Herrera Law’s war of attrition vs unions, workers condemned

“With all the ill effects of Herrera Law to workers’ right to security of tenure, right to strike and decent wages, it is but timely for the government to repeal the law and replace it with a genuinely pro-labor Labor Code.” – EILER

Back story | Herrera Law

By MARYA SALAMAT
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – Progressive workers protested today what they call as continued assault to their economic and union rights under the Republic Act 6715, or Herrera Law. The said law has been in effect for 25 years now.

Workers who marched to Mendiola decried a quarter of a century’s experiences in brutal union-busting, massive retrenchment in majority of the country’s establishments, implementation of various contractualization schemes and fractured wage-setting as legalized by the Herrera Law. They demanded the law’s repeal.

Workers marching toward Mendiola Bridge (Chino Roces) March 3
Workers marching toward Mendiola Bridge (Chino Roces) March 3

“With all the ill effects of Herrera Law to workers’ right to security of tenure, right to strike and decent wages, it is but timely for the government to repeal the law and replace it with a genuinely pro-labor Labor Code,” said Anna Leah Escresa, executive director of labor research group EILER.

Named after Ernesto Herrera, a senator from government-backed Trade Union Congress of the Philippines who ran under the ticket of then president Corazon Cojuangco-Aquino, RA 6715 comprised the first major post-Marcos amendment to the country’s Labor Code.

At Mendiola today March 3, protesters repeatedly decried the “irony” that amid the afterglow of the People Power uprising, and despite Cory Aquino’s promises to restore democracy, her government only added fangs and intensified the repressive capabilities of the Martial Law Labor Code.

(Photo by Marya Salamat / Bulatlat.com)
Greg Salvedia, train operator at LRT for 15 years, lost his job directly after the labor department issued an assumption of jurisdiction on their strike in 2000. (Photo by Marya Salamat / Bulatlat.com)

After 25 years of implementing this law, Filipino workers are now plagued by starvation wages. There are more than 600 minimum wage rates prevailing in the country, all of which have been complained of as insufficient to fund an average family’s requirement to live decently. On top of that, the labor department itself reports persistent violations of the minimum wage law.

Labor research group EILER blames the Herrera law for having dragged down Filipino workers into a more vulnerable position, to one where workers are even more exploited and suppressed. In a statement, it explained why the law ought to be repealed now. With a statement, too, from the Kilusang Mayo Uno, it condemned the following major assaults of R.A 6715 on the workers’ economic and union rights:

1. The Herrera Law created the legal grounds for contractual work arrangements that cheapened workers’ wages. KMU estimated that around 80 percent of today’s workers are under contractual employment setup, forced to live with “endo” or end of contract after five months or after completing a “project,” performing what used to be regular workers’ jobs.

“What was initially a work arrangement for janitorial and other casual jobs became the ‘normal labor arrangement’ that cuts across all economic sectors from manufacturing to wholesale and retail trade up to business process outsourcing (BPO),” Escresa said.

The Herrera Law “attacked” the Filipino workers’ hard-earned victory of institutionalizing a norm where workers become regulars after a six-month probationary period.

Contractualization is seen as favoring the employers more by making hiring and firing less costly. This means they get to keep more of the profits.

2. The Herrera Law authorizes the Labor secretary and the President to issue Assumption of Jurisdiction (AJ) orders on labor disputes, which became the Labor Department’s “signal fire for bloody police-military crackdown on workers’ strikes.”

The KMU said Herrera Law allows the Labor secretary to order workers to immediately go back to work or be laid off, and provides capitalists with the basis to file criminal charges against workers and to bring the military and police over to the workplace. “It is therefore a violent instrument against workers’ most potent weapon in the workplace, the strike.” It was used as basis for the massacre of striking farm workers in Hacienda Luisita on Nov. 16, 2004, said Elmer Labog, chairman of KMU.

3. The Herrera Law demonstrated again “how leaders of yellow workers’ groups are being used by US imperialism and the ruling classes through the government to attack workers’ rights,” said Labog. He was referring to former senator and former TUCP general secretary Ernesto Herrera whom Labog denounced for making it appear this law is pro-labor.

EILER also noted that the Herrera Law has provided the framework for “tripartism” in the labor sector, a mechanism that they said uses bogus social dialogue among representatives from labor, government and companies to implement anti-labor policies. With labor “dealers” like Herrera, progressive labor groups said, tripartism is nothing but the employers talking and bargaining with themselves, and not really with the workers.

The KMU called on Filipino workers to continue forming unions, campaigning for workers’ rights, and holding strikes whenever necessary despite the Herrera Law. ()

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