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14,000 cops secure Labor Day demonstrations in Metro

SOME 14,000 policemen in Metro Manila and nearby regions were placed on standby as workers staged their annual Labor Day protests on Wednesday.

Director Leonardo Espina, Metro Manila police commander, said the security contingent consists of civil- disturbance management and anti-criminality units that will not only provide security during the protest actions but also ensure peace and order in other areas.

The Metro Manila police was reinforced by 600 personnel from the Central Luzon and Calabarzon police commands and 200 soldiers from Joint Task Force-National Capital Region of the Armed Forces.

Earlier, the National Police spokesman, Chief Supt. Generoso Cerbo Jr., said policemen were ordered to exercise maximum tolerance in dealing with the protesters.

The militant Bagong Alyansang Makabayan said this year’s protests were against poverty, erosion of standard of living, trade-union repression, demolition of squatter colonies and the privatization of government services.

Bayan Secretary-General Renato Reyes Jr. slammed President Aquino’s statement that workers should celebrate positive things the government has done for them instead of taking to the streets to protest.

“Aquino still doesn’t get it,” Reyes said. “Labor Day is held just once a year. It is a time when workers air their demands and grievances, many of which have been ignored.”

Bayan also scored Mr. Aquino for thumbing down calls for wage increases and job security, saying he was more concerned about his government’s image than the workers’ plight.

“Aquino shows that he doesn’t care about the workers. He offers non-wage benefits and job fairs as if these are enough to meet the rising cost of living,” Reyes said.

Labor group hits Aquino

THE labor group Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) on Wednesday condemned President Aquino for his alleged “rapidly anti-worker and pro-capitalist” policy.

KMU Chairman Elmer Labog said that Mr. Aquino’s outright rejection of workers’ demand for a significant wage hike, the junking of contractual employment and a stop to trade-union repression while bragging about non-wage benefits and the government’s efforts to create more jobs is unacceptable.

KMU has been calling for a P125- a-day wage increase to cope with the spiraling prices, particularly in Metro Manila.

In celebration of Labor Day, workers all over the country, led by militant groups under the banner of KMU, Bayan, Anakbayan and Anakpawis, launched protest actions to express their indignation against the Aquino administration.

“The Aquino administration has been using the technicality—the one-year ban on increasing wages to try to obscure the fact that it is insensitive toward the long-standing hunger and poverty being experienced by the country’s workers,” Labog said.

He said Mr. Aquino is using non-wage benefits to try to cover up his strong opposition to a wage hike.

“Unlike a significant wage hike, non-wage benefits will not directly and immediately give workers any relief from the soaring prices of goods and services,” he said.

Labog said is taking advantage of chronic unemployment to blackmail workers into accepting starvation wages, contractual employment and violations of trade-union rights.

“The truth is that wages in the country have been pressed down for too long, yet jobs available to Filipinos remain dismally scarce,” he lamented.

Labog stressed that the problem lies in the government’s refusal to implement genuine agrarian reform and national industrialization.  Instead, he said the Aquino administration relied on foreign investments to create jobs in the country, and has offered cheap and repressed labor to attract foreign investors into the country.

For almost three years, Mr. Aquino has consistently rejected calls for a significant wage hike, is attempting to impose wage cuts and wage freezes through the Two-Tiered Wage System, has legalized contractual employment, and is continuing policies that are repressive of workers’ right to unionize, collectively bargain and strike, Labog said.

Meanwhile, Party-list Rep. Neri Colmenares of Bayan Muna said the series of announcements of the President from last week until the eve of Labor Day shows that the Aquino administration has no heart for the workers.

Legislator assails hike in SSS premium

COLMENARES added that the increase in the Social Security System (SSS) contribution adds insult to injury.

“Wala na ngang umento sa sahod, kinaltasan pa ang kanilang take home dahil sa pagpayag ni Aquino sa pagtataas ng kontribusyon sa SSS,” Colmenares said.

Colmenares was reacting to the announcement of Malacañang of an increase in the SSS contribution from 10.4 percent to 11 percent of members’ salaries.

Bayan Muna has been working for the increase in the SSS pension since it filed House Bill 4365 in March 2011 increasing the SSS pension to P1,000  for those with at least 10 credited years of service and P2,000 for those with 20 credited years of service. 

“But while we are pushing for the increase of pension, we are against an unreasonable increase in the contribution. Based on our study, the SSS has enough funds to increase the pension without increasing the contribution. It’s assets amounted to P343.670 billion in March 2012 and its annual investment income is P21 billion to P23 billion per year. They have collectibles in the form of unremitted or delinquent premiums amounting to at least P8,515,581,227.56 billion as of December 2010. This amount does not yet include the collectibles from employers who did not avail themselves of the amnesty program [P14.6 billion], fines and other penalties for the same,” Colmenares explained.

Colmenares added that the SSS still has to file cases against more than 170,000 delinquent employers or those who do not remit the SSS contributions of their workers. They were only able to file 1,227 cases in 2011 covering only P460.5 Million of unremitted premiums.

He recalled that in 2010, SSS overcharged P 789 million pesos SSS members loan payments for 2010 and the overcharged amounts from year 2000 could total to a maximum amount of P7.1 billion.

“Also in 2010, the SSS board members received more than P200 million in perks and bonuses. Kailangan pa ngang bawiin iyon. It is not right that while thousands of members of the SSS wallow in poverty, the officials who receive payment from the contributions of its members get millions-worth of benefits,” Colmenares explained.

According to Colmenares, HB 4365 has just passed third reading in the Lower House in its substitute bill HB 6748 on January 28 this year.

“Hindi pa nga ito nagiging batas, eto at itinaas na ang kontribusyon,” he said.

The proposed increase in the SSS contribution of workers, he said, adds burden to the Filipino workers.

Worse, he said Mr.  Aquino merely downplayed the increase that it will only amount to P60 a month. 

“The President forgets that there are a lot of other deductions from salaries of ordinary workers.  If the political will is strong, the President can make things possible for the benefit of the workers. But that is obviously not what the President has in mind or heart. The Palace shuts its eyes to the real situation of the workers and the people. He only has eyes for those of his own class—the landed, the moneyed and the foreign companies,” Colmenares said.

In Photo: Ralliers stage a hunger strike at the Ninoy Aquino Monument in Makati City to press their call for proper job placing and Children accompany their elders in the march at the central business district of Baguio City. The protesters denounce President Aquino’s failure to contractualization among workers and the 0.6-percent increase in SSS premiums. (Stephanie Tumampos and Mau Victa)






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