Contractualization, fascism on Duterte’s first year highlight S. Tagalog state of workers’ address

Labor organizations and associations under the banner of the militant regional labor center PAMANTIK-KMU massed up earlier at the Amar Balibago area in Sta. Rosa City, Laguna to bare the true situation of workers under the Duterte administration’s first year.

The demise of contractualization and longtime foreign domination – once under Duterte’s campaign promises – has remained a dream,” stated Allan Bagas, secretary-general of PAMANTIK-KMU. The group says that albeit the new administration seemed to listen to their demands; submitted last year in the form of the Southern Tagalog Workers’ Agenda, there were no tangible changes in the workers’ welfare and livelihood.

Wages in the region remain lower than the daily wage figure. The Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE)’s latest wage order for the Calabarzon region is pegged at a minimum wage rate of Php 378.50 and at Php 285 at the Mimaropa region. The daily wage figure, meanwhile, pegged by independent thinktank IBON Foundation, is at Php 1,130 for a family of 5. Assuming that needs are the same for families in these regions, only 25-35% of the living wage is given in the Southern Tagalog region.

Contractual employment, which the DoLE claimed to be ending, did not actually occur, said Bagas. Even with press releases by the labor department claiming thousands of regularized workers, justice remained on paper and not on practice.

For one, contractual workers of Tanduay Distillers, Inc., Manila Cordage Company and Manco Synthetic Inc., which both held strikes, have not returned to their work, even when there have been decisions by DoLE. Not only workers from these factories have been affected by the bluntness of DoLE decisions, but an estimated 23,000 workers from 22 factories should have been regularized, yet have not been reinstated to work.

Bagas adds that the path to regularization of all contractual workers has been muddied by the new DoLE Department Order 174, which only gave higher standards for labor agencies and service cooperatives that have, for years, rode the influx of workers in the region. “From a seemingly unbreakable promise, the Duterte administration has stepped back its claims – they are now saying that they have no power to end contractual employment,” Bagas said.

PAMANTIK-KMU also expressed its dissent on the planned extension of Martial Law in Mindanao and the scuttling of the peace talks. This was the result of the dialogue between the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN), along with local leaders, last July 18. “With these developments, Duterte’s regime has positioned itself as a bloody regime, vehemently supported by militarists such as (Defense Secretary Delfin) Lorenzana, (AFP Chief-of-Staff Eduardo) Ano, and (National Security Adviser Hermogenes) Esperon,” he stated.

Bagas also expressed his dismay over the cancellation of backchannel talks between the government and the National Democractic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) after offensives by the New People’s Army (NPA) yesterday. The NPA explained the attack as a protest to the impending extension of Martial Law in Mindanao. “The Duterte administration’s recent movements may have put peace a little further in our reach – after the war on drugs, all-out war, and Martial Law, he may have sought his own headaches,” Bagas stated.

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In sum, we workers are generally dismayed by the turnout of the first year of Duterte’s regime. From a leader that listens to the people, he has become a leader bent on killing his own people,” said Bagas.

The State of the Workers’ Address will also start a four-day journey of workers, along with other sectors, to Manila as they counteract the President’s second State of the Nation Address on July 24. Entitled the Lakbayan para sa Pambansang Demokrasya; Bigkisan laban sa Pasismo ng Estado, the crusade will present various issues the people of Southern Tagalog have faced on the President’s first year. # # #

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