Philippines: Workers protest contract labour

BMP contingent marches on Bonifacio Day, November 30, Manila. Photo by Macario Sakay

See also: Philippines: regional conference discusses socialist solutions

The streets of Ayala, Manila, were taken over by about 5000 people on November 25 in a protest against the growing use of contract labour.

Philippine Airlines (PAL), owned by the Philippines second richest man, is the latest company to sack 2700 of his workers and rehire them as outsourced contractors. Contracting out workers allows bosses to pay lower wages and less benefits, and denies workers the security of a permanent job.

The practice is illegal under Filipino law. However, bosses are increasingly ignoring the law and the government is failing to stop the violations. A February study by the International Labor Organisation found the rate of “contractualisation” in the Philippines has risen to 70% of the workforce.

The protest was organised by Kontra — a network that campaigns against contract labour — and the PAL Employees Association (PALEA).

The rally included contingents from: PALEA; Solidarity of Filipino Workers (BMP); the Party of the Labouring Masses (PLM); the Alliance of Progressive Labour; the Labour Party (PM); and Makabayan.

Ronald Salazar, a PAL worker and PALEA official, told Green Left Weekly the use of contract labour was one of the capitalists’ “usual trick” and that capitalists pressured the government not to intervene.

Salazar said the airline workers’ collective agreement, signed with the company, bans the use of contract labour. The department of labour had defended the company’s violation of the agreement on the grounds the use of contract labour was “the prerogative of management”, Salazar told GLW.

Salazar said the move was “a form of union busting” that aimed at destroy PALEA. He said the PAL was sacking 13 out of 21 PALEA officials.

On Bonifacio Day on November 30, there were further protests in Manila against contractualisation and in support of Philippine Airline workers. The day honours Andres Bonifacio, who fought for Filipino independence from Spain in the 19th century.

The Solidarity of Filipino Workers (BMP) led a contingent of about 800 people in a march to the department of labour offices, where a petition of demands for workers’ rights including banning contractualisation was handed over to officials. BMP President Leody de Guzman then symbolically tore up a copy of the department’s ruling in favour of PAL in front of the crowd.

The BMP contingent marched to Plaza Mediola where it joined other contingents of unions, peasant groups and left parties. About 1500 people, carrying placards with slogans such as “Secure jobs = secure lives”, listened to speakers condemn the pro-capitalist policies of the new President Benigo “Nyonoy” Aquino. The rally ended with the singing of the socialist anthem, “The Internationale”.

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