Walang kalayaan (Dr. Dominador Gomez)

Sinabihan tayo na ang Amerika ang ina ng demokrasya, pero natatakot ang gubyernong Amerikano na makipag-usap sa mga taong naghahangad ng demokrasya. Sabi ng mga Amerikano na sila’y para sa kalayaan, pero bakit nais nilang kitlin ang ating kalayaan sa pamamagitan ng paghaharap ng nakaumang na mga bayoneta?

– Bahagi ng talumpati ni Dr. Dominador Gomez, lider-aktibista sa kilusang paggawa, sa demonstrasyon  ng mahigit 100,000 manggagawa noong Mayo 1, 1903 sa harap ng Malakanyang. Sa panahong ito, si Gomez ang presidente ng Union Obrera Democratica de Filipinas (UODF), isa sa mga pinaka-unang pederasyon ng militanteng kilusang manggagawa.


En route to rising joblessness

First published on thepoc.net

In his inaugural address in June last year, President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III promised to create more jobs “so that searching for jobs overseas will not be necessary.”  Almost a year later, the promise now sounds more like a lie as the country’s unemployment rate even worsened.

The number of jobless Filipinos swelled to 11.3 million in March from 9.9 million in November last year based on the latest Social Weather Station (SWS) survey first published on BusinessWorld. The survey, which was conducted from March 4-7, also said that unemployment rate rose to 27.2 percent from 23.5 percent four months earlier.

The estimated 11.3 jobless adult Filipinos represent 12.28 percent of the country’s estimated population at92 million as of 2009. This means that one in every ten Filipinos are jobless.

Official unemployment rate stood at a lower 7.4 percent as of January or equivalent to an estimated 2.9 million Filipinos, up from 7.1 percent in October last year.

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Labor Day outrage and paranoia

First published on Blogwatch.ph

On Labor Day, the President surprisingly woke up early, broke breadwith “yellow” labor leaders, but hid from the 25,000-strongworkers and activists led by Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) who marched to Mendiola. He just dished out empty “gifts” that were met with howls and chants in the streets.

Elsewhere in other regions, tens of thousands also took part in Labor Day actions to assert decent wages and price controls. More than a tenth of a million Filipinos spent Sunday in protests across the nation – the people’s strongest political statement yet against the one-year-old Aquino regime.

It goes without saying that those who joined the Labor Day protests cannot be dismissed by President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III as another “noisy minority,” the tactless label which he gave his critics at the House of Representatives. The thousands who marched to Mendiola under the scorching heat were actually his purported “bosses”: factory workers, government employees, farmers, slum dwellers, students, young professionals, teachers and drivers who comprise the majority of the population.

The message was loud and clear: more and more people are getting disillusioned with Aquino’s rhetoric of change.

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It’s about social justice, stupid

Published on Blogwatch.ph

The mounting clamor for a significant wage increase has pushed the President to demonstrate his mastery of economic theories. The lingering issue, on the contrary, has also exposed that he does not know anything about social justice.

Prices of almost everything – from toothpaste to gasoline – are soaring at unprecedented levels. A yawning gap between meager wages and the cost of living continues to widen. His people are starving – actually more and more of them based on the latest hunger survey by the Social Weather Station. Prevailing average wages in the country are actually lower than the highest minimum wage based on government data.

In the face of all these, what statement could be more heartless than pegging an inflation benchmark as precondition for raising wages? Surely, President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III impressed his neoliberal mentors and foreign investors with that economic hao-tsao dressed as economic doctrine.

Equally skilled at delivering the businesses’ line against significant wage hike is the three-headed mouthpiece at the Palace. Somehow, it surprises me to hear presidential spokespersons Ricky Carandang, Edwin Lacierda and Herminio Coloma talk about inflationary pressures with the wisdom and tone of mainstream economists. On second thoughts though, it isn’t that hard for presidential spokespersons to imbibe corporate logic with the array of bourgeois compradors and business executives lining key government positions.

But I would say hearing Manolo Quezon speak about wage-price correlation would be too much, okay?

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Capitalists enjoy the summer with OJTs

At a steak and grill restaurant at SM North EDSA, on-the-job-trainees (OJTs) serve your tender steak, mop the floor, and present the bill for eight to nine hours without any pay. Without a doubt, the owner is all smiles this summer as labor costs are drastically cut, thanks to colleges and universities which allowed their students to be “de-virginized” in terms of labor exploitation.

