Before Aquino’s last SONA: Southern Tagalog workers intensify protests against contractualization

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Months without resolutions on labor disputes concerning contractualization, union-busting and unfair labor practices, workers from Southern Tagalog stage a series of protests starting today, to intensify their calls and to condemn the Aquino government’s anti-worker policies.

These protests are expected to strengthen nearing the last State of the Nation Address (SONA) of Noynoy Aquino on July 27. “More lies will again be said about the supposedly straight path to progress of our country, yet it remains as a reality that the condition of Filipino workers have worsened under poverty due to Aquino’s adherence to neoliberal programs,”  Roque Polido, Chairperson of Pagkakaisa ng mga Manggagawa sa Timog Katagalugan (PAMANTIK-KMU) said.

Merging with other workers from the National Office of Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), around a hundred workers from various factories of the region staged a protest march and program at Mendiola Bridge today. A protest camp was also set-up in front of the Office of the Secretary of the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) to pressure Rosalinda Baldoz to at once make a decision in favor of the workers demands.

Amidst the order released last June 22 by the DoLE Region IV-A Office to regularize 103 contractual workers of Tanduay Distillers Inc. in Cabuyao, Laguna, the Tanduay management has no move to do so. Tanduay workers have been on strike for nearly two months since May 18 and have experienced numerous human rights violations due to dispersal attempts by security guards and hired goons of the Asia Brewery compound. Working for 5 to 11 years, 90% or 397 of their workforce were employed illegally under the scheme of Labor Only Contractual (LOC).

“Richard Teng and Lucio Tan remain deaf and defiant even to the rule of law. It seems that they are finding ways to reverse the decision or fully ignore it. The government must implement sanctions on Tanduay management’s inaction. We demand that we be regularized at once!” Anse Are, President of Tanggulang Ugnayan Daluyang Lakas ng Anakpawis sa Tanduay Distillers Inc. (TUDLA) said.

Meanwhile, Sagara Metro Plastics Industrial Corporation, a factory of auto-parts located in Calamba City, are also experiencing widespread contractualization. 60% or 400 of their workers are contractual. The workers are also repressed from forming a genuine union when their Certification Elections were arbitrarily cancelled by a Malacanang order last April 8. “This is why exploitation by big capitalists becomes a norm in our country – the Aquino government has a direct hand in crushing the organized efforts of workers to unionize and fight for their rights,” Polido said.

Other factory workers such as the Karzai Corporation in Cabuyao, through their collective strength have triumphed against the illegal dismissal of 35 of their fellow workers. Their next step was to form a union, through the Ilaw, Gabay at Pag-asa sa Karzai Corporation (IGPAK-OLALIA) that hopes to resolve the 90% or more than 300 employed under LOC.

Similar conditions of contractualization can be observed inside the Manila Cordage Company, also in Calamba City. While unionized workforce from the Lakas ng Nagkakaisang Manggagawa sa Fuji Electric Philippines face a Collective Bargaining Agreement where only “crumbs” are given to their calls of P80 wage increase and various benefits.

“The local struggles of workers in Southern Tagalog paint a clear picture of how the Aquino regime does nothing but serve the interests of these so called foreign investors through connivance with the local elite and ruling class. Only through the collective struggle of workers and the people can we truly change this rotten system that perpetuates under Aquino’s rule and even beyond his term. We expect nothing new from Aquino’s last SONA – only the rage of the people replenished from his five years of disservice,” Polido said. #

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