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Labor’s not so middle class woes

Photo by ROY DOMINGO

Third time’s the charm, but not in this case. The third dialogue of organized labor with President Rodrigo Duterte to put a stop to contractualization ended in another waiting game.

Last February 7, Malacañang invited labor groups for a dialogue with the President on the issue of contractualization and other labor concerns.

Fueled by Duterte’s election campaign promise to stop labor-only-contracting schemes in the country, labor leaders from left to right of the political spectrum have been pushing for the signing of an Executive Order that will put an end to the illegal practice of “endo” (end of contract)—the hiring of employees for only five months to bypass the law on regularizing workers after six months.

Contractual employees, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) account for 10% or 4 million out of the total 40.3 million employed persons in 2017. Many contractual employees experience below minimum wages.

21 LABOR LEADERS

Leaders of the Nagkaisa! Labor Coalition and the militant Kilusang Mayo Uno crafted an Executive Order that they presented to the President during the dialogue.

Nagkaisa! is the largest labor coalition in the country with over 40 trade union centers, labor federations and workers’ associations, while KMU has a long history and tradition of being a genuine, militant and anti-imperialist national labor center.

“It’s about time the President makes good on his vow to end contractualization and stay true to his commitment to us during our last dialogue on Labor Day to issue an Executive Order to fulfill this promise,” KMU and Nagkaisa! said in a joint statement.

The joint statement was signed by 21 labor leaders which include: Atty. Allan Montano-Federation of Free Workers (FFW) president emeritus/foreign secretary; Atty. Sonny Matula-FFW president; Michael Mendoza- ALU-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) president; Rep Raymond Mendoza- TUCP Partylist; Louie Coral-TUCP Vice president; Daniel Endralin-Chair of APL-Sentro; Edwin Bustillos-secretary-general, Sentro; former Rep Rene Magtubo-Partido Manggagawa (PM); Gerry Rivera-chair PALEA-TUCP; Atty Bayani Diwa-LMLC; Dave Diwa-NLU-LMLC; Annie Geron-President of PSLink; Esperanza Ocampo-President of PGEA; Rolando Dela Cruz-President of NACUSIP-TUCP; Ging Ogalinda, Gen Ec of NATOW-TUCP; Exie Nidua, Predident of NUBE; Elmer Labog, chair of KMU; Lito Ustariz, NAGLU-KMU president; Adulani Pia Lakibul, president of Confederation of Independent Union in the Public Sector in the Phils (CIU); Atty Arnel Dolendo, Pres of PTGWO; and Judy Ann Miranda, PM Women

D-DAY

The day of the dialogue started with a protest march of labor leaders and workers in Mendiola. At about 4 pm, labor leaders trooped to Gate 4 of Malacanang.

Some 500 workers remained in Mendiola to wait for news of the dialogue’s outcome.

Sitting as panel for Nagkaisa! and KMU were Michael Mendoza, Nagkaisa! chairperson; Elmer Labog, KMU chairperson; Atty. Sonny Matula, Federation of Free Workers (FFW) president-Nagkaisa!; Rey Cagomoc, Kilos na Manggagawa spokesperson; Judy Miranda, Partido Manggagawa secretary general-Nagkaisa!; Jhen Pajel, All Workers Unity; Rep. Raymond Mendoza, TUCP Partylist-Nagkaisa!; and Lito Ustarez, KMU vice president for political and external affairs.

Wearing a white barong, President Duterte welcomed the labor leaders. According to FFW president Sonny Matula, Duterte told them not to stand up, saying he was a worker, just like them. Phones were confiscated for security reasons.

Together with Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, other officials from the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), Department of Finance (DoF), and Department of Budget Management (DBM) were also present.

Elmer Labog, KMU chair, spoke about contractualization and the need for a national minimum wage

FFW’s Sonny Matula discussed workers’ representation in SSS, GSIS, and Pag-IBIG fund.

Louie Coral of the TUCP spoke about the lowering of the cost of power and the 500 pesos subsidy to minimum wage earners.

At this point, Duterte suggested to Coral to form a team together with Secretary Bello, Finance Secretary Sonny Dominguez, and Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez. As to the P500 subsidy, Duterte said he will bring it up with Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno.

Rene Magtubo of Partido ng Manggagawa and Dan Edralin of Sentro supported the urgent need for an EO to end contractualizaiton, while Annie Geron of PSLink called the attention of the President to contractualization in government.

The dialogue lasted from 4 to 6 p.m. Duterte told the labor leaders that he will study the latest draft of the EO on contractualization, acknowledging that the present draft has the support of Nagkaisa! and KMU, as well as the endorsement of Secretary Bello.

Duterte said however that he has to follow Malacañang protocol, meaning that he first has to refer the draft EO to his legal office.

According to Matula, the President said that if the EO passes review, he will invite all the labor leaders present to an EO signing by March 15.

GUARDED OPTIMISM

Labor leaders viewed the latest presidential dialogue with guarded optimism.

“The workers are quite frustrated,” said FFW president Sonny Matula. “We are dismayed. We are disappointed. The workers will not drop the issue. They will continue to persist and advance the struggle of the workers to security of tenure towards ending contractualization.”

“For over 20 years, the government has been regulating contractualization by allowing agency-hiring and other forms of trilateral employment relations which only resulted in the proliferation of fraudulent forms of contractualization like endo and labor-only contracting. The solution to this scourge is to make prohibition as the new rule to effectively protect workers’ security of tenure and all other trade union rights as guaranteed by the Constitution,” Nagkaisa! said in a statement.

The Feb 7 dialogue is the third dialogue between organized labor and Duterte. The first happened on February 27, 2017 and the second, on May 1, 2017.

In the first two dialogues, Bello reiterated that he had no power to abolish contractual work and that he can only make sure that contractualization schemes are not abused to deny workers their rights. G

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