A Hostile Environment for Labor Under the Arroyo Administration Prof. Judy M.


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Introduction Failure in Promoting Employment Violation of Basic Labor Rights Contractualization Assumption of Jurisdiction Power (AJ) Culture of Impunity Against Labor Rights Violations Conclusion

Section 3. The State shall afford full protection to labor, local and overseas, organized and unorganized, ­and promote full employment and equality of employment opportunities for all. It shall guarantee the rights of all workers to self-organization, collective bargaining and negotiations, and peaceful concerted activities, including the right to strike in accordance with law. They shall be entitled to security of tenure, humane conditions of work, and a living wage. They shall also participate in policy and decisionmaking processes affecting their rights and benefits as may be provided by law. (Article XIII,Section 3, 1987 Philippine Constitution)

GMA’s Failure to Promote Employment

Conservative estimates place almost three million Filipinos were without jobs while almost seven million were underemployed in 2009. IBON places at 11.2% the average unemployment rate for the period of 20012009, which it cites as “the country’s worst nine-year period of sustained high joblessness in over half a century”.

Average Unemployment Rate over the decades T e Period im A verage Unem ploym ent Rate

1956-1960 1961-1970 1971-1980 1981-1990 1991-2000 2001-2009

8.0% 7.3% 5.4% 10.2% 9.8% 11,2%

Source: Ibon Foundation, “Yearend 2009: Economic Shocks, Political Ambitions and Challenges for the People in 2010”, January 14, 2010, p.14

A Social Weather Stations survey just last October 2009 reported that one of every two people or fifty-one percent considered themselves as poor. Two out of every five (or 40 percent) said that they did not have sufficient food on their tables (PDI Editorial, January 22, 2010).

Daily cost of living vs. minimum wage NCR Daily COL Min. Wage Shortfall Jan 2001 P509 P213 - 250 P259 -296 Now P917 (Sep ’08) P345 - 382 P535 -572

Contractualization: Making Labor Cheap and Malleable Assumption of Jurisdiction Power (AJ): Virtual Ban of Strikes

DOLE Order No. 18-02 which essentially legalized contractual labor. Instead of the regularization of workers after six months, employers now hire and rehire contractual workers after five months.

The combined share of casual, contractual, and parttime workers in total enterprise-based employment reached 21.1% in the late 90s. This means that one of every five enterprise-based worker is a temporary worker. By the mid-2000s, under the GMA administration, the ranks of contractuals in the labor force have steadily increased. In a tuna canning factory in General Santos, 96% of the workers are contractuals. A plastic manufacturing firm in Southern Metro Manila has 78 contractuals out of the 100 employees. Data from the 14 Unions in the National Capital Region ­that belong to the labor group Kilusang Mayo Uno indicate that as high as 67% of the workforce in their factories are casuals.

Based on the 2003 admission of Donald Dee, President of Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP), 7 out 10 firms in the country practice contractualization. Some of the worst “contractualizers” among companies are also among the biggest, such as Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco’s San Miguel Corporation (SMC) conglomerate (1,100 regulars out of its 26,000 total workforce); Henry Sy’s SM Shoemart (1,300 regulars of 20,000); and Manny Pangilinan’s Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company (4,100 of 10,000).[1]

[1] EILER, “The Philippine Labor Situation”, July 2008. http://barangayrp.wordpress.com/2008/09/01/the-philippine-labor-situ , accessed, January 31, 2010.

Henry Sy’s SM network of malls is serviced by thousands of direct hired or concessionaire hired contractuals. 92% of the workers in these malls, most of whom are women, do not enjoy security of tenure and other benefits such as maternity leave – basic labor rights that have been enshrined in our labor laws

In the public sector, Republic Act No. 7430 or the “Attrition Law” which prohibits the filling-up of positions vacated by reason of resignation, retirement, dismissal, death or transfer to another office ushered in the practice of widespread contractualization in the bureaucracy. GMA’s Administrative Order 103, “Directing the Continued Adoption of Austerity Measures in the Government” issued in August 31, 2004, reiterates the provision of RA 7430. [1] In the University of the Philippines, more and more of jobs related to maintenance and security, which previously were part of regular items in UP’s plantilla, are now being contracted to the agencies. Regular administrative staff positions in the system, which was over 9,000 in 1999, have now been reduced to less than 8,000.[2]

[1] http://www.ops.gov.ph/records/ao_no103.htm

[2] The lower pay and reduced benefits of contractual workers in the university is exemplified by the case of the security guards of Bolinao Security and Investigation Service Inc. as reported by the Philippine Collegian http://collegiannews.multiply.com/journal/item/403/Mababang_sahod_katiwalian_ibinunyag_ng_ilang_guwardiya?utm_source= cp&utm_medium=twitter-cp&utm_campaign=collegiannews

The power of the Labor Secretary to assume jurisdiction (AJ) over a labor dispute was first instituted by then President Marcos during Martial Law. The AJ, in practice, however, has often been used to quell legitimate strikes even in industries that are unlikely to harm the national interest.

The practice of using AJ to quell legitimate worker grievance is never more ­true than in the nine years of the Arroyo administration.

The effects of AJ orders on workers rights is best elucidated by the Hacienda Luisita massacre.

the intricate relationship between the protection of labor rights and the rising incidence of poverty.

Since Arroyo assumed power in 2001, 92 labor leaders, members and organizers have died due to “government-instigated violence,” according to data from the KMU. The blatant violation of workers rights through the policies of contractualization and the use of the AJ powers to quell strikes are also hallmarks of the same culture of impunity that characterizes this administration.

Whereas a century of struggle for labor rights have brought about legal recognition of basic rights that every single worker should enjoy, the anti-labor policies ushered in by a globalized economy and made even more systematic by the neoliberal labor policies under GMA have brought us back to the age of early capitalism. Workers, as Marx and Engels described them in 1848, “ must sell themselves piecemeal” once again and they are commodities “like every other article of commerce, and are consequently exposed to all the vicissitudes of competition, to all the fluctuations of the market.”

Pro-labor constitutional provisions are not sufficient to guarantee the rights of labor. History tells us that advancing labor rights and welfare depends primarily on the capacity of labor to organize and fight for them.

While the 2010 national elections provide an opportunity to demand from candidates their stand on labor’s legislative agenda, the working classes have no illusion that a new administration shall hand to them on a silver platter social justice and human rights. It is still a militant, organized and vibrant worker’s movement, comprised of regular, contractual and unemployed workers, which is key to the protection and promotion of the rights of labor in the country.

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