MAY 1, 2021 – We celebrate Labor Day under very trying times. The working class continue to suffer the brunt of the deteriorating health system, and economic crisis due to years of neoliberal impositions further worsened by the pandemic.
One of the most vulnerable sectors to COVID-19 is the working class. The regions with the most concentration of workers are reported to have the highest rate of infection. Workers are forced to go to work without mass testing, effective contact-tracing, and the absence of vaccination.
A year into the pandemic, Philippine economy has not recovered. Yet, despite a -9.6%, GDP growth, workers are still able to create P17.9 trillion in GDP.
Businesses continue to reek profit despite the lockdowns and the effects of the pandemic. The richest Filipinos have increased their net worth by around P100 Billion. However, workers’ wages continue to dwindle.The real value of minimum wages across regions have decreased by P100 due to inflation. While workers create value, they get but a miniscule share of the pie.
Workers continue to lose jobs with the unemployment rate currently at 8.8% or about 4.2 million jobless, while underemployment rose to 18.2% or 7.9 million. Job security is also a concern with 1 million Filipinos losing full-time employment.
The plight of the workers are made worse by successive Labor Advisories and Department Orders such as the DOLE Labor Advisory No. 17 which allows the capitalist to break Collective Bargaining Agreements and to seize further negotiations for wages and benefits. DOLE D.O. 215 allows for the suspension of employment for up to a year, while DOLE Labor Advisory No.14 allows for the non-inclusion of the one month ECQ in the probationary period for employment.
Government is depriving workers of social aid. Recipients of their COVID-19 Adjustment Measures Program (CAMP) only reached 1 million while there are 7.3 million who lost their jobs. Temporary employment through their program TUPAD have only provided P4,500 per person for two months. OFW who lost their jobs received only P10,000 one-time cash aid under the government’s AKAP program.
Workers’ demands for P100 wage relief and P10,000 social aid have fallen in deaf ears. The Duterte administration has instead prioritized its corruption-ridden Build,Build,Build projects, and giving more budget for repressive apparatuses such as DND, DILG, and NTF-ELCAC under the pretext of combatting ‘terrorism.’
As workers fight for job, wage, and basic rights, they are met with vicious attacks by fascist elements. Since the pandemic, cases of attacks against workers and labor rights advocates have significantly increased.
Elements of NTF-ELCAC have visited homes of unionists to force them to disaffiliate with their union or to threaten them. There are also mass arrests of union leaders and organizers with trumped up charges such as the case of “HR Day 7.” Mass murder of unionists and activists continue with impunity, with the “Bloody Sunday” of March 7 being one of the worst. Around 9 activists and unionists were killed with successive raids in Southern Tagalog. A few weeks later, Dandy Miguel of the Lakas ng Manggagawa sa Fuji Electric was also brutally murdered.
As workers continue to suffer attacks, they continue to show their militance and determination to fight for their rights and to show solidarity with other sectors of society. Workers who have lost their jobs helped in setting up “community pantries” across the country for those affected by the pandemic. Unions continue to assert their rights for wage, regularization, and benefits. Workers continue to call out for justice and human rights. They continue to fight for safe vaccination and mass testing. They continue to stand for our national sovereignty amid Chinese incursions.
Filipino workers understand that their power lies in their collective action and solidarity with the people. They have shown us time and again that the most potent force is unity. So as we celebrate the International Labor Day, let us show our unity with Filipino workers and fight for social aid, wage increase, job security, and democratic rights. Let us hold the Duterte administration accountable for its failure to address the concerns of the people amid the pandemic. Let us fight for genuine social change.