On KMU's 25th Anniversary
Workers, Allies to
Push for GMA's Ouster
Armed with the experience of ousting two presidents, Filipino workers are
ready to continue and advance the oust Macapagal-Arroyo movement.
BY RONALYN V. OLEA
On May 1, Labor Day and 25th anniversary of the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU or
May First Movement), militant workers will reiterate their call for Gloria
In a press conference April 27, KMU Chairperson Elmer Labog said that the
labor day protests will highlight the formation of a broad anti-Arroyo
All political forces,
including pro-Estrada and pro-FPJ groups have been invited. "Practically
everyone who has issues against the Arroyo government is welcome to join
the rallies. Arroyo will be the target of nationwide mobilizations on May
1," Labog said.
Pro-Estrada groups led the May 1, 2001
siege of Malacañang. Meanwhile, pro-FPJ forces believe Macapagal-Arroyo
only won the last presidential elections because of massive fraud.
KMU Secretary General Joel Maglunsod said, "We may carry different names
and banners but we carry common demands and causes – such as immediate
economic relief for all workers. It is at the height of injustice that the
producers of social wealth are the ones suffering the worst living
Aside from the Manila protest,
similar actions will take place in Baguio, Central Luzon, Southern Luzon,
Bicol region, Cebu, Eastern Visayas, Panay, Negros,
provinces, Southern Mindanao and other major provinces and regions
Speaking before “A Gathering of Friends of Filipino Workers,” held April
27, Amado Gat Inciong said the Filipino people's poverty has reached its
maximum level. "Lagpas na sa huling butas ng sinturon" (It is
already beyond what could be endured).
Inciong served shortly as undersecretary of Ministry of Labor and
Employment during Marcos reign. He said that the Left, the poor and the
workers could form a critical mass against Macapagal-Arroyo. "Kung di
ka pa bababa diyan, diretso na kaming aakyat. " (literally: If you
still do not step down, we will go up straight up.)
Malacañang's labor day package
Labog said the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) must forgo its
usual labor day activities including job fairs, free basketball games,
free movies, free train rides and let workers express themselves and their
issues in the streets.
"DoLE's freebies and
trivial activities are not helping the workers in any way. We need actual
and concrete solutions to the widespread problem of wage scarcity,
unemployment and poor working conditions," he said.
Labog said further that they are not satisfied with Malacanang's supposed
labor-day package granting an Emergency Cost of Living Allowance (ECOLA)
for workers. "Instead of hearing out our demands for a substantial wage
increase, Malacanang is giving us series of oil price hikes and power rate
increase," he said.
The KMU leader said that whatever amount in ECOLA that the government will
grant will be quickly overwhelmed by the upcoming effects of the impending
VAT increase and Napocor and Meralco power rate hikes.
The KMU has been
pressing for a national legislated increase in minimum wages for all
workers in the private sector. "Our demand for a P125 across-the-board,
across-the-country is non-negotiable," Labog said. He also shunned the
measly increases through the regional tripartite wages and productivity
Joel Maglunsod, KMU secretary general, said that wage hikes through wage
boards or ECOLA are nothing but trivial offerings to appease workers who
have been outraged by the absence of wage hikes. "With the great
disparity between wages and cost of living, how can the government expect
workers to cope with the increasing cost of public utilities, basic goods
and services?" he said.
Maglunsod also slammed Labor Secretary Patricia Sto. Tomas for undermining
the urgent need for wage hikes. In an interview with radio station DZRH,
Sto. Tomas said DoLE and the regional wage boards are still studying the
need to grant wage hikes since oil price hikes have yet to impact the
prices of basic goods. Maglunsod said Sto. Tomas and the Employers
Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP) and other business groups have the
same line of thinking when it comes to wage hike demands.
"Workers are always
made to choose between hellish wages and unemployment when in fact we both
need decent wages and job security," Maglunsod said.
Early Labor Day gift
In a separate statement, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan - New Patriotic
Alliance) scored what they called an early Labor Day gift from the
Macapagal-Arroyo administration. The Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC)
granted the National Power Corporation (Napocor) with a total P1.04/kwh
rate increase on top of adjustments in generation rates and foreign
Bayan secretary-general Renato Reyes Jr. said, "As if the previous
provisional authority for a rate hike was not enough, the ERC and the
Arroyo government want the people to shoulder more of Napocor's onerous
Reyes said that the ERC seems to tell the consumers that it is okay to
shoulder some P112 billion in Napocor debts, including onerous contractual
obligations to profiteers independent power producers.
Bayan expects power rates to hit the roof in the coming months. The ERC
estimate of a P180 increase in monthly bills for customers consuming 200
kwh a month is fairly conservative since it does not yet include the
proposed VAT on generation, distribution and transmission charges. This
may result in another P100/month increase according to the group's
Labog said Filipino workers from various factories, economic zones,
industrial zones and work places nationwide are armed with the experience
of the Marcos and Estrada ouster campaigns and are ready to continue and
advance the oust Macapagal-Arroyo movement.
In February 1986, thousands of workers marched to Malacanañg to oust the
dictator. Labog said in the past years before Marcos' downfall, the
workers defied martial law by launching a widespread strike movement.
The KMU was also among the first national organizations that called for
Estrada's ouster. Again, the KMU joined the Bayan contingent in the march
to Mendiola on January 20, 2001.
Labog said, "We will celebrate KMU's 25 years of service to the Filipino
workers. At the same time, we are tasked this year to direct our actions
against the number enemy of workers and Filipino people – the US-Arroyo
regime. No one and nothing can stop us from holding protests against
Arroyo's corrupt and burdensome leadership." Bulatlat
PRINTER-FRIENDLY VERSION ■
© 2004 Bulatlat
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