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JoMag: ‘I was surprised, shocked’

Department of Labor and Employment undersecretary Joel Maglunsod said he did not receive notice of his dismissal before President Rodrigo Duterte made the announcement in a speech Tuesday in Catarman, Northern Samar.

“I was surprised, shocked even,” Maglunsod told Kodao, adding he only learned of the President’s statement when he opened his mobile phone after conducting two meetings Wednesday morning.

“Many journalists have sent me messages about PRRDs statement and that was how I learned about it,” Maglunsod said.

Duterte said he fired Maglunsod because of his association with the militant Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) the President alleged was responsible for the upsurge in labor strikes throughout the country.

[Si] Joel Maglunsod, pinaalis ko. Pinagbigyan ko sila noong bago ako  kasi gusto ko nandoon sila sa opisina, Joel Maglunsod, sila lahat,” Duterte said.

(What went before: Labor movement hails, welcomes back ‘JoMag‘)

Maglunsod said he immediately went back to the DOLE offices in Intramuros Wednesday afternoon to consult with labor and employment secretary Silvestre Bello III and other department officials.

“They too were surprised,” Maglunsod revealed.

Maglunsod said Bello asked him to “stay put” until Monday. “He told me he (Bello) will be able to know more in Monday when he meets the President during their Cabinet meeting,” Maglunsod said.

The beleaguered official also told Kodao that he called up special presidential assistant Christopher “Bong” Go to request for a meeting with Duterte.

“He said he will ask the President (about my request),” Maglunsod said.

Maglunsod, who also hails from Davao City, said he considered Duterte his friend but felt it would have been better for him if the President told him directly about his decision before the public announcement.

“But it is his prerogative as the President and appointing power,” Maglunsod said.

He added he is ready to leave his post.

“But I hold my head high. I can categorically say I did my best in performing DOLE’s mandate. I have been fair, even to the employers. I always told them that we only need to follow the law,” he said.

The country’s major labor federations, including the KMU, the Association of Labor Unions-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines, Sentro ng Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa, and Nagkaisa Labor Coalition unanimously defended Maglunsod as the official who consistently “bridged the ‘gap of trust’ between organized labor and the department by personally acting on complaints and facing mass actions of workers at the DOLE office in Intramuros.”

“I am grateful to the labor federations who expressed support. I have not had the chance to send them messages yet, but I thank them for validating my work as DOLE undersecretary,” Maglunsod said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Labor movement hails, welcomes back ‘JoMag’

Never has a Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) official been unanimously hailed and defended by the labor movement as Joel Maglunsod.

As when they issued a joint manifesto against labor-only contracting last year and jointly commemorated International Labor Day in May 1 this year, the country’s major labor groups were again united, this time in defending the official they fondly call “JoMag”.

They said President Rodrigo Duterte made a mistake when he fired Maglunsod.

The last prominent Leftist in the Rodrigo Duterte regime was unceremoniously fired by President Rodrigo Duterte in a speech before soldiers in Camp Sumuroy in Catarman, Northern Samar Tuesday, October 2.

[Si] Joel Maglunsod, pinaalis ko. Pinagbigyan ko sila noong bago ako  kasi gusto ko nandoon sila sa opisina, Joel Maglunsod, sila lahat,” Duterte said, adding the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) that Maglunsod served as vice president for Mindanao and national secretary general is “paralyzing the economy” with labor strikes.

The labor movement, however, defended Maglunsod once again.

“Maglunsod has worked for the mass inspection of violations on labor only contracting and other labor standards and occupational health and safety violations that resulted in favorable orders and decisions. Workers are eager to welcome back Ka Jomag in the picket-lines and marches and take part in the growing workers’ movement against Duterte’s anti-worker and tyrannical rule,” KMU chairperson Elmer Labog said in a statement.

Nagkakaisa Labor Coalition’s Rene Magtubo for his part said “President Duterte has made a major mistake in dismissing the services of Usec Jomag at the DOLE only to heed the advice of the military and anti-worker elements of his administration.”

“In his short stint as undersecretary of labor for industrial relations, he has bridged the “gap of trust” between organized labor and the department by personally acting on complaints and facing mass actions of workers at the DOLE office in Intramuros,” Magtubo added.

