gustong mangyari ng kompanya.

Itinutulak sa kanilang kamatayan

October 21, 2008

SA pamumuno ni Eni Lestari ng IMA, nagdeklara ang mga migrante sa rali sa Maynila na di muna sila magpapadala ng remitans sa kanilang kaanak sa Oktubre 29 bilang protesta sa Global Forum on Migration and Development. (KR Guda)

SA pamumuno ng Indones na lider-migranteng si Eni Lestari (harap, nakaputing damit) ng International Migrants Alliance (IMA), nanawagan ang mga migranteng Pilipino at iba pang lahi sa mga kapwa migrante sa mundo na huwag munang magpadala ng remitans sa kanilang mga kaanak sa Oktubre 29 bilang protesta sa Global Forum on Migration and Development. (KR Guda)

“NAKAKATAKOT para sa mga OFW (Overseas Filipino Worker),” ayon sa grupong Migrante International, ang tila pagiging bulag ng mga opisyal ng DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs) sa nangyayari sa mga migranteng nakahanay sa death row.

Gaya na lamang ng magkapatid na sina Rolando at Edison Gonzales at Eduardo Arcilla na sinentensiyahan ng kamatayan sa Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) noong 2007 dahil sa pagpatay umano sa kapwa-Pilipino.

Noong Oktubre 10, itinanggi ni Cresencio Relacion, executive director ng Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers’ Affairs (OUMWA) sa kaanak nina Gonzales na ipinagtibay na ng Court of Appeals ang hatol sa tatlo. Sa isang press conference kinabukasan, ibinulgar ng Migrante na kinumpirma ni DFA undersecretary Esteban Conejos Jr., sa isang sulat noon pang Setyembre 24, ang nasabing desisyon ng korte.

“Ayusin nila ang trabaho nila. Iisa lang ang departamento nila pero magkakaiba sila ng statement. Buhay ng mga kababayan natin ang nakataya rito…Baka magulat na lang tayo sa darating na mga araw may pinatay na sa ating mga OFW,” sabi ni Garry Martinez, tagapagsalita ng Migrante International.

Pagkaraan ng dalawang araw, noong Okt. 13, pinugutan ng ulo sa Jeddah, KSA ang 27-taong-gulang na si Jenifer Bidoya a.k.a. Venancio Ladion.

Pinatahimik

“Sorpresa ang ginawa sa amin. Walang impormasyong dumating. Nalaman na lang namin, napugutan na ng ulo,” mangiyak-ngiyak na kuwento sa PINOY WEEKLY ni Dennis Torejas, tiyo ni Bidoya.

Masama ang loob ng mga kaanak ni Bidoya dahil nang una silang lumapit sa DFA, sinabihan sila ng mga opisyal ng ahensiya na “sila na ang bahala” sa kaso. Hinatulan ng kamatayan si Bidoya, waiter sa isang restawran, para sa pagpatay sa isang Saudi national noong Disyembre 6, 2005.

Kapalit ng pag-aasikaso ng kaso, pinapirma ni Atty. Ruel Garcia, legal counsel ng DFA, ang pamilya ng isang katunayan na hindi ito dudulog sa midya o sa mga organisasyong pangmigrante.

Ayon sa dokumentong may petsang Dis. 9, 2005, ipinangako ni Leila Catalina, tiya ni Bidoya na kumatawan sa pamilya, ang mga sumusunod: “1. Not divulge the confidential information provided to me by the DFA; 2. To keep in strict confidentiality the information I received from the DFA; 3. To coordinate any information I may receive from other sources with the DFA; at 3. Be accountable to whatever acts I may do in violation with the strict confidentiality of the case.”

“Buo ang tiwala at respeto namin sa DFA. ‘Yumpala magsasawalang-bahala lang sila. Sana noon pa kami lumapit sa midya o sa Migrante,” himutok ni Torejas.

