Philippines: Workers protest contract labour

November 28, 2010

The streets of Ayala, the old financial capital of Manila, were taken over by about 5000 people on November 25 in a protest against the growing use of contract labour. Philippine Airlines, owned by the Philippines second richest man, is the latest company to sack its workforce and rehire them as contract workers – with lower wages and without the benefits and security guaranteed to formal, permanent workers.

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

The demonstration was organised by the anti-contractualisation network KONTRA and the union representing Philippines Airline workers, PALEA.

Ronald Salazar, a PALEA official and Philippine Airlines worker, told Green Left Weekly the rally participants came from “all walks of life”. He said 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. He said the response of the government to the company violating its own agreement was to say the issue of contract labour was simply “the prerogative of management”.

He said the mass lay-offs of formal workers at Philippines Airlines was “the start of a wave” of bosses replacing formal workers with contract labour.

Salazar also said the move was “a form of union busting” aimed at destroying PALEA, which has existed for 64 years. He said 13 out of 21 PALAE officials had been retrenched by the company. The sacking of so many officials could allow PALEA to be dissolved, Salazar said.

It was supported by a range of unions and parties, who marched with banners and flags in contingents. Among those who supported the march were the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines, the BMP union federation, the Alliance of Progressive Labor and the Church Labor Conference. The Flight Attendants and Stewards Association of the Philippines also joined the protest

Political parties such as Makabayan, Partigo ng Manggagawa, and the Party of the Labouring Masses (PLM) were also present.

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