By Andrew Nette
Crispin Beltran, chairperson of the May 1 Movement (KMU) of the Philippines, has been jailed on two fabricated charges — one a matter outstanding for 20 years — and leaders of the movement fear that the government of Corazon Aquino may be preparing to declare it illegal.
The KMU unites 15 labour federations covering some 850,000 workers. Other KMU leaders have also fallen victim to the recent crackdown.
The KMU believes the crackdown is an attempt to intimidate workers prior to next year's presidential elections. Several other trade unions have also come under attack. The sugar workers' and food and drug unions have been targeted for deregistration, as has the National Federation of Labour Unions.
Justice secretary Franklin Drilon and senior members of the military are trying to link the KMU with the New People's Army/National Democratic Front, and are attempting to hold it responsible for several incidents, including two deaths, during a general strike last October.
Since Aquino came to power in 1986, conditions for working people have deteriorated seriously. Wages have declined and prices have skyrocketed. The minimum wage is now around $5 daily, while it costs around $9 for a family to meet basic needs.
In return for its latest loan to the Philippines, the International Monetary Fund demanded further cutbacks in government expenditure on basic social services.
ACTU policy is to support the KMU, although at the last national conference there was an attempt to change this. The Melbourne-based Australia-Asia Worker Links is campaigning in defence of the KMU and current ACTU policy.
AAWL may be contacted at PO Box 264, Fitzroy Victoria 3056. Phone (03) 419 5045.