STA. ROSA CITY, LAGUNA – To intensify the sector’s call for higher wages and better living conditions, workers led by the Metal Workers Alliance of the Philippines – Southern Tagalog (MWAP-ST) conducted a forum last April 19, tackling the issues of contractualization and the need for a P16,000 National Minimum Wage.
According to Christopher Oliquino, National Secretary General of MWAP, low wages and the absence of job security due to widespread contractualization are the main reasons why workers remain poor under Noynoy Aquino’s term. “It is infuriating that Aquino prioritizes big businessmen and foreign investors over the interests of the Filipino working class. The condition of workers within industrial zones has worsened, and we must continue to spread awareness first to strengthen our ranks,” he stressed.
MWAP is an alliance established on March 2006 which consists of workers from the automotive, electronics, metallurgical mining, ship building, electrical smelting and other related industries. The alliance seeks to uphold the rights not only of metal workers, but most especially of contractual workers nowadays, who are not aware of their right to organization, just wages and better working conditions. “Right now, contractual workers which consists of 70% to 80% of the entire workforce are prone to exploitation, since they are easily convinced that they have no other choice but to work and that they are not allowed to establish or join unions,” Oliquino added.
During the forum, the All Workers’ Unity in Southern Tagalog was formally established – which primarily calls the increase of the National Minimum Wage to P16,000. According to Oliquino, the cost of living today for workers who have families are much too expensive as compared to the measly wages that they are receiving. The recent P15 increase in wages by the Department of Labor and Employment only in the National Capital Region was an insult to injury especially to industry workers based in Southern Tagalog. “P16,000 wages for workers are but crumbs as compared to the superprofit that capitalists make each day. We believe this is a just demand for increase,” he stressed.
MWAP also urges the improvement of health and safety standards imposed within factories. Workers in these industries have a higher likelihood to injuries such as burns and cuts, together with lack of ventilation from high temperature machineries that affect the actual workplace. “We have been fighting for the Occupational Health Standards to be duly recognized as a basic right in order to alleviatethe safety protocols, and remove hazardous risks that even lead to death of workers,” Oliquino said.
In connection to this, the workers are preparing for the Workers’ Memorial Day on April 28, a day to remember all the victims of health hazards, accidents and sicknesses caught in the workplace. MWAP also vows to involve its affiliate unions to the annual May 1 Labor Day protest at Crossing, Calamba which call for the ouster of Aquino due to his crime to the Filipino people. ###