Sinasabi ng Malakanyang na ginawa ng gobyerno ang lahat ng makakaya nito para sagipin ang buhay ni Bidoya. Dalawang beses humingi si Pangulong Arroyo kay King Abdullah ibn Abdulaziz Al-Saud ng clemency para sa nahatulang OFW, noong Dis. 6, 2007 at Hulyo 7, 2008. Ayon kay Conejos, tumanggi ang pamilya ng umano’y biktima ni Bidoya na tanggapin ang blood money o danyos kapalit ng pagpapababa ng sentensiya nito.

Pero ayon kay Martinez, malinaw na nagpabaya ang DFA sa kaso. Inamin mismo ni Philippine Consul General Ezzedin Tago na sa mga pagdinig sa mababang korte, walang abogado si Bidoya at sinasamahan lamang ng isang translator. Umano’y nakapagbigay lamang ang konsulado ng abogado nang dinidinig na ang kaso sa Court of Appeals.

Tubong Zamboanga, 17 taong gulang pa lamang ang hayskul gradweyt na si Bidoya nang mangibang-bansa. Ayon sa kanyang kaanak, sa gabi ng insidente, dinala siya ng kanyang kaibigang guwardiya sa isang lugar at doon tinangkang pagsamantalahan.

Batay sa mga ulat, sinaksak ni Bidoya ang biktimang lalaki sa leeg, sinakal, at kinagat ang ari nito.

Naninindigan ang kaanak ni Bidoya na nakapatay lamang siya para sagipin ang sarili (self-defense). Pero tila iba ang paniniwala ni Bise-Presidente Noli de Castro, tagapamahala ng Malakanyang sa mga usaping OFW. Sa isang panayam sa radyo, nagbigay pa ito ng babala sa mga migranteng Pilipino na “mag-ingat” dahil ipinagbabawal ang mga aktong homosexual sa Gitnang Silangan.

Si Bidoya ang ika-72 na ginawaran ng parusang kamatayan sa KSA, na tinanggihan ang hiling ng United Nations na moratorium sa death penalty noong nakaraang taon.

Ayon sa ulat ng grupong pangkarapatang pantao na Amnesty International (AI), karamihan ng mga pinarusahan ay migranteng mga manggagawa mula sa mahihirap na bansa at hindi nakatatanggap ng tulong ligal. Sinabi ni Malcolm Smart, direktor para sa Middle East ng AI, na “sikreto” at “di-makatarungan” ang mga pagdinig. Nakakabahala, ayon pa sa AI, na pinapayagan ng hudikatura na gamitin ang mga pag-amin (confession) na nakuha sa pamamagitan ng tortyur.

Umano’y tinortyur ang magkapatid na Gonzales at si Arcilla, mga OFW na tubong Pampanga, para aminin ang pagpatay sa tatlong kapwa-Pilipino, ayon sa Migrante. Wala ring abogado ang mga akusado sa mga pagdinig at noong una silang hinatulan ng kamatayan noong Hulyo 23, 2007.

Iba pang nasa death row

Pangamba ng Migrante, pinalala ng pagpugot ng ulo ni Bidoya ang depresyon at takot ng kaanak ng 29 pang OFW na nasa death row. May pitong OFW na ang pinarusahan ng kamatayan sa ilalim ng gobyernong Arroyo.

“Bakit po nangyayari ang ganito? Di na namin alam kung saan lalapit. Nahihirapan na ang loob namin,” sabi ni Norie Gonzales, kapatid nina Rolando, 47, at Edison, 29.

Sa isang press conference, nanawagan din ng hustisya ang kaanak ng 47-anyos na si Cecilia Armia-Alcaraz a.k.a. Nemencia Armia, OFW sa Taiwan na hinatulan ng Kaohsiung District Court ng parusang kamatayan sa pamamagitan ng firing squad noong Setyembre 30, 2008 para sa kasong murder at robbery.

Hindi umamin si Alcaraz sa krimen, umano’y idinawit lamang siya. Itinuturo niya ang dalawang Taiwanese national na siya umanong pumatay noong nakaraang taon sa isang broker na sinaksak bago ilagay sa garbage bag ang katawan.

