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On Labor Day, workers call for wage hike, end to contractualization

Members of Kilusang Mayo Uno march on Labor Day, May 1, 2017. KMU Facebook page
MANILA, Philippines — Activist groups and labor unions on Monday greeted Labor Day with rallies to call for an end to contractual labor and for a higher minimum wage.
 
Kilusang Mayo Uno and other organizations under the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), including urban poor group Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay), marched with an effigy of a vulture that represented the US and the neoliberal policies that it promotes.
 
Broadly, neoliberalism is an economic model that emphasizes free-market economics that its critics believe contributes to a decrease in public services and an increase in privatization. Those opposed to neoliberal policies say the approach focuses on profits and not on the people's welfare and development. 
 
The groups called for an end to labor contractualization, where workers work short-term contracts and do not qualify for employees' benefits. They also called for a nationwide increase in the minimum wage to P750 a day. The minimum wage varies per region, from a high of P491 a day in the National Capital Region to around P235 in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, according to the Department of Labor and Employment.
 
Aside from labor issues, the groups also protested landgrabbing by large corporations and alleged US interference in Philippine affairs.
 

 
Kadamay members on the march. 
 

BMP: 'Endo' best surprise gift from Duterte

Also on Monday, a separate labor group said that the best "surprise gift" that President Rodrigo Duterte can give on Labor Day is announcing the end of contractualization.
 
Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino president Leody de Guzman said in an emailed statement that that the number of workers attending the Labor Day rallies is evidence enough of the growing frustration at the Duterte administration's unfulfilled promise to put an end to contractual labor.
 
"What better 'surprise gift' can Duterte present laborers, the true engineers behind all social wealth but the complete abolition of contractualization, which was what he promised us in the first place," De Guzman said.
 
On Sunday, Associated Labor Union spokesman Alan Tanjusay said that about 20,000 workers will march to Mendiola, Manila to pressure the president to heed their demands.
 
"The eyes and ears of the working class are all focused on the president’s first Labor Day speech. May 1 is the perfect day for him to act point-blank on the issue raised by labor groups," Tanjusay added.
 
 
De Guzman then warned the president that the working class may withdraw support from the Duterte administration if it "betrays" them.
 
He added that if Duterte follows the neoliberal politics of the past presidents, the working class may realize that he is a "stooge of the oligarchy" no different from former President Benigno Aquino III.
 
In a short message released on Labor Day, Duterte hailed workers for playing "a significant role in pushing for the right to humane conditions at work, basic wages and organized acts including collective bargaining ang unionism."
 
He said the government "recognizes these basic rights of workers in all industries and we are committed to protect and defend these rights."
 
However, despite saying that workers are partners in nation building and "[deserve] nothing less than a share of the fruits of his hard work," the president did not mention contractual labor in his message.
 

Among the rallyists' demands were raising the minimum wage to P750 a day. (KMU Facebook)

Palace: More jobs in the future

 
Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella meanwhile, said that there will be more employment in the future through the Build-Build-Build campaign of the Duterte administration, a massive push for infrastructure projects across the country.
 
The statement came after a recent Social Weather Stations survey showed that the rate of joblessness went down to 22.9 percent in March, a 2.2 percent dip from the 25.1 percent rate in December 2016.
 
Abella said that the drop in the joblessness rate is an affirmation of the significant strides of the administration to sustain the country's "robust economy growth." — with KE Javier
 
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