The Sentro ng Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (Sentro) for its part said it was wrong for Duterte to fire Maglunsod over the escalating labor unrest in the country, adding the official was labor’s closest ally in the DOLE.

“Ironically, the labor unrest now spooking employers and even the military was largely caused by Mr. Duterte’s failure to live up to his promise of ending contractualization,” Sentro leader Josua Mata said.

“Obviously, Usec JoeMag is being sacrificed to prop up the sagging image of Mr. Duterte,” Mata added.

Even the Association of Labor Unions-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (ALU-TUCP) hailed Maglunsod’s achievements sa labor undersecretary.

“Jomag was always ready to listen and work out solutions to workers in trouble with their employers,” ALU-TUCP spokesperson Alan Tanjusay said.

“Jomag was the key DOLE official in helping move the very important security of tenure bill. He was also a key DOLE official in regularizing thousands of ‘endo’ (contractual) workers become regular workers,” Tanjusay explained.

Maglunsod, along with former social work and development secretary Judy Taguiwalo, agrarian reform secretary Rafael Mariano, anti-poverty commission lead convenor Liza Maza, and urban poor commission chairperson Terry Ridon were known progressives appointed to high positions in the Duterte Cabinet when he won the presidency in 2016.

He was a KMU member in Davao City who rose to become its chapter president eventually becoming its national secretary general for many years. Prior to being appointed to the DOLE, he was KMU vice president for political and external affairs.

He also served as Anakpawis Representative to Congress where he once grabbed news headlines when refused entry through the members’ gate because the guards saw him alight from a jeepney.

KMU’s Labog said that workers are eager to welcome back Ka Jomag in the picket-lines and marches and take part in the growing workers’ movement against Duterte’s anti-worker and tyrannical rule.

Both Maglunsod and the DOLE have yet to reply to Kodao’s request for statements. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

KMU welcomes order regularizing 80 Nutri-Asia workers

The Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) said the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) order to Nutri-Asia Incorporated (NAI) to regularize 80 of its workers is an initial victory of the ongoing strike at the country’s biggest condiment manufacturer.

“This is an initial victory of the workers’ strike at Nutri-Asia. The DOLE has been forced to come out with a decision to regularize 80 contractual workers because the workers are unionized and are militantly asserting their rights,” KMU chairperson Elmer Labog told Kodao.

In a July 5 announcement, the DOLE said it has ordered NAI to regularize workers contracted through Asia Pro Multi-Purpose Cooperative (AMPC) because it is engaged in an illegal labor-only contracting agreement.

In an report issued last June 24, DOLE Region 3 director Zenaida Angara-Campita said AMPC has no capacity to buy its own equipment and machines and is a mere NAI lessee.

AMPC also has no control and supervision over its contracted workers under the agreement it entered into with NAI, he agency said.

DOLE said the NAI violated Article 106 of the Labor Code that only allows labor-only contracting when the employer has insufficient capital or investment.

The agency added that the workers are directly involved in NAI’s core business and deserve to become regular workers of the company.

The order also said that the AMPC contracted workers who are assigned at NAI’s quality control and research divisions directly work for the condiment giant’s core business.

“In view of this, DOLE orders the AMPC to desist from its illegal activity and cease going into any more contracting agreement,” the agency said.

NAI manufactures ketchup, sauces and other condiments as well as cooking oil and juices that are dominant in the local market. The multi-billion peso company also exports its popular products abroad.

1.4k more contractuals

While welcome, DOLE’s order must also order the regularization of about 1,400 NAI workers more, KMU said.

The labor federation also said NAI must be punished for violating other provisions of the Labor Code such as the non-payment of the minimum wage and other labor standards as well as occupational health and safety.

“KMU salutes the workers of Nutri-Asia for their militant struggle to become regular workers, just wages, and right to unionize and launch strikes in the face of the brutal attacks by the conniving State and big capital,” the group said.

“The strike goes on! Until all the Nutri-Asia contractual workers are made regulars, until the laid off unionists are back, the strikers will only intensify their struggle,” it added.

KMU said it is calling on all fellow workers and the public to support the strike at Nutri-Asia as well as other labor strikes all over the country. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Substantial wage hike urgent, gov’t told

Research group IBON said that the government’s recently announced plan to respond to labor’s clamor for an increase in the minimum wage is welcome but underscored that this move is urgent amid rising prices.