“Hindi niya ho iyon magagawa. Mabait ho iyan at takot na gumawa ng anumang kasalanan lalo na at nandoon pa siya sa ibang bansa,” ayon kay Rosalinda Armia Pisueña, kapatid ni Alcaraz, sa isang press conference ng Migrante noong Okt. 18.

Hinanakit ni Pisueña, nakatanggap lamang sila ng text message mula sa Manila Economic Cultural Office (Meco) sa Taipei, Taiwan na nahatulan na si Alcaraz. Hindi pa rin nabibigyan ang pamilya ng kahit anong opisyal na dokumento hinggil sa kaso. Aniya pa, nang idinulog niya ang kaso kay de Castro, binigyan lamang siya ng form, at nang i-follow up ito ay wala nang sumasagot sa opisina.

May tatlong anak si Alcaraz na naiwan sa Liliw, Laguna. Ayon sa ibinigay niyang card para sa kaarawan ng 14-anyos na anak na si Jerome, “Wag niyo akong ikahiya, wala akong ginawang masama. Hindi ko ginawa yung ibinintang sa akin.”

Abala sa GFMD

Binatikos ng Migrante ang DFA na umano’y “mas abala” sa paghahanda para sa nalalapit na Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) kaysa sa pag-aasikaso sa mga kaso ng mga OFW sa death row.

Sa isang diyalogo sa Pampanga noong nakaraang linggo, inamin ni Atty. Junaib Ali ng OUMWA na 40 empleyado ng DFA ang itinalaga para mag-pokus sa GFMD, isang multilateral na diyalogo mula Okt. 29 hanggang 30. Tinututulan ng Migrante at International Migrants Alliance, pinakamalaking alyansa ng 112 organisasyong pang-migrante sa daigdig, ang GFMD.

Ayon kay Martinez, “Hindi dapat magyabang si Conejos na host ang Pilipinas ng GFMD. Ibig sabihin, host tayo ng mga bansang nagsasagawa ng crackdown laban sa di-dokumentadong migranteng Pilipino, di-makataong deportasyon ng mga refugee, pagtortyur sa kanila para aminin ang mga krimeng hindi nila ginawa, at iba pang paglabag sa karapatang pantao ng mga OFW.”

Ibinulgar pa ng grupo na gagastos ang porum ng P15.9-M kada araw para lamang sa accommodation sa hotel ng mga dadalo sa GFMD. “Habang gagastos ang GFMD ng P150-M sa kabuuan, walang natatanggap na tulong pinansiyal ang mga kapamilya ng mga OFW sa death row, na wala nang natatanggap na mga remitans. Nananawagan kami sa gobyerno na ipangtustos na pagtulong sa mga pamilya ng mga OFW ang gagastusin para sa GFMD,” dagdag pa niya.

Pangamba ng Migrante, mas maraming mga OFW ang uuwi nang bangkay dahil sa pagpapatindi sa labor-export policy ng gobyernong Arroyo na isinusulong ng GFMD. Sa Okt. 24 ang susunod na pagdinig ng kaso ni Alcaraz. Ang magkapatid na Gonzales at si Arcilla, maaaring mapugutan ng ulo anumang oras.

Ani Martinez, hindi malayong mangyari na habang ipinagmamalaki ni Pangulong Arroyo sa internasyunal na komunidad ang Pilipinas bilang modelo ng migrasyon, isa na namang OFW ang makikitlan ng buhay at magpamumukha ng madugong kabayaran ng polisiyang ito.

Jobs of Filipinos in US at risk–groups

October 13, 2008

Remittances may slide by half

By Edson C. Tandoc Jr.
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 16:04:00 10/13/2008

MANILA, Philippines — The global financial slump is snatching away not only jobs from Filipino construction workers abroad, but also the remittances for their families back home, international labor groups warned.

The male-dominated construction industry in the US, where many Filipino laborers work, has been badly hit and as the number of available jobs shrink, the number of undocumented Filipinos abroad could rise, according to Ambet Yuson, regional representative of the Building and Wood Workers’ International.

