“Aquino was recognized as an ‘influential leader’ because of his rabid support for pro-capitalist and anti-worker policies. Not only has he refused to increase wages by a significant amount, he is trying to cut and freeze wages through the Two-Tiered Wage System.” – KMU
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA — Edgardo Legaspi, 29, worked for four years as a “contractual” at the Republic Asahi Glass before he became a “regular” on the job four years ago. Contractual workers perform the same jobs as those of regular workers in the Japanese-owned Asahi glass company, but contractuals receive only the minimum wage, which is less than half the wages of regular and unionized workers.
Legaspi said he became regular on the job after he fought for it, with the help of the union. He told Bulatlat.com that Asahi Glass has been cutting down the number of its regular workers. It used to be more than a thousand some years before, but he said the “yellow union leaders” and the management connived to retire regular workers and then rehire them as contractuals. The union in Asahi Glass only began to fight back and defend regular jobs after it deposed its ‘yellow’ leaders and replaced them with affiliates of labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU). But by then, Legaspi said the proportion of regular to contractual has shrunk to less than one in every five of its workforce.
Worse, as the union struggles to campaign for better wages despite a reduced bargaining chip (it is now outnumbered by non-unionized contractuals who may not take part in union actions), Asahi Glass from time to time pounces on some regular workers’ need for cash by offering “voluntary retirement packages.” This continues to shrink the number of regular workers and unionized while the contractuals expand. Contractuals number to a thousand now in Asahi Glass; the regular workers with a bargaining unit are just 174.
This is also the story of other workers and unions in other companies in the Philippines; it partly explains the reduction in number of total unionized workers in the Philippines, and the number also of recorded strikes.
The labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) is pinning the blame for this on the labor department’s policies that they say make it legal for companies to resort to contractualization and outsourcing. It is more appropriate to call the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) as the Department of Labor Exploitation, said Roger Soluta, secretary-general of KMU, during his group’s picket in front of DOLE today (April 22).
Soluta condemned the labor department for allowing the exploitation of workers when it should have been defending the interest and welfare of workers. He blamed its labor policies such as Department Order 18-a, which calls for contractualization, as the reason why most workers are now being denied various rights and benefits. The labor department is to blame, he said, for the growing number of contractuals in the Philippines.
‘President Noynoy Aquino ‘most anti-worker’ among presidents’
Aside from policies pushing for contractualization, the Aquino government through the labor department also has a “policy of freezing and cutting wages through a new wage scheme.”
The workers were referring to the Two-Tier Wage System, which in many regions in the country means a nominal wage freeze and in Calabarzon sub-region, the imposition of a floor wage of P255 (US$6.17), an amount lower than the minimum wage there of P337 (US$8.16).
The workers burned an enlarged copy of a spoof of a TIME Magazine cover featuring Pres. Noynoy Aquino as supposedly one of the “most influential leaders” of the world. This president, the KMU said, is definitely the most anti-worker.
“Aquino was recognized as an ‘influential leader’ because of his rabid support for pro-capitalist and anti-worker policies. Not only has he refused to increase wages by a significant amount, he is trying to cut and freeze wages through the Two-Tiered Wage System,” said Elmer “Bong” Labog, chairman of KMU.
“Aquino has done many things to help big capitalists boost their profits to the detriment of the country’s workers. He has legalized contractual employment and various hindrances to workers’ right to strike,” Labog added.
Last month, the labor department said that 13 of the country’s regional wage boards have issued orders for implementing the Two-Tier Wage System.
These cover the National Capital Region, Cordillera Administrative Region, Ilocos Region, Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon, Calabarzon sub-region, Mimaropa sub-region, Bicol Region, Western Visayas, Central Visayas, Eastern Visayas, Soccsksargen, and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
The labor department also said wage orders implementing the new wage scheme are still to be issued for Zamboanga Peninsula, Northern Mindanao, Davao region, and Caraga region.
The KMU called instead for the scrapping “of this wage cut and wage freeze scheme.” They urged for the passage of the P125 Wage Hike Bill, or House Bill 375 filed by Anakpawis Partylist Rep. Rafael V. Mariano seeking to legislate a P125 across-the-board wage hike nationwide.
“Workers need a significant wage hike, not a wage cut or a wage freeze,” Labog said, adding it is urgent now for workers to cope with rising prices of basic goods and services.” The group said they will challenge the implementation of the two-tier wage system before the courts.