Labor Braces for More Hardships

Submitted by loudev, Labour News Network, 14 June 2001

Nearly six months after President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has been installed into power by a popular uprising, organized labor is digging deep to prepare for a long round of battle against her government's anti-worker policies.

With a worldwide economic recession on the way, the crisis ridden Philippine government is again looking for ways to get itself out of the quagmire. Already, MetroManila's unemployed plodded by elite opposition to Arroyo's government, staged May Day riots reminiscent of the First Quarter Storm of 1970, when then President Marcos announced austerity measures for the country.

Unemployment has risen to more than 15% officially though progressive labor organizations say it is nearly 37%. Added to this 7 million without jobs is an annual 500,000 new entrants to the labor force and another 7 million visibly under-employed.

The Arroyo government is trying to win labor's support when it promised job generations sometime March. However, as quickly as it reneged on its promise to grant a living wage of PhP500.00 a day (U.S.$9.00) from the present PhP250.00 per day (U.S.$4.90), Ms. Arroyo seemed afflicted with selected amnesia when it passed into law a power restructuring act. The law will surely render jobless thousands of workers in the power generation industry besides burdening the lowly paid Filipino worker with higher electricity bills.

No sooner than it has passed the act, another round of oil price increases is in the offing. The Big Three in the country's oil industry has announced they will increase the pump prices of petroleum products by an average of 90 centavos per liter(U.S.$0.018). The move would further push prices of prime commodities up.

Another anti-labor act is the policy to privatize the country's Social Security System. Thousands of government workers are in danger of being jobless while millions of pesos of the workers funds will be lent to private investors—local and foreign—to be further used without the worker-contributors' consent. Already, the SSS has lost millions in bad investments during Mr. Estrada's presidency.

While for Big Business, these are interesting times; for labor, these are HARD TIMES, says Primo Amparo, spokesperson of MAKABAYAN.

To prepare for the coming battles, MAKABAYAN and other labor federations like National Federation of Labor (NFL) and SIGLO (Solidarity of Independent and Genuine Labor Organizations) are in the process of unification to struggle hard for the Filipino workers' protection and welfare.