“The bigger problem is since they will not have jobs here in the Philippines, those who will lose their jobs would rather stay there undocumented instead of going home,” Yuson said Monday.

Their families should also tighten belts this holiday season as remittances would most likely shrink by half, he added.

“We have talked to some workers and they told us that they would only send half of their salaries to their families. Prices of commodities in the US also went up,” Yuson explained.

They have also monitored some Filipino workers who had already gone home after losing their jobs. “Their families will have a sad Christmas, with probably less Christmas lights,” he said.

Filipino nurses in the US have been affected too, Public Service International vice president Annie Geron said. There are many Filipino health workers in the US. In New Jersey, for instance, 60 percent of health workers are Filipinos, Geron said.

“Those in the health sector are very vulnerable now. If they lose their present jobs, competition for the remaining jobs is tighter and Americans will be prioritized,” Geron added.

Those who would choose to stay as undocumented migrants instead of going home would be vulnerable to exploitation, Geron warned.

She warned of the country’s lack of a plan for this kind of crisis.

Yuson said the government should draw up a plan to accommodate overseas workers returning home. “We cannot forever rely on migration for development,” he said.

The earlier announcement of 10,000 jobs available for Filipinos in Canada is now in doubt, as the financial crisis could slow down recruitment, while the jobs of those who flew there are now at risk, according to Yuson.

KMU Leader, Lawyer Slam Tagging of Union as ‘Rebel Group’ in Textbook

October 12, 2008

The KMU is tagged as a “rebel group” in a high school textbook; one of its lawyers is slapped with criminal charges in connection with the burning of a cellsite; there was an attempt to break into their national office. All these, says one of the KMU’s leaders, have the objective of destroying the workers’ movement.

BY ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO
LABOR WATCH
Bulatlat

The executive vice chairman and the chief legal counsel of the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU or May 1st Movement) have condemned the labor center’s tagging as a “rebel group” in a high school textbook that has been in circulation since 2003.

In the book Filipino: Wika at Panitikan sa Makabagong Henerasyon I (Filipino: Language and Literature for the New Generation I) – written by Angelina Binsol and Teresita Lacsina, examined by Encarnacion Jimenez, and published by Diwa Scholastic Press, Inc., the KMU is listed as a “rebel group” along with the New People’s Army (NPA), the National Democratic Front (NDF), the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). The listing occurs as part of an exercise where the students are instructed to research on how to contribute toward the surrender of these groups’ members.

The same list describes the NPA as being under the leadership of Bernabe Buscayno, more commonly known by his former nom de guerre “Kumander Dante”.

For several years during the 1960s and 1970s, Buscayno was known as the highest-ranking NPA leader. He was arrested in 1976 and, together with opposition politician Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, Jr., was found guilty of subversion, illegal possession of firearms, and murder. He was sentenced to death by firing squad two years later. But his sentence was never carried out and he lived to see what is now known as the EDSA I uprising of 1986, which ousted the Marcos regime. He never rejoined the NPA: he ran for senator in 1987, and has repeatedly declared that he no longer believes in the armed struggle.

In an Oct. 11 press conference in Quezon City, KMU executive vice chairman Lito Ustarez said the tagging of the KMU as a “rebel group” is part of the government’s offensive against its critics. “Because the KMU is the one labor center that really advances workers’ interests, it is being lumped into the same league with groups that are considered enemies of the state,” Ustarez said.

The KMU executive vice chairman said the union’s tagging as a “rebel group”, which they discovered last September, is just one of the many forms of harassment that they have been experiencing, not just from the Arroyo administration but also from capitalists.

He cirted the case of Remigio Saladero, KMU’s chief legal counsel, who was recently accused by telecommunications corporation Globe Philippines of being among 27 “NPA members” who burned the company’s cellsite in Batangas. Saladero, together with 26 Southern Tagalog activists – all leaders of legal and progressive organizations – has been slapped with criminal charges in connection with the Globe cellsite burning.

