“In its 3rdLabor Day, the Duterte regime continue to  fail on its election promises to end ENDO, provide substantial wage increase and halt the skyrocketing prices. Yet, it never have second thoughts on busting unions and blaming workers’ restlessness for factory closures. It astutely used Mindanao Martial Law to militarize workplaces, forced unionists to surrender and violently dispersed picketlines,” says the Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR). Today, the regime’s candidates are parading what they deemed as their own accomplishments sans an end to contractualization and wage increase, perhaps scared that voters will collect them.

Left Behind, Job Cuts amidst DOLE Alleged Regularization 

`Walang maiiwan, lalo na ang mga taga probinsya’ (No one will be left behind, especially those in the provinces), these are the popular campaign words by Duterte.  In reality, workers are not just left behind, they are pushed further to the margins.  The DO 174 and EO 51touted to axe labor only contractors are not ridding LOCs and manpower agencies, they are ridding the workers employed by them, when the companies ‘terminate’ the agency’s servicesor suddenly declared bankruptcy.

Some classic examples of these practices of terminating workers simultaneous to terminating agencies are Jolibee Corp. and PLDT.  More than 12,000 were axed, instead of regularized. In Hanjin Shipyard in Zambales, almost 17,000 workers lost their jobs when the company instituted voluntary resignation allegedly due to its inability to pay  bank loans and banckruptcy. This is on top of the 18 factories with 31,280 workers which closed down due to economic losses and additional 2,800 workers dismissed in companies retaliation for their union organizing, CTUHR monitoring revealed. This does not include the more than 900 Sumitomo Fruit Corp (SUMIFRU) workers who had been fighting day by day to keep their jobs.

Where are the 500,000 workers that DOLE regularized? Were they regularized in the company or the manpower agencies?

A recent study of think-tank IBON Foundation, revealed that the Duterte administration has only created an average of 81,000 jobs per year for Filipinos. Though Malacanang assailed the data and red-tagged the IBON Foundation, it was apparent that there are more illegal Chinese workers benefitting from Duterte’s so-called jobs creation than Filipinos.  Even the government’s flagship program, Build, Build, Build  which they claim to provide jobs for the Filipinos are ineffective job growth-wise.  They not only create temporary and informal jobs but the roads and bridges funded by China bring with them the Chinese workers.  In fact, at the Senate hearing, it was noted that around 119,000  Chinese workers are illegally working here. There are reports that Chinese workers are given priority and paid higher even in the construction sector. 

The PNP in a recent statement blames unions, notably Kilusang Mayo Uno for job losses due to workers’ participation to rallies and strikes. It’s a a Marcos Martial Law allegations that government pulls from somewhere when it is convenient to transfer the blame or cannot answer the workers’ demands.

`Deadma’ and Numb on the demand for national minimum wage

Since Tax Reform Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Law, again, promised to make life lighter, Duterte regime continually squeezes particularly the poor from paying taxes from everything.  It also significantly cut the workers’ below minimum salary and drove them to work killer hours to augment income.  TRAIN generates P1.962 trillion in government revenues  in 2018, which according to the Department of Finance (DOF) still fell short of its P2.044-trillion target.

Yet, until today’s Labor Day, the government refuses to grant the P750 national minimum wage and peddling only the job fair that build, build, build projects allegedly can provide.  Since January this year, fuel prices have gone up more than 10 times, and yet the government is only keen in keeping businesses or in business as usual mode, even in times of earthquake. Workers are also complaining that work in poor ventilated manufacturing plants and in construction sector are becoming so unbearable due to extreme heat, and yet the government, with its Climate resiliency mantra is not pushing companies to provide their workers adequate protection and assistance.

Intensified attacks against the labor sector

CTUHR underscores that cases of trade union and human rights violations` dramatically increased during Duterte’s nearly three years in office. It cited 42 victims of extrajudicial killings of workers, unionists and organizers primarily from agriculture sector. It added that 3,508 were arbitrarily arrested, harassed, physically assaulted or falsely accused of criminal offenses. CTUHR further noted that it documented 13 cases of direct and open attacks against workers and unionists inside and outside the strike perpetuated by either police or military forces. 

Martial Law in Mindanao has inflicted heavy damages against unions. Recently, three (3) union leaders were abducted, totured and forced to withdraw their union membership along with 150 others from KMU-affiliate local union at Musahamat Farms in Compostela Valley on March 2019.  They were also forced to sign a paper claiming that they were NPA surenderees. Last year in November, union board member of SUMIFRU workers was gunned down, killing him instantly and in December, the Union President’s house was burned to ashes by soldiers of 61stIB.

Duterte’s direct tirades against unions demonizing them, especially Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) – affiliated unions,  had never been as damaging as it is now.  Its inability to address unemployment and poverty is matched by its unequal attacks on unions and human rights defenders in every sector labelling them as communist fronts or aiding terrorism. This clearly violates ILO Conventions 87 and 98 on right to freedom of association and collectively bargain.

CHR has cautioned the government of this red tagging, as this clearly violates presumption of innocence until proven guilty. It brings more harm than good, it added. KMU also filed complaints at the International Labour Organization (ILO).

“This country is confronting labor and human rights crisis perpetuated by no other than the President and his administration. Thus, this labor day, CTUHR pledges again its  unwavering solidarity with the workers in their continuing struggle for job security, national minimum wage, dignified work and safe working conditions. His so-called `malasakit’ (concern) is only for bowed heads and sealed tongues and calls on workers to muster their strength and power to resist this multi-faceted assault. It reaffirms its call on companies and the Duterte government to stop the attacks against labor, human rights and people’s rights defenders!###–