Come to think of it: suppose the restaurant, Kangaroo Jack, pays regular employees the P404 minimum wage, and now taps 10 OJTs without any contractual obligation in terms of compensation, the employer saves P121,200 at the very least. Or to put it in another way, that could be almost 900 steak meals worth P135 sold in a breeze.

We can presume that this scheme is also rampant in other companies especially during this season of OJTs. Capitalists are maximizing the abudance of prospective OJTs to reduce costs and boost profits. In fact, companies are actively advertising OJT positions without necessarily providing the specific job description . Take for instance Unilever, Wipro BPO Philippines, and Fujitsu Ten. Of course, these companies would not declare that OJTs are bound for unpaid work.

Isn’t this the height of labor exploitation, when one works a tiring routine for nothing but so called “OJT experience”? Ironically, this OJT experience is packaged by the government and academe as requirement for graduation — which is in turn the starting point of perpetual exploitation.

What does the law say about OJTs? Unfortunately, the Labor Code provides leeway for the hiring of OJTs without compensation:

ART. 72. Apprentices without compensation. – The Secretary of Labor and Employment may authorize the hiring of apprentices without compensation whose training on the job is required by the school or training program curriculum or as requisite for graduation or board examination.

Certainly, eating in such sites of OJT exploitation leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

Beyond word wars: the struggle for substantial wage hike

First published on thepoc.net

Militants prepare a huge streamer bearing the call for higher wages and lower prices (Photo by KMU)

For mainstream economists and policymakers, the issue of wage increase is more like an annual mathematical problem made complex by economic theories. For Filipino workers, it is a struggle for survival.

As prices of basic commodities and oil products continue to soar, progressive labor groups have stepped up their demand to the Aquino government for a substantial wage hike as they vowed to vent their anger in street protests in the coming days.

Labor organizations like the trade union center Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) and the “Unity for P125” alliance are one in calling for a legislated P125 wage increase for private sector workers.

“We reiterate our view that what the Filipino workers and people need right now is a substantial wage increase. One form of such an increase is contained in House Bill 375 filed by Anakpawis Rep. Rafael V. Mariano which seeks to legislate a P125 across-the-board wage increase nationwide,” KMU said in its statement posted in its website.

HB 375 has so far been discussed only once at the committee level since the opening of the 15th Congress last year.

For its part, the “Unity for P125” alliance said in a Inquirer.net report that “the massive erosion of jobs and livelihoods of the people and the shrinking value of wages today are enough reasons why the government should implement a P125 wage increase now.”

State employees under the Wage Fight! Alliance meanwhile are pushing for a P6,000 increase in their minimum pay in light of surging commodity prices, while linking arms with private sector workers who also demand wage increase.

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From grad rites to unemployment cliff

First published on thepoc.net

Truth be told, bleak employment prospects do not match the high hopes of around half a million new graduates who are set to enter the labor force this year.

Based on the government’s job database Phil-job.net as of February, there are only around 62,156 job vacancies in the country and abroad awaiting new graduates. Meanwhile, job portals JobsDB.com and Jobstreet.com have domestic and foreign job offerings of 11,367 and 34,334 respectively. Assuming the three job listings are mutually exclusive, there are only 107,000 jobs awaiting Batch 2011.

The estimated number of job vacancies is dwarfed by the estimated 500,000 new graduates looking for work, plus the 544,000 old graduates who are unemployed based on the October 2010 Labor Force Survey. Based on these figures, only 1 out of 10 old and new graduates may find work this summer.












The situation gets even worse as thousands of overseas Filipino workers from the Middle East and other regions return home without jobs. Repatriated OFWs from strife-torn Libya alone number at around 9,000 as of March according to DOLE. So far, the government has only pledged livelihood assistance to those who are interested aside from redeployment of a handful of displaced workers.

Despite this glaring employment problem, the labor department is optimistic as it said that the current job vacancies “boost the chance of jobseekers, together with graduating college students, to land employment this summer.”

It appears though that the government needs to take a second look at its own employment statistics.

Last January, the country’s unemployment rate grew to 7.4 percent as nearly 100,000 more Filipinos were added to the army of unemployed. Half of the estimated 2.9 million unemployed were in the age group of 15-24, according to the National Statistics Office (NSO). This indicates that most of the country’s graduates are joining the unemployed year-on-year.

Kabataan Party-list Rep. Raymond “Mong” Palatino urged the President to improve the government’s job plan for the new graduates more than launching seminars and career guidance.

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