“They tagged him as an NPA member to have an excuse for arresting him without warrant,” Ustarez said.

Saladero, for his part, denounced the criminal charges against him and the 26 Southern Tagalog activists as “false, incredible, fantastic, and part of the intensifying repression of workers.”

He noted that even labor lawyers are no longer spared from open harassment. “This is so that no one will be left to defend workers,” he said.

Ustarez also cited a recent attempt to break into the KMU office in Quezon City. On Oct. 6, at around 3 a.m., a man carrying a knife was seen scaling the walls of the Balai Obrero compound in Proj. 3, Quezon City, where the KMU national office is based. Citing eyewitness accounts, Ustarez said the man was accompanied by three lookouts in a tricycle nearby. When one of the neighbors was awakened, the man jumped down and ran off with his companions.

Ustarez said they suspect the would-be burglars could actually be military personnel. “Witnesses said they were burly men sporting crew-cut hair,” he said.

The KMU leader said all these “attacks” against his group have the objective of destroying the workers’ movement. (Bulatlat)

Pagbaybay sa karapatan ng mga marino

October 3, 2008

NITONG nakaraang Linggo ng Mandaragat o Maritime Week, dinagsa ang T.M. Kalaw sa Maynila ng mga nag-aasam na makasakay ng barko para makahanap ng posibleng kabuhayan sa pagmamarino. Doon naghihintay ang ilang kumpanya na bigyan sila ng puwang.

Ngunit alam kaya ng mga nag-aasam na pumalaot ang sasapitin nila sa gitna ng karagatan?

Nagsagawa ng isang seminar ang Centerfils (Center for Filipino Seafarers), ISAC (International Seafarers Action Center), at FSM (Filipino Seafarers Movement) noong Setyembre 25 para talakayin ang karapatan ng mga mandaragat. Dumalo sa seminar ang mga maybahay ng mga mandaragat at mga beterano at baguhang seafarer.

Nagbigay ng paunang salita si Bishop Ephraime Fajutagana ng Iglesia Filipina Independiyente, miyembro ng Centerfils. Aniya, mahalagang malinawan ang mga mandaragat sa kanilang mga karapatan–laluna’t samu’t saring trahedya ang sinasapit ng ating mga kababayang mandaragat, tulad na lamang ng mga na-hostage sa Somalia ilang linggo pa lang ang nakalilipas.

Kasaysayan ng pandaragat

Ipinaliwanag ni Jeremy Cajiuat, project coordinator ng ISAC, ang kahalagahan ng pandaragat.

Aniya, isa sa pinakaluma at pinakaimportanteng industriya ang pagbabarko. “Sabi nga ng International Shipping Federation, kung walang barko, kung walang maritime industry, mamamatay ang kalakalan sa buong mundo,” saad ni Cajiuat.

Dinadala ng mahigit-kumulang 50,000 barko ang 90% ng mga kalakal sa buong mundo. Bagaman hindi lumilikha ng produkto ang pagbabarko tulad ng manufacturing, bahagi ito ng linya ng produsiyon bilang tagapaghatid ng raw at finished products. Aniya, “kung hindi maihahatid ang mga produkto kung saan ito maibebenta, walang value ang mga produktong ito.”

Sa kabuuan, kumakamal ng US$ 380 Bilyon ang industriya ng pagbabarko kada taon. Kontrolado ng iilang maritime power ang nasabing kita, na kumakatawan sa 5% ng kabuuang pandaigdigang kalakalan.

Noong dekada 50, kabilang ang Magsaysay Shipping sa mga maritime power na namayagpag sa industriya ng pagbabarko. Pero humina na ang lokal na kumpanyang ito. Sa kasalukuyan, kilala na lamang ang Pilipinas sa pagluluwas ng mga mandaragat.

Numero-unong pinagmumulan ng mga marino ang Pilipinas. Sa kabuuang 1.2 milyong nakasakay sa barko, 20% o isa sa lima ang Pilipino.

