‘Are you joking or did you just declare war?’ KMU on Duterte’s anti-union spiel

Elmer Labog of KMU urged workers to keep organizing and forming or defending their unions, saying the plight of workers won’t improve without their own action and organization, without unions, and without genuinely pro-worker unions in particular.

By MARYA SALAMAT
Bulatlat.com

MANILA ��� Whether he is joking or just being himself, presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte’s threat against workers did not amuse the national labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), which Duterte specifically named in warning workers and unions against wrecking his “administration.”

Progressive labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) blasted today the threats against workers aired by presidential candidate and current Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.

On the official first day of campaign period for 2016 elections, Duterte said, “I will establish economic zones. Mag-imbita ako… Dito kayo magtrabaho. Wag kayong magmamadali. Tapos kayong mga KMU, medyo pigilan na muna ninyo ang mga labor unions. Ako na ang nakikiusap sa inyo. Magkasama tayo sa ideolohiya. Wag ninyong gawin iyan. Kasi sisirain mo ang administrasyon ko. Kapag ginawa ninyo iyan, patayin ko kayong lahat. Ang solusyon dito, patayan na. Eh pag-usapan mo, ayaw. Do not do it now, iyung active labor front. Kasi kapag ginawa ninyo, nagsasara. (I will invite … here you can work. Don’t rush. And you, KMU, restrain your labor unions a bit. It is I who is requesting you. We’re comrades in ideology. Don’t do that. Because you would destroy my administration. If you do that, I will kill you all. The solution here is killing. If we talk about it, you refuse. Do not do it, those active labor fronts.) Do not do it. Give the Philippines respect for about 10 years.”

Elmer “Bong” Labog, KMU chairperson, said these statements amount to a declaration of war on unions, on KMU and all workers. He said Duterte could not claim to share KMU’s ideology yet threaten to kill them in the same breath.

Candidates have always promised to implement anti-worker and pro-business measures in a bid to get the support of big foreign and local capitalists, but according to Labog, “Duterte has done it with more bombast,” which for them seems to point to Duterte’s likely desperation to woo support from big capitalists.

Prior to Duterte’s anti-union, anti-KMU spiel, he has courted workers with his support for workers’ and KMU Southern Mindanao Region’s campaigns for higher wages and against contractualization.

KMU’s statement released today to the media gives Duterte some benefit of the doubt, and “a room to change his mind, reverse his statement, and stand against greedy capitalists, not workers’ unions.”

Labog said they are doing this in recognition of Duterte’s pro-worker items in his platform, as well as his statements against contractualization right after he declared his candidacy.

The KMU told Duterte that his statements showed no respect for workers, who belong to the majority of Filipinos.

Neither did the labor center find favor in the “Scare tactic” against KMU supposedly causing company closures.

The truth, Labog said, is that the number of unions in the country has been in decline for years, yet the situation of workers has only gotten worse and small Filipino businessmen have continued to close down their businesses.

In fact, data from unions and workers covered by Bulatlat and documented by Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR) reveal that most company closures that occurred stemmed more from these companies’ effort to bust unions, remove regular workers and hire lower-waged contractuals instead. In cases of small to medium establishments, the reason for closure often stemmed from its inability to cope with the influx of cheaper imported products owing to further liberalization of trade allowed by the succeeding Philippine presidents.

Labog urged workers to keep organizing and forming or defending their unions, saying the plight of workers won’t improve without their own action and organization, without unions, and without genuinely pro-worker unions in particular.

“Talking about killing trade-unionists is simply unacceptable. He (Duterte) should be respectful of the labor movement, which has fought for improvements in workers’ conditions,” Labog said.

“Is Mayor Duterte joking? We ask this not because labor leaders are not being killed in the country; they are. We ask this not because his human-rights record is dubious; it is. We ask this because we are unfazed. Not even the open fascism of the US-Marcos dictatorship or the intense political repression of the US-Arroyo regime stopped us from organizing workers and fighting for workers’ rights. We vow to continue organizing workers and fighting for workers’ rights despite threats from Duterte and his ilk,” Labog said.

“He cannot make progressive statements on other issues and then make this horrid mistake on the issue of workers – directly addressing the KMU and threatening the lives of unionists – and still expect people to believe him. He is making a big joke of himself with this statement,” he added. ()

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