Weak Philippine Labor Movement

THE Philippine government is not a socialist state despite President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s claims that he is a “socialist” or a “leftist.”

Thus, a true Marxist, or even a veteran bearer and advocate of Mao Tse Tung Thought, should know that Duterte’s promise to end contractualization in the country when he was still campaigning to win the May 9 elections will not be carried out.

A politician’s promises are part of his tactic to win votes. Duterte was not exempted from that dirty old tactic.

Remember that Duterte made the promise to end contractualization once he becomes president not as a member of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), or a candidate of the Koalisyong Makabayan (the organization of the party-list groups of the CPP that are members of the House of representatives), but rather as a traditional politician.

Duterte did not even make such promise because he was the adopted presidential candidate of the Partido Demokratikong Pilipino – Lakas ng Bayan (PDP – Laban) because in the first place, the ending of contractualization is never an agenda of the PDP – Laban.

In fact, its long-time president Aquilino Pimentel Jr. never filed a proposed law that would end contractual form of hiring employees when he became senator since the time of Corazon Cojuangco Aquino’s presidency.

Pimentel who was once a senate president never placed the issue of contractualization in the Senate.

Duterte, who was a mayor of Davao City for more than 20 years, for his part promised voters that he would end contractualization once elected, did it just to win the workers’ support. 

But since he was projected as an alternative and advocate of real change in the society that was bastardized by the Benigno Simeon Cojuangco Aquino III administration and the Liberal Party (LP), his promise to end contractualization was perceived as part of the “real change” that is expected to happen once Duterte wins the polls.  

After winning the elections, Duterte has since threatened the capitalists to end contractualization only once. Some followed, many did not.

After that, Duterte went silence and never bothered to stand in employers’ path again.  

Unlike others, Duterte never humiliated Employers Confederation of the Philippines (Ecop) president Donald Dee in public for standing pat on his group’s stand not to stop all forms of contractualization.

The additional proof that Duterte did not intend to fulfill his campaign promise on contractualization happened just a few days before December 25.

That was when Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said he superseded Department Order 18 (DO 18) with DO 30 that ends the sub-contracting type of hiring employees.

It means that a company is not legally allowed to have a contract with another company in order to do the other aspects of producing its products.

The purpose of which, according to Bello, is to prevent the fly-by-night firms to exploit the workers.

I supposed DOLE’s decision to end sub-contracting scheme was based on what happened to the Kentex Corporation where more than 70 workers died when the Kentex’s building in Valenzuela City was razed to the ground.

The over 70 workers were not actually employees of Kentex Corporation, but by a small firm, that had a contract with the Kentex to work on the other aspects of manufacturing slippers.

However, I am convinced that Kentex was not the only company in the country that practices sub-contracting method of hiring employees.

Ask Atty. Jose Sonny Matula, president of Federation of Free Workers (FFW), or Wilson Fortaleza, spokesman of Partido Manggagawa (PM), and they will tell you that sub-contracting in the country is extremely prevalent.

Sub-contracting is a form of contractualization. Others are 3-month contract, project-based, 5-month contract and so on.

The common denominator among these schemes is that no one worker hired under those schemes could ever hope of attaining regular status in the company.

Therefore, their monthly salary rate is not pegged based on the monthly minimum rate but lower than that.

Bello argued that the DO 30 was the product of series of consultations of DOLE with the labor leaders of almost 50 labor federations and labor unions, including the biggest ones: FFW and the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP).

Bello admitted that other forms of contractualization could not be “killed” by the DOLE, because they should be amended by the Congress.

Unfortunately, Congress appeared to be silent on the issue.

The one being tackled in the Senate includes the proposal of pro-business Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez to regularize the employees of manpower and recruitment firms instead of the employees of the principal companies.

The labor groups opposed the idea.

What DOLE can do is what the capitalists have ‘instructed’ to Bello and his gang must do while DOLE officials.

Bello followed the capitalists with gusto despite the fact former militant labor leader in Mindanao and former representative of leftist party-list group in the House of Representatives, and former New People’s Army (NPA) commander Joel Maglunsod is an undersecretary in the DOLE.

Bello and his gang knew very much that the Philippine labor movement is weak.

The capitalists knew that the labor movement in the National Capital Region (NCR) alone has aggressively crippled down following the assassination of labor leader Filemon “Popoy” Lagman in 2001.

Since the labor movement is weak, the capitalists are convinced that Duterte’s promise could not be carried out even until the end of his term in 2022.

Attacks of the labor groups through press statements and a small number of protests of obviously very few workers in front of the DOLE and some selected areas could hardly draw the capitalists’ attention.

Even President Rodrigo Duterte himself is not bothered, thus, he does not touch the issue the way he handled his anti-drug menace and anti-US campaigns.

The contractualization problem is a serious one that could only be won through strong labor movement.

The strong labor movement is the sharpest form of instrument that will force the government, DOLE, Congress, and the capitalists to surrender to the workers’ demand.

Of course, labor leaders should know the idea of having a strong labor movement to force the government, DOLE, Congress, and the capitalists to surrender to the workers’ demand is not an absolute truth.

The strong labor movement needs to use various forms of pressure, not necessarily armed struggle in order to win the battle. 

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Wednesday, 21 February 2018
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