President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday urged Congress to pass measures that fully protect workers’ rights, while thousands of workers staged protests in different parts of the country to demand government action on the security of tenure and low wages.
READ: ECOP dampens pay hike hopes
In his Labor Day message, the President acknowledged the “hard work, grit, and perseverance” of all Filipino workers in the country and abroad.
“Every year, we set aside this day to celebrate their valuable contributions not only in the struggle to provide a better life for our people but in building the foundations of a more promising future for succeeding generations of Filipinos,” Duterte said.
However, the President lamented the plight of overseas Filipino workers, who choose to leave their families so they may earn better compensation abroad.
“This is why my administration has implemented measures within its powers to afford full protection to labor and promote equal work opportunities for all,” Duterte said.
“I remain optimistic that one year since I issued Executive Order No. 51... my counterparts in Congress will consider passing much-needed legislative measures to fully protect our workers’ rights, especially to the security of tenure and self-organization,” he added.
EO 51 prohibits contracting or sub-contracting, when undertaken to circumvent the worker’s right to security of tenure, self-organization, collective bargaining, and peaceful concerted activities.
Duterte then ordered respective government agencies to enforce existing labor laws and regulations.
However, labor groups slammed the President for not introducing new reforms, something he promised during the 2016 presidential campaign.
In 2016, Duterte vowed to stop “endo,” a process where employers contract then fire workers to avoid granting them regular employee status with full benefits.
As labor groups led by Kilusang Mayo Uno staged protests nationwide to criticize the government, the Palace reminded them of Duterte’s “pro-labor initiatives” and laws that he signed that benefited workers.
“The KMU criticizes the government for being anti-poor and anti-worker while blaming the government for the lack of jobs and alleged worsening labor conditions. What seems to escape them is the truth that their anti-government activities could scare away foreign investors in the country resulting in job losses to the people they are fighting for and vow to protect,” Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said in a separate statement.
He said the Duterte administration has been at the forefront in improving the labor conditions, citing laws he signed that strengthen occupational safety and health standards, make work from home an alternative work arrangement and increase the period for maternity leaves.
“It is also during the current government when the welfare and concern of our OFWs were given priority. We now have a one-stop service center for OFWs, a 24/7 OFW Command Center and an Overseas Filipino Bank. We have signed bilateral labor agreements with Cambodia, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Kuwait, to name some,” Panelo said.
Thousands of workers staged rallies in different parts of the country on Labor Day, reiterating the call for the total abolition of “endo,” the passage of the Security of Tenure Law, and an increase in wages nationwide.
The Partido Manggagawa vowed to “fight endo until the endgame,” while the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines insisted on a P710 wage increase, saying the current daily minimum rate of P537 was not enough to buy nutritious food for a family of five.
READ: TUCP bats for P710 wage hike in Metro
“The Senate should heed the cry of the thousands of workers and to pass the Security of Tenure bill in its last session this month before Congress ends its term,” said Judy Ann Miranda, PM secretary-general.
“We support all initiatives to augment the income of workers such as the recent petition for a P710 across-the-board wage hike or a legislated salary increase for all workers. But we believe the best solution is to abolish the present system of regional wage setting that is the fulcrum of the policy of cheap labor. It is high time to institute a wage commission with the mandate to set national wages at the level of cost of living,” she said.
Various labor groups, such as the National Federation of Labor, Agila, Umalab Ka, Pwersa and Kilos Maralita, marched to Mendiola, saying they would not support Duterte’s senatorial candidates who are linked to corruption.
With flags and tarpaulins, protesters urged the government to end illegal contractualization, and expressed their opposition to federalism, the form of government supported by the Duterte administration.
“We challenge the candidates of the opposition to make a stand on the demands of workers for regular jobs and a living wage. After three long years, the administration has not delivered on its promise to end endo and end provincial wages. But ordinary voters will not be inspired by the Otso Deretso if they cannot make a straight forward commitment to workers’ demands for regular jobs and a living wage,” Miranda said.
Meanwhile, the militant labor group Kilusang Mayo Uno said it will not vote for the administration’s senatorial bets due to corruption.
“Workers will resist and oppose the worsening attacks against the poor and working people and one of the ways is to vote against the candidates Duterte supports and endorses because if they win, they will push for Duterte’s anti-poor legislative agenda,” KMU chairman Elmer Labog said.
Labog promised that the group will continue to call on Filipinos to assert their rights and demand genuine reforms, including raising wages and social welfare benefits, as well as improving living standards.
Also on Wednesday, the Department of Labor and Employment reminded private employers to pay their workers who rendered duties and services on Labor Day, by giving them the pay twice their regular daily wages.
At the same time, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III expressed confidence that the Senate will pass the bill seeking to end contractualization once Congress resumes session after the May 13 midterm elections.
Bello said that Senators Joel Villanueva and Richard Gordon promised that the Senate will pass the security of tenure bill which was certified urgent by President Duterte.
Ending contractualization was one of the campaign promises of Duterte.
Opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros on Wednesday echoed calls to end endo.
Hontiveros joined thousands of workers led by the Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa and Akbayan party-list as they called on the Duterte administration to end labor contractualization in the country.
Senator Cynthia A. Villar, meanwhile, said the wage board should carefully study the proposal for an increase in minimum wage. With Macon Ramos-AranetaREAD: P750-daily wage soughtREAD: Salceda proposes 35-hour work week
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