The group said that the hike should be meaningful enough to keep up with accelerating inflation and worsening poverty.

Amid the three-year-high first quarter inflation, widely perceived to be caused by the government’s Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) among other factors, and labor’s demand for a wage hike, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) said that a wage increase is coming up within the month.

According to IBON, it is urgent for government to ensure the legislation of a minimum wage hike that is sufficient for the working people to cope with the rising cost of goods and services.

Recent price spikes have been brought about by government’s own market-oriented policies such as the oil deregulation and tax reform laws that press prices up while wages remain low.

The group however stressed that the wage increase should be substantial, as the recent inflation rate will only continue to erode a paltry increase.

IBON explained that despite the last increase of Php21 in October 2017, which raised the National Capital Region (NCR) minimum wage to Php512 from Php491 per day, the real value has eroded by Php16.25 from Php464.19 in October 2017 to Php447.94 as of April 2018.

IBON also noted that the TRAIN has inflicted a heavy blow on the workers’ purchasing power as the real value of the NCR minimum wage lost a significant Php18.79 since the Duterte administration took office in July 2016.

According to IBON, initially increasing the minimum wage nationwide to at least Php750 as recently proposed by progressive lawmakers is the more practical measure.

This will allow wage earners to cope with inflation and increase their purchasing capacity.

It will also help bridge the gap between the nominal minimum wage and the family living wage (FLW) of Php1,173.14 in the NCR, for instance, as of April 2018 computed by IBON.

While the amount still falls short of the FLW, a Php750 minimum wage can be an initial important step towards increased economic activity and more vibrant economic growth that shall ensure a more stable price situation, said the group. #

Labor feds unite, vow to hold biggest rally in decades

Labor federations vowed to hold their biggest Labor Day protest on Tuesday after agreeing to jointly march against President Duterte’s failed promise to end contractualization.

In a press conference in Manila Friday, Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) and Nagkaisa Labor Coalition said as many as 60,000 workers in Metro Manila and 150,000 all over the country will march as one on May 1.

“The growing frustration, disappointment and dissatisfaction of workers over President Rodrigo Duterte’s failure to fulfil a promise have only bonded workers,” KMU and Nagkaisa said.

Long rivals, the federations have formed an alliance after Duterte turned on his promise to end labor only contracting and issue an executive order ending the practice.

KMU and Nagkaisa said their joint May 1 protests are an “historic first.”

“This year’s commemoration of Labor Day will be different. It will be a national day of solidarity and action of leaders, members, allies and supporters of Nagkaisa and KMU and all citizens who have been frustrated over the injustices committed against workers and the Filipino people and government’s continued inaction and negligence,” Nagkaisa and KMU said in a joint statement.

“For two years, we participated in labor summits called for by ( the Department of Labor and Employment), dialogued with the President three times, drafted an Executive Order (EO) on contractualization, negotiated with him through five drafts—all to no avail,” KMU and Nagkaisa said.

The groups said they also intended to engage Congress on the issue but were stopped when informed by Senate Committee on Labor, Employment, and Human Resources Development chairperson Senator Joel Villanueva that Congress will act based on Malacañang’s ”signal”.

“Now that a directive by way of an EO that would declare direct hiring as the norm has been shelved, the Senate might just follow this lead,” the federations said.

“We are utterly frustrated. Despite our desire to continue sitting at the negotiating table and follow reason, the President has decided on retaining business-as-usual, by siding with local and foreign investors who have no respect for security of tenure,” the groups added.

“(Duterte) has agreed to the false ‘win-win solution’ of (the Department of Trade and Industry) that encourages manpower agency regularization and not direct hiring with the principal employers,” Nagkaisa and KMU said.

In an April 19 press briefing, DOLE secretary Silvestre Bello III said the President will no longer sign an EO but will instead certify as urgent a pending bill in Congress ending contractualization.

KMU earlier said legislators would only ensure such laws would be watered-down and mangled.

Nagkaisa and KMU said protesters will start marching from various points as early as six o’clock in the morning and will converge at Morayta Street at about 10 am before proceeding to Mendiola Tuesday. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

‘Not surprised,’ KMU says of Duterte’s turnaround on endo promise

Militant labor denounced Rodrigo Duterte’s decision not to issue an order ending contractualization of workers, saying the President’s move is a complete turnaround from his repeated promise to end the practice.

