Mayo Uno - Labour Day in the Philippines
Thousands of protestors and human rights campaigners gathered in Manila, Philippines in protest against trade union repression, contractualization, and other anti-labour policies, calling instead for rights to secure employment and decent wages.
Nearly every administration since the founding of the Republic has been quick to praise itself for stalwart economic management, amid booming growth rates. Yet such growth has mostly been confined to the stock market, tied to OFW (Overseas Filipino Worker) remittances or dependent on tourism and real estate investment – and has rarely, if ever, resulted in the creation of real, long-lasting, decent-paying jobs on the ground. The national economy, geared as it is toward foreign markets and dependent on foreign investments and OFW remittances, has failed to develop thriving local industries. Jobs in manufacturing and agriculture have continued their long-term decline.
Nor has growth been inclusive. Wealth concentrated in the hands of monopolies or in the country’s most powerful clans has so far not trickled down to those who need it the most. Profits of major corporations and CEO bonuses have soared while workers’ real wages have stagnated or declined over the decades.
Repressive labour policies from deregulation to contractualization have left workers in vulnerable straits, unable to find decent employment should their contracts expire. Millions of the working poor remain trapped in the informal economy, as street vendors or contractual labourers or traders in the black market, where they struggle on incomes less than the international poverty line of two dollars a day.
In 2012, the country ranked third lowest in the world in terms of average monthly wages, scoring only higher than Tajikistan and Pakistan, according to the International Labour Organisation. Appeals by trade unions and labour groups for a 125-peso across-the-board minimum wage hike have so far fallen on deaf ears.
The Department of Labour and Employment reports only 60 per cent of corporations respect basic labour standards. Even then, collective bargaining agreements, minimum wage laws and freedom of association are under constant threat.
Employers often resort to tough sanctions on employees ranging from wage cuts to immediate dismissals in an attempt to weaken or compromise labour resistance, alongside harassment and intimidation of trade unions – or underhanded deals designed to corrupt union leadership. Crackdowns on unions and the extrajudicial killings of their leaders prompted the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) to rank the country the second most dangerous place in the world for labour organisation in 2007, after Columbia. Of 98 extrajudicial killings recorded in the closing years of the Arroyo administration, 35 were trade unionists and labour rights activists.
Abuses against organised labour have continued, however, with five union leaders and three urban poor community members killed in the current administration’s first year in office.
The Centre for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR) and the European Union-Philippines Justice Support Program have recorded a total 218 cases of human rights violations in the labour sector as of July 2010, affecting some 33,178 workers unable to secure for themselves genuine representation of their interests.
According to the Labor Force Survey of the National Statistics Office (NSO), the combined ranks of the jobless and underemployed – some 10-12 million Filipinos of working age – today make up 11 per cent of the country’s total population.
The official unemployment rate stood at 6.8% in October 2012, higher than the 6.4% reported in the same period the year before. While the numbers seem insignificant, this amounted to an additional 120,000 jobs lost, adding to a total of 2.76 million unemployed Filipinos that year alone.
Including the discouraged labour force who have given up the search for jobs entirely, IBON Foundation estimates some 4.4 million people were left jobless last year, bringing the unreported unemployment rate up to 10.5% – “the longest sustained record-high unemployment in the country’s history”.
Youth unemployment stands at 15.4%, more than twice the official national average. 30% of the young and unemployed are college graduates, while some 33.7% have finished high school.
The ranks of the underemployed, those forced into part-time or unstable contractual employment, amounted to 20.9% of the labour force in January 2013. Most of these are male, between the ages of 15 to 34. Among the employed, five out of 10, or 16.85 million people, are in poor quality work (self-employed, working in private household, and work without pay in farm or family-owned businesses).
- An end to contractualization, deregulation, harassment of trade unions, and other regressive labour policies.
- A Php 125 across-the-board minimum wage increase.
- An end to the government’s labour export policy , which has left the economy dependent on OFW remittances.
- State support for the development of national industries, and investment in Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) to stimulate the creation of jobs in the real economy.