On the 127th International Labor Day, Center for Trade Union and Human Rights criticized the Aquino administration’s responses  concerns of Filipino workers saying that the administration is “turning a blind eye” to workers issues and demands.

CTUHR Executive Director Daisy Arago said, “Recent actions and responses of Malacanang and the Department of Labor [and employment] to workers’ clamor for substantial wage hike, decent employment and work security prove that the current government is not promoting ‘inclusive’ growth; rather, it is turning a blind eye to workers’ demands and the root causes of workers woes”

In addressing unemployment and jobless growth, Arago stated that DOLE’s ‘much-boasted’ 400,000 jobs available in job fairs this Labor Day is hardly enough to provide employment to over 4 million unemployed Filipinos. “They do this every year but joblessness in the country cannot be addressed if the government will rely on labor export and the BPOs, construction, and service sector to generate jobs. And these are the kind of jobs being offered in these job fairs,” Arago added.

 Increasing working poor

Citing  a report of the National Statistics Coordination Board, Arago said that the unchanged poverty incidence is clear indication that Aquino’s economic and labor programs are not pro-workers and pro-poor.  “The government still does not have a plan on how it can generate decent jobs and at the same time it refuses to approve significant wage hikes for the workers when it is obvious that these courses of actions could actually improve the situation of Filipino workers.”

Arago also noted that the number of working poor in the country is as much as 10 million while approximately 8 million working Filipinos are living with less than 1 dollar each day.

Shrewd labor policies

Arago also described Aquino’s labor policies as “shrewd” guised in progressive and kind language but are essentially undermining workers’ rights and running counter to workers’ interest. Arago cited several new labor laws and policies namely the strengthening of tripartism, mandatory conciliation in labor disputes, and the two tier wage system to illustrate her point.

“The government is using the concept of tripartism to project that it is democratically discussing with the workers its labor agenda and policies. But can tripartism actually work in our current situation wherein employers and the government collude in promoting capital’s interest at the expense of workers? We fear that this mechanism will only be used by both employers and the government to legitimize anti-workers policies and programs.”

Arago also bucked the mandatory conciliation period as a way to deter workers from filing complaints against abusive employers. Arago explained that with this new law, workers are compelled to ‘negotiate’ first with their employers their complaints for a period of 30 days and only when the conciliation fails can the workers file a formal complaint at a labor court. Arago expressed that this situation is again not favorable to the workers.

“Needless to say, the two tier wage system is an outright attack, even an insult, to the workers demand for significant wage hike. It definitely shows how the government is hell-bent on inviting more investors at the expense of labor,” Arago added.

The two tier wage system introduces two levels of wages, floor wage and productivity-based wage, and practically brings down the minimum wage rates.

Continuing attack on workers

In terms of unionism and workers freedoms, Arago stressed that the situation under Aquino is no better than before.

“Unionism is still in decline because of repressive laws that hinder workers from organizing and also because of ballooning contractualization,” Arago said.

The group said that only around 8 percent of the employed population are unionized and only 230,000 workers are covered by collective bargaining agreement.

Arago also said that harassment on independent unionists has not stopped but has in fact worsened under Aquino. “Union leaders are still being harassed, criminalized and even killed,” Arago added.

The group cited that in their monitoring from June 2010 to Dec 2012, there are 301 cases labor rights violations and violation of civil and political rights committed against some 24,000 workers.###