Labor groups urge government to free workers from poverty

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Mayen Jaymalin – The Philippine Star, June 13, 2024

MANILA, Philippines — Filipino workers must be freed from poverty and poor working conditions, labor groups urged he government yesterday as the country celebrated the 126th anniversary of Philippine independence.

Poverty wages and contractualization are among critical workforce issues that the Marcos administration must address, the Nagkaisa Labor Coalition said in a statement.

“Workers are subjected to low wages, which are strategically kept low by pegging them to the regional wage boards’ decisions for 35 years now,” the group noted.

Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Boards often set wages below the poverty threshold, it added.

Living wages must be provided to “unshackle workers” from poverty, the group maintained.

“Start with a nationwide P150 daily wage hike. Allow workers to organize unions and ensure their right to security of tenure,” said Nagkaisa chair Sonny Matula.

Despite the constitutional right to form unions, Matula said most workers are unable to organize.

“Other than being killed or red-tagged, workers are not recognized as employees of the firms or enterprises they serve. Instead, they are supplied by cooperatives or manpower agencies or are misclassified as independent contractors,” he pointed out.

“All these strategies employed to avoid regularization are commonly called ‘contractualization.’ This systemic avoidance strips workers of their rightful benefits and job security,” he added.

Hundreds of motorcycle riders from Metro Manila, Bulacan, Pampanga, Bataan and Zambales yesterday staged a “Freedom Ride,” appealing to superpowers to cease militarizing the region.

They headed to the beach area facing the West Philippine Sea in Candelaria, Zambales.

Protests

Militant groups yesterday marched to the US embassy in Manila to protest against US intervention in Philippine affairs, particularly in the country’s assertion of sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea against China.

Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), Bayan Muna, Gabriela, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas and League of Filipino Students marched to the embassy but had to hold their program at the corner of Kalaw Avenue and Roxas Boulevard after the Manila Police District blocked them.

Nothing has changed since President Marcos assumed office and the government’s “Bagong Pilipinas” campaign should have been called “Bulok Pilipinas,” said KMU’s Jerome Adonis.

Protesters led by former presidential candidate Leody de Guzman failed to reach the historic Mendiola Bridge after they were blocked by riot police from the Quezon City Police District. – Ghio Ong, Emmanuel Tupas