Repleksiyon ang dami ng bilang ng mga nais pumalaot ng kawalan ng disenteng hanapbuhay dito sa Pilipinas, dagdag ni Cajiuat.

Karapatan ng mga marino

Sa kalagayang maraming Pilipino ang nagbebenta ng kanilang cheap labor o murang paggawa, mainam na magtanong kung anu-ano nga ba ang kanilang karapatan at pribilehiyo.

Pinuna ni Atty. Joseph Entero, pangkalahatang kalihim ng ISAC, ang SEC o Standard Employee Contract ng POEA (Philippine Overseas Employment Agency). Unang-una, aniya, “Paano maiintindihan ang SEC kung hindi ito mabasa dahil napakaliit ng pagkakasulat?”

Dapat tumatayo ang SEC bilang kasunduan sa pagitan ng employer at employee o ng manning agency at ng seafarer. Pero sa kalakaran, wala umanong boses sa SEC ang empleyado.

Kinuwestiyon din ni Entero ang hindi pagpirma ng POEA sa kontrata gayong ito mismo ang nagpapatibay ng mga nakasaad dito. Aniya, mahalagang malaman ng publiko na dapat nagsasagawa ng “tripartite consultation” o makalahatang panig na konsultasyon ang POEA.

Inihayag ni Entero ang ilang batayang karapatan ng mga manggagawa. Kasama rito ang karapatang maghabol sa kanilang mga manning agency kung, halimbawa, hindi sila nakasakay sa naitalang barko. Isa pang karapatan ang pagsasaad ng wastong kondisyong medikal. Mahalaga rin, aniya, ang pagbibigay ng manning agency ng kanilang cash advance. Dapat ding walang placement fee na sisingilin mula sa mga sasakay ng barko.

Sa kabilang banda, inilahad din ni Entero kung paano maaaring magamit ng mga manggagawa ang SEC para igiit ang kanilang mga karapatan.

Madalas umanong magmula ang mga kalituhan at anomalya sa maling interpretasyon sa SEC. Kaya dapat wasto, halimbawa, ang pagkakaintindi sa kung kailan ang umpisa ng kontrata. Paano nga naman kung magkaroon ng aberya ang isang nakapirma na ng kontrata bago pa man siya sumakay ng barko? Ang kontrata, ani Entero, ay nagsisimula “upon departure from port” o sa daungang pinagpirmahan mismo ng empleyado.

Ipinaliwanag din niya ang tinatawag na “contract substitution” na ilegal na praktika ng mga manning agency. Isang ehemplo nito ang pagpapalit ng barkong sasakyan ng manggagawa nang hindi nakasaad sa kanyang unang pinirmahang kontrata.

Maling praktika

Isa pang mahalagang karapatan ang pakikipaglaban hinggil sa maaaring maging disability o kapansanan ng mandaragat dahil sa pagtatrabaho. Ayon sa SEC, maaaring maging fit to work pa rin ang isang manggagawa depende sa klase ng pinsalang natanggap nito sa katawan.

Pero sinasandigan ng ISAC ang naunang desisyon ng Korte Suprema na hindi sa grado ng pinsala humihina ang paggawa ng isang empleyado kundi sa kabuuang epekto nito sa kanyang pagkilos. Para kina Entero, hindi sapat na sabihing fit to work pa rin ang manggagawang nawalan kahit na isang daliri lamang.

Kasama rin sa karapatan ng mga manggagawa ang wastong pangangalaga ng kumpanya sa kanilang kalusugan. Nakasaad sa SEC na dapat mabigyan ng lunas ang manggagawa sa pinakamalapit na pagamutan sakaling mapinsala ito. Ngunit sa praktika, naghahanap pa ang manning agency ng pinakamurang pasilidad bago ipagamot ang marino.

Isinaad ni Entero bilang halimbawa ang paghahabol ng isang napinsalang marino. Sa tulong ng ITF o International Transport Federation, nakapag-claim siya ng mahigit US $1 Milyon para sa damages at pagpapagamot sa Europa. Kung hindi pa itinulak ng grupo, aniya’y baka pinauwi na lamang sa Pilipinas ang seafarer at lumala ang kanyang pinsala.