Following labor secretary Silvestre Bello III’s announcement Thursday that Duterte decided to leave it to Congress to decide on labor-only contracting, Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) chairperson Elmer Labog said the government is bent on maintaining the status quo in the labor sector.

“Duterte wants contractual labor to remain the norm while regular employment is just the exemption,” Labog told Kodao.

“He sweet-talked us for such a long time, but it all comes to nothing,” Labog added.

In a statement, Kilusang Mayo Uno said it was Duterte himself in a dialogue last May 1, 2017 who asked the labor sector to draft an EO that he would immediately sign.

“However, like his other promises and pretensions, Duterte refused to deliver. This further proves that his tough-talk against contractualization was a mere publicity stunt to woo workers’ votes like all other traditional politicians,” KMU said.

In his press briefing, Bello said three drafts of the executive order were submitted to the Office of the President through the Office of the Executive Secretary.

Bello said Malacañan however ultimately decided to instead certify as priority a Senate bill on the security of tenure of workers.

Earlier, the Palace announced that Duterte will finally issue an order to end contractualization, or non-regularization of workers. It later said Malacañan decided to postpone Duterte’s signing of the order last April 15.

No order was signed and issued last Sunday, however.

In justifying Duterte’s decision, Bello said the Senate bill is a reinforcement of Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Department Order 174 meant to address the issue of unlawful contractualization anyway.

Bello said the DOLE order and the Senate bill may end contractualization “if there is an effective and honest-to-goodness implementation.”

Labog, however, said militant labor has no illusions about the prospective anti-contractualization law.

Wala na iyan. Lututuin lang iyan sa Kongreso,” Labog said. (That’s nothing. It will just be mangled in Congress.)

Labog warned that more workers would be disappointed and angry at Duterte.

“It will not only be KMU who gets angry with Duterte, but all the other workers who are victims of contractualization,” Labog said.

Labog added KMU’s International Labor Day activities will start at nine o’clock in the morning at Liwasang Bonifacio.

“Our main sectoral call is, of course, for the junking of contractualization,” Labog said.

KMU said Duterte’s mockery of Filipino workers and of our legitimate demands will never be forgiven.

“On May 1, International Labor Day, hundreds of thousands of Filipino workers across the country will show their outrage over Duterte’s rejection of our demands for regular and decent jobs in a nationwide workers’ and people’s protest,” KMU’s statement said.# (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Trafficked Pinoys hope for more protection in UAE

Dubai, UAE–Thirty-three-year old Filipina Sheila Endong heard stories of happy lives in the UAE and was lured by a friend to come here to work as a domestic worker. She arrived in the country in November last year but it was not the promised life that greeted her.

Sheila was a victim of human trafficking. Her case has been told many times over. Her ordeal started from her country of origin and when she was offered a free airline ticket and paid-for tourist visa.

Sheila said she left Zamboanga Sibugay in Southern Philippines to find a job and provide a good life for her 10-year-old son. Her friend told her that a job was waiting for her in the UAE and her travel papers were immediately processed. She did not pay anything except for her medical test.

She said she breezed through the immigration check-in from Manila because she was ‘escorted’ by a Philippine immigration staff. A kabayan (compatriot) picked her up at the Dubai International Airport and she was immediately brought to an accommodation in Ajman.

She was not allowed to leave the flat and she learned she was offered to prospective employers at a cost of Dh17,000. Employers had to bite the bullet because of the dearth in the supply of available household service workers.

With no regulation and proper monitoring in place, Sheila had at least three different employers in the past 10 months. At one point, she suffered physical abuse from her employer which prompted her to run away.

Philippine labour officials in the UAE said Sheila’s case is just one of the many cases they’ve handled because of the lack of transparency in recruitment and because many Filipinos come to the UAE using a tourist visa to find work.

This will soon come to an end, according to Philippine Labour Secretary Silvestre Bello, who recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Labour Cooperation with UAE Minister of Human Resources and Emiratisation (MoHRE) Saqr bin Ghobash Saeed Ghobash.

“The MoU enhances existing friendly relations between the UAE and the Philippines, through labour cooperation to promote mutual benefits and provide adequate protection to overseas Filipino workers (OFWs),” he said.

