S.Tagalog workers push for P125 wage hike on May Day

Workers stage motorcade before converging in Calamba City

Pressing for better wages, better working conditions and the right to unionize, an estimated 5,000 people attended last Sunday’s demonstration in Calamba City to commemorate the “International Workers’ Day” or “May Day.”
Rally organizer Pagkakaisa ng mga Manggagawa sa Timog Katagalugan – Kilusang Mayo Uno (PAMANTIK-KMU) said among the main concerns of the May Day celebration is to continue pushing for the “long overdue” Php 125 Across-the-board legislated wage hike. They stressed the need for such a wage hike amidst the burgeoning prices of basic goods, services and petroleum products.

The KMU have been calling for the said wage hike since 1998. The late labor leader Crispin Beltran were among the staunch proponents of the said wage hike, especially during his time as a representative of the Anakpawis partylist.

125 wage hike vs. PNoy’s non-wage benefits
Reacting to President Noynoy Aquino’s unveiling of a non-wage benefit package as opposed to a wage increase last Sunday, chairman Noel Alemania said they want the President to feel the outrage of the people of Southern Tagalog.

Alemania also pointed out that the main reason of the economic crisis currently plaguing the region is PNoy’s economic policy, which he said is only a continuation of the economic programs implemented by previous regimes.

“We see no significant change under Aquino. Aside from very low wages, many of our workers in the region are caught in various schemes of contractualization which poses a constant threat to their job security,” he said.

Continuing trade union repression
Citing recent cases of extrajudicial killings of labor leaders in the region, as well as unresolved cases during the Arroyo regime, the demonstration also gave attention to the continuing “trade union repression” under the Aquino administration.
Last March 8, union organizer Celino Baccay was ambushed by two unidentified men in Dasmariñas, Cavite. In November last year, union leader Caloy Rodriguez of the Calamba Water District was also shot dead by unidentified men. PAMANTIK-KMU believes these incidents are a continuation of the government’s effort to suppress the people’s right to unionize and organize, and a way to pacify critics of state policies.

Glen Malabanan, secretary general of the human rights group KARAPATAN-ST who joined the rally said one of the major human rights violations against workers today is the repression of the right to form unions and stage protests. “Those brave enough to stand up for their rights become victims of human rights violations themselves,” she added, pointing out as an example the killing of known labor figure Diosdado “Ka Fort” Fortuna during the Arroyo regime.

Multi-sectoral solidarity
The May Day celebration in Calamba City was joined by labor groups from Alyansa ng Manggagawa sa Probinsya ng Laguna (ALMAPILA) and Solidarity of Cavite Workers (SCW), as well as other sectoral organizations Samahang Magbubukid ng Batangas (SAMBAT), Katipunan ng mga Samahang Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan (Kasama-TK), women’s group Gabriela-ST, and the Alliance of Concerned Teachers – Southern Tagalog (ACT-ST) among others.

The Southern Tagalog chapter of multi-sectoral umbrella group BAYAN also joined the demonstration stressing that the workers’ struggle is a struggle encompassing all sectors of the society.
“The workers’ call for better wages and lower prices will also affect all other sectors, including the farmers, women, and the youth,” BAYAN-ST regional spokesperson XL Fuentes noted. “History has already shown us that we can achieve our aims if we have a united stance towards these issues.”

For their part, Gabriela-ST secretary-general Rona Jane Manalo emphasized on the role of women in the workers’ struggle. “The working men and women are going through the same suffering and struggle. Nowadays, not only the men, but both parents are working non-stop to gain income for their family, which is why women are also in the streets now, fighting alongside their husbands against repression, harassment and low wages.”
ACT-ST secretary-general Janine Prado, on the other hand, spoke of the teachers’ plight. “Like our fellow workers, we too are affected by contractualization. We only get meager salaries for our work. We are also fighting (for wage increase) because we too have to help our families get by.”

KASAMA-TK’s spokesperson Nestor Villanueva stressed on the farmers’ call for genuine agrarian reform as a means to help the workers in the agricultural sector. “[The government] should focus on giving land to the farmers for free and helping them advance agricultural development. They should stop converting our farmlands.

Also gracing the occasion were members of the Southern Tagalog Cultural Network (STCN), who kept the crowd upbeat with their expositions which included interpretative dancing, singing, and street play.
The day’s events culminated in a festive mood with the audience joining in the singing and dancing. With hope in their hearts, the various labor organizations vowed to continue their struggle and carry on until their calls for better wages, lower prices, justice and equality are answered. Rafael S. Dabalos | Hannah C. Delos Santos

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