July 13, 2021
Trabaho, sahod, karapatan at ayuda to ensure sustainable economic growth —labor organizations
Labor organizations in the PHilippines tracked the country’s progress in achieving UN Sustainable Development Goal 8 (SDG 8) targets in an online forum entitled “Trabaho, Sahod at Ayuda hanggang mapuksa ang pandemya: Karapatan at Kasarinlan tungo sa tunay na Kaunlaran” on July 13.
The Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research (EILER), the Federation of Free Workers (FFW), Unyon ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA), and Defend Jobs Philippines organized the online forum that tackled the government policies and programs that impede the achievement of “decent work” and “inclusive economic growth” as indicated in SDG 8.
The forum was opened by Joy Hernandez, Communications and Advocacy Officer of International Trade Union Confederation – Asia Pacific with an overview of SDG 8 and how it cuts across other SDGs.
“Ang pinakamabisang paraan para wakasan ang kahirapan (SDG 1) ay pagkakaroon ng disenteng trabaho, yan ang kahalagahan ng SDG 8. Gayundin sa SDG2, hindi natin matutugunan ang kagutuman kung walang disenteng trabaho,” she pointed out.
Hernandez also noted that it is important to understand that economic growth and decent work are not two things at once; that a rising economy does not automatically translate to secure and sustainable employment.
“Hindi ibig sabihin na mataas ang gross national income per capita ay may maayos na trabaho ang mamamayan,” she further adds.
Julius Cainglet, Assistant Vice President of the FFW then presented the demands of Filipino workers amid the pandemic.
“Hindi lang dapat sahod, kundi benepisyo lalo ngayong may pandemya. Kailangang irecgonize ang workers’ rights in both formal and informal sectors,” Cainglet stated, citing the impoverishing effects of unemployment due to the economic failure brought by COVID-19.
He also noted that in order to address the needs of the labor force, both employed and unemployed, specific measures must be taken by the government.
“Marami tayong panawagang ayuda at subsidiya. Ngayon ang tanong ay saan kukunin? Buwisan ang yaman, specifically yung mga sobrang mayayaman, in particular ang gusto natin ay wealth tax,” he emphasized.
The organizations attribute the worsening employment crisis and its underlying issues not only to the pandemic and its economic throes but primarily to the government’s neoliberal framework which, according to them, favors the corporate sector and big businesses over workers and their rights.
The discussion was followed by testimonies from panelists from different labor sectors.
Unyon ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura pointed out the increasing repressive measures that threaten the lives of their leaders and constituencies.
“Pinararatangan po kaming mga NPA. Pinipilit po ako na magpunta sa mga pulong nila upang linisin ang aking pangalan. Parang guilty na rin daw po ako kapag di ako dumalo,” Dominga Aberion, UMA Isabela Chapter Secretary General testified.
Among the policies deemed detrimental to workers’ rights is the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 which institutionalizes redtagging against labor activists, union leaders and members, and other entities critical to the government and its policies.
“Napakatindi ng atake na nagsasamantala at nangmamaliit sa karapatan ng mga manggagawa sa pag-oorganisa. Mismong si Pres. Duterte ang naguutos pumatay,” says Lengua de Guzman of Kilusang Mayo Uno.
De Guzman also cited the aggression of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) in eroding the people’s democractic and Constitutional rights.
“Ang pangunahing makinaryang ginagamit para sa represyon sa mga manggagawa ay ang NTF-ELCAC. Ang nakalagay sa pangalan (ng ahensya) ay ‘Communist Armed Conflict’ pero sa katunayan po ay nakatuon ito sa organisadong mamamayan tulad ng mga unyon,” she further adds.
Women Workers in Struggle for Employment, Empowerment, and Emancipation (Women Wise3) meanwhile shared how unemployment worsened under the pandemic.
“Ayon mismo sa Philippine Statistics Authority, noong Feb 2021, nasa 8.8% ang pinakamataas na bilang ng kababaihang walang trabaho, mas mataas sa datos noong October 2020 at January 2021 na 8.7% lamang,” says Malou of WOMEN WISE 3
Transport Network Vehicle Service (TNVS) worker Tatay Albert expressed how TNVS companies squeeze them dry while there is low demand in transportation.
“Hindi makatarungan yung 20% na kinakaltas ng mga Transport Network Companies sa kita ng driver sa gitna nitong pandemya. Lalo ngayon na wala halos biyahe. Sana ay matugunan ito.” shares Alberto Ganara, a TNVS driver who currently drives a taxi.
Dutch missionary and labor researcher Otto De Vries also shared his three-decade long experience with the Filipino workers. He discussed how subcontracting and rampant contractualization further reduces workers’ wages and makes unionizing the workplace more difficult.
Department of Labor and Employment Planning Service Director Adeline T. de Castro was also present in the forum and discussed how the agency works to meet the workers’ demands.
Atty. Sonny Matula, trade union leader and labor lawyer, proposed recommendations that ensure workers’ rights and welfare in responding to the pandemic-induced unemployment and poverty.
“Isinusulong ng Nagkaisa Labor Coalition ang Unemployment Support Work Assistance Guarantee (USWAG). Dapat ang gobyerno ay hindi maghintay sa private sector kundi manguna sa pagbibigay ng pondo para mag-generate ng mga trabaho,” Atty. Matula said.
He also noted that ayuda, or financial aid, should be assured by the government.
“Nananawagan tayo ng ayuda, maski 100 days na guaranteed job o kung hindi man aabot 9 buwan na ginagawa ng maraming bansa. Nananawagan din tayo sa pagkakaroon ng 10,000 guaranteed income sa isang buwan sa loob ng tatlo o hanggang siyam na buwan. Kaya yang magawa ng ating gobyerno,” he further adds.
In line with the increasing human and labor rights violation, he also noted that it is the responsibility of the State to protect the democratic freedoms of the sector.
“Hindi dapat i-sakripisyo ang karapatan ng mga manggagawa sa gitna ng pandemya. Dapat ginagamit ng estado ang kanilang poder para protektahan ang mga karapatan ng tao. ‘Yun po ang sa palagay natin na esensya ng social justice: ‘those who have less in live should have more in law’,” he expounded.
The forum was concluded with a synthesis by Rochelle Porras, Council for People’s Development Governance (CPDG) Vice President. She also reiterated the calls to challenge the problems posed by the pandemic and the narrowing democratic spaces for workers and the people.
“Ang hamon sa lahat ay ipagtanggol ang ating mga tagumpay at karapatan, itayo ang mga unyon sa mga pagawaan at igiit ang mga panawagan ng mga manggagawa, panugutin ang may sala sa mga pampulitikang pamamaslang, at #WakasanNa wakasan ang pagsasamantala.” Porras ended.
The online forum is sponsored by the CPDG, a national network of non-government organizations and people’s organizations working for development effectiveness and democratic governance through its PH Civil Society SDG Watch 2021 forum series, Watch the livestream here. ###