Mahalaga ring malaman ng publiko na mayroong Contract Bargaining Agreement o CBA sa pagbabarko, na “armas ng mga maggagawa sa paghahabol sa ilan pa niyang mga karapatan at benepisyo,” ani Entero.

Sa isang industriyang may limpak-limpak na nakakamal mula sa lakas-paggawa ng milyong manggagawa nito, marapat lamang na malaman ng ating mga kababayan na nangangarap kumita bilang isang mandaragat ang kanilang mga karapatan sa laot.

Salary Standardization Law 3: For Whose Benefit?

September 27, 2008

The Confederation for the Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (Courage) says that the proposed salary adjustment by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) is totally unfair for the 1.4 million employees who toil for almost 12 hours everyday despite the low salary.

BY NOEL SALES BARCELONA
Bulatlat

During the Sept. 3 National Budget hearing in the House of Representatives, Budget Secretary Rolando G. Andaya Jr., said that the national government has earmarked, for the proposed Salary Standardization Law 3 (SSL3), P20 billion (US$428.68 million) from the proposed P1.4 trillion ($30.07 billion at the Sept. 19 exchange rate of $1:P46.56) national budget for next year. This, he said, will be used for the first tranche of the SSL3 in 2009.

The SSL3 will be implemented over a four-year period, beginning next year, according to Andaya.

According to Andaya, if the SSL3 is implemented, those who hold the rank of Teacher I and Nurse I in 2009, will have a salary increase from P12,026 to P13,542 or 12.6 percent higher than their current salary rates.

When SSL3 is implemented in full, their rate shall be at P18,088 per month.

On the other hand, Medical Officers I (doctors) and Legal Officers I (lawyers) will have an increase by 79.2 percent from P15,181 to P27,198, said Andaya.

The budget secretary also said that the two grade levels for teachers and nurses will also be upgraded from Grade 10 to Grade 11, while for doctors and lawyers are from Grade 14 to Grade 16.

Utility workers and those who are in clerical positions will on the average receive a 30-percent salary increase.

Unfair

However, the Confederation for the Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (Courage) says that the proposed salary adjustment by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) is totally unfair for the 1.4 million employees who toil for almost 12 hours everyday despite the low salary.

Calling the SSL3 a “recycled version” of the Government Classification and Compensation Act earlier filed in Congress, which essentially gave higher compensation to professionals and executives and “starvation pay” to the rank and file as benchmark, Courage national president Ferdinand R. Gaite said implementing SSL3 would be like giving more meat to those who are already full while at the same time throwing only crumbs to those who are really hungry.

“Those who need the increase more should get the higher adjustments. The P20-billion allotment for pay hikes in the proposed national budget should benefit the metro aides, clerks, drivers, machine operators, public school teachers, nurses and other public health workers and other employees who are at the front-line of delivering vital services to the public. Otherwise, it will be another self-serving piece of legislation and an affront to the employees,” he explained.

Gaite accused the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo government of driving a wedge between those who earn more and have allowances, pork barrel, discretionary funds and other privileges at their disposal.

The militant leader also said that any salary increase, both for private and public sector workers, must be on the basis of social justice, not patronage.

In 2006 the government implemented a what was supposed to be a P1,000 across-the-board salary increase grant. But not all government employees benefited from it.

“Most of the workers from the local government units (LGUs) did not get increases in their salary,” he said. Gaite added that many local government employees who got salary increases did so through the savings of their respective LGUs.

Gaite said that government workers’ unions must be strong and united to be able to negotiate for salary increases.

To date, the lowest paid government employee receives a gross pay of around P6,126, sans mandatory deductions like withholding tax, GSIS and PAG-IBIG premiums, etc.

Gaite stressed that they are still for a P3,000 across-the-board nationwide salary increase but definitely shall oppose the “outrageous pay hike biased for top officials.” (Bulatlat)


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