The MoU is a result of many consultations, which began when the UAE Cabinet tasked the ministry to oversee the domestic workers sector in the country, he added.

Human trafficking will be curbed because, under the MoU, the recruitment office is tasked with sending the job offer to the employee in their home country and listing the obligations of the labour contract. The contract will be signed by the employer and employee upon the arrival of the latter to the UAE Only recruitment agencies registered with the MoHRE are able to offer recruitment and employment applications for domestic workers that have been submitted by employers.

Awareness and guidance programmes will also be organised for the employer, and the employee before exiting the Philippines. Moreover, the programmes will inform contractual parties about their rights and obligations towards each other.

Bello also noted that the MoU on Labour Cooperation includes an annex called Protocol on Domestic Workers. He said the Protocol highlights recruitment and admission of Filipino domestic workers to the UAE in accordance with the protective Philippine and UAE laws.

The Philippine Labour Secretary said: “Among the rights to be guaranteed under the Protocol, through a standard employment contract under the newly-approved UAE Law on Domestic Workers, are the following: a) Treatment of the worker that preserves personal dignity and physical safety; b) Due payment and non-withholding of wages; c) Twelve hours of daily rest; d) One full day of weekly rest; e) Decent accommodation; f) Medical treatment; g) Retention of identity documents, such as passports; h) Non-payment of costs and fees on recruitment and deployment; and i) Non-payment of costs for repatriation.

At a recent town hall meeting with Filipino community leaders in Abu Dhabi, Bello praised the MoU as a big step for the protection of OFWs. Sheila, who was in the audience, is optimistic that her rights are now protected. # (Angel L. Tesorero / Khaleej Times)

This story was first published here.

Groups launch program against child labor

Child rights advocates gathered at the Rizal Park Open Air Auditorium in Manila yesterday for a night of music and poetry to call for an end of child labor in the country.

The “Himig at Tula Para sa Isang Milyong Batang Malaya” event commemorated this year’s World Day Against Child Labor, a special day aimed at raising awareness against exploitation of children for economic gains.

Local artists, bands, and performers provided entertainment, including a dance routine from former child laborers themselves.

Themed “Sa Armadong Tunggalian, Sakuna, o Bagyo, Iligtas ang Bata sa Trabahong Mapang-abuso,” the event launched the campaign and implementation of the Philippine Program Against Child Labor (PPACL).

The program aims to prevent and progressively eliminate child labor and to “transform the lives of child laborers, their families, and communities,” the Department of Labor and Employment said.

According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, about 1.7 million children between ages of five to 17 years old suffer from child labor in the country.

Although numbers have recently slightly dipped, child labor still remains prevalent in the country due to poverty, inadequate protection and inaccessibility of education, child rights advocates said.

“There are some parents who are actually pushing their children to work,” said Julius Cainglet, Vice President for Research, Advocacy, and Partnerships at the Federation of Free Workers and one of the event’s head organizers.

“A lot of children are still involved in agricultural activities. And we all know the recent news on the cybersex dens,” he added.

Government officials, other advocates and groups called on the youth to spearhead the fight against child labor.

“The youth is a great instrument in turning the tide of this battle with the advent of today’s technology to help inform the masses the salient points in curbing the growth of child labor cases here in the Philippines,” National Anti-Poverty Commission Sectoral Representative Josh Cezar Serilo said/

National Youth Commission Chairperson Aiza Seguerra, who also performed at the event, said she believes in the power of the youth to combat the issue.

“Naniniwala ako na ang kabataan ang mag-aayos nitong gulo, kasi kayo yung may malilinis na ideals,” she said.

The event was organized by the National Child Labor Committee, an inter-agency, tripartite, and multi-sectoral body that leads PPACL’s implementation. (Report and photo by UP-CMC’s Reynald Denver del Rosario for Kodao Productions)

HTI fire: Where are the 1,328 workers?

A FACT-FINDING mission has accused House Technology Industries (HTI), the Cavite provincial government and the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) of covering up the real number of casualties at the massive February 1 Cavite factory fire.

In a press conference with the Makabayan bloc at the House of Representatives, the mission said 1,328 workers have yet to be accounted for by the company and its recruitment agencies. Read more