Labor group dismisses Aquino talks with labor leaders as mere P.R. stunt

The KMU said the Aquino government has no intention of providing relief, much less prosperity for workers.

By MARYA SALAMAT
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – A year after leaders of the government-backed labor group TUCP and an alliance calling itself as ‘Nagkaisa’ had breakfast with Aquino on labor day, but got nothing for workers, they are back on the breakfast table for Labor day with President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino.

In a statement, the TUCP said this “once-a-year privilege for labor leaders” which was held in Malacanang’s Heroes Hall at 10 a. m. today (Apr 30), invited some 40 leaders from TUCP and labor coalition ‘Nagkaisa.’ Some 18 turned up.

TUCP’s secretary-general Gerard Seno said in a statement they are to raise with Aquino the agenda for creating more “opportunities for employment.” Among others, the government-backed labor group also said they want Aquino to “review” its outsourcing policies and practices, and “review” its implementation of the two-tiered wage system now being implemented by DOLE.

The labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), on the other hand, has been demanding not just a review but outright “junking” of these two-tier wage system and contractualization scheme. The KMU was reportedly traditionally uninterested in breakfast talks with presidents it deems as “U.S. puppet” and, in Aquino’s case, “most anti-labor.”

The KMU in fact warned workers and labor groups that Aquino’s talks with some leaders on and before May 1 are “mere propaganda stunts aimed at deceiving the people. ” They said Aquino has not done anything good for the country’s workers. Gauging from Aquino’s past actions and policy directions, KMU said there is little to expect but braggadocio from Aquino.

“The dialogue today between Aquino and the country’s labor sector shows once again that engaging this government in dialogue is futile. It shows that his government treats these dialogues only as propaganda stunts,” Labog said.

Perpetually frustrated labor demands anger workers

Elmer “Bong” Labog, KMU chairman, forecasted that Aquino’s May Day announcements will not give workers any relief from worsening poverty and hunger.

Indeed, Aquino has reportedly only asked the labor leaders he had breakfast with to just celebrate May 1 and not treat it as a day for protesting. He confirmed yet again that there will be no wage hike this Labor Day, and he even painted dire pictures if a wage hike were to be granted for Filipino workers.

“It is ironic that Pres. Aquino commends the country’s workers for a ‘good job’ in relation to the so-called growth of the economy but refuses to make this growth felt by workers in a concrete and immediate way,” Labog of KMU said. He explained that a significant wage hike is something workers “can immediately feel as a much-needed relief.”

KMU chairman Elmer "Bong" Labog with churchworkers and labor leaders at Plaza Miranda, May 1
KMU chairman Elmer “Bong” Labog with churchworkers and labor leaders at Plaza Miranda, May 1

Labog said Aquino is focused yet again on his government’s efforts to generate jobs in order to blackmail workers into accepting poverty wages, contractual employment and repression. The truth, he said, is that Aquino’s policies have failed to generate jobs and have only caused greater hunger and poverty among workers.

As part of Aquino’s vaunted non-wage benefits for May 1, he announced there would be an increase in SSS members’ benefits. But his administration will reportedly increase also the amount of SSS contributions.

Even some of the leaders who had breakfast with Aquino expressed “dismay” over his stance.

Aquino boasts for Filipinos belied by his actions
Aquino’s pre-Labor Day promises are fuelling the anger of more workers and people and will surely contribute to bigger protests, this Labor Day and beyond, the KMU said in a statement.

To illustrate why the labor center predicts Aquino cannot be expected to bring relief nor hoped-for and promised prosperity, the KMU said Pres. Aquino has done the following in the labor front in his three years in office:

* Refused to hike wages by a significant amount, despite allowing significant increases in the prices of basic goods and services. Implemented meager adjustments in the minimum wage. Implemented the Two-Tiered Wage System, which will freeze and cut wages across the country.

* Approved Department Order No. 18-A Series of 2011 which legalizes contractual employment, despite the hype that it will end the said employment scheme.

* Maintained the Labor secretary’s power to assume jurisdiction over strikes and labor disputes. The said power is most repressive to workers, having been used as a license for the Hacienda Luisita massacre in Nov. 16, 2004.

* Signed a law creating the National Tripartite Industrial Peace Council, which is a formal mechanism for the collusion among the government, big capitalists, and pro-capitalist workers’ groups.

* Signed a law mandating compulsory arbitration in labor disputes – another hindrance to the exercise of workers’ right to strike.

Aquino lies scored

In refusing yet again to grant a substantial wage hike, Aquino reasons it will only benefit 1.8 million but not the 10 million unemployed.

But Labog of KMU countered that this old lie has been exposed numerous times already. “These are lies, because labor cost in most businesses in the country is only a small section of the entire production cost,” Labog said.

Wage hikes had not deterred more investments in other Asian countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia, for example, as a survey conducted on business leaders by The Economist revealed. It also noted that despite the good prognosis on Philippine economic management under Aquino, less investments came its way compared to other Asian economies.

“High power and water rates, the flood of imported products, high taxes and government corruption – these are the factors that make doing business in the country difficult,” Labog of KMU said. He added that the Aquino government is refusing to address these issues and merely keeping on pressing down workers’ wages, to the detriment of many Filipinos who remain poor despite so-called economic growth.” ()

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