MANILA, Philippines – The country’s trade and labor organizations and unions on Monday launched a broad alliance that will stage a 20,000-strong “historic” action in Manila on Labor Day, advancing Filipino workers’ demand for wage increase, security of tenure and fight against labor contractualization.
Dubbed “NAGKAISA,” the newly established “multi-ideological and multiform” network of labor organizations is composed of some 40 major trade unions and labor federations across the country.
In a press conference Monday, labor leaders representing these organizations said the merger would mobilize a united and massive protest march to the historic Mendiola on May 1, a first in recent history.
Joshua Mata, secretary general of the Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL), said the last time various labor organizations in the country formed one coalition to advance rights of Filipino workers was in 1989.
“May 1 promises to be a historic action because for the first time in so many years, there has become a broad coalition of labor groups that would all come together to make our demands to the government not only in Metro Manila but also in key areas in the country,” said Mata.
Simultaneous mass actions to mark Labor Day will also be staged in key cities in the country: in Baguio, Pampanga, Bataan, Cebu, General Santos City, Negros, Davao, Iloilo, Cagayan de Oro, Cotabato and Iligan.
“This will be a calibrated mass action because we will give the government an opportunity to address our appeal to improve the plight of Filipino workers,” explained Pete Pinlac, president of Manggagawa para sa Kalayaan ng Bayan (Makabayan) at a press conference in Manila yesterday.
Should the government’s response remain unfavorable to workers after the Labor Day march, the coalition would stage further mass actions to advance the laborers’ interest, which would include protest actions during the Asian Development Bank annual meeting next month.
The big ADB meeting, to be held from May 2 to May 5, is expected to draw some 4,000 banking and finance executives from 67 countries.
“The ADB has a big role in the privatization of our industries especially in the power sector…so we are also ready to show force and hold a protest during the meeting,” warned Pinlac.
As one voice of labor, NAGKAISA will primarily raise issues on oil deregulation, wage increase, the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001 and the passage of the Security of Tenure Act.
The coalition also said it would actively engage industry and all branches of government at all levels in meaningful and progressive social dialogue to improve the plight of workers.
“In the face of the prevalent anti-worker environment…our unions have continued to champion workers’ right to organize, to collectively bargain, to hold strikes and to engage government in social dialogue but with limited success,” said NAGKAISA in a statement.
“We believe that the Filipino workers can be empowered again by, first and foremost, united action among unions and workers’ organizations,” it continued.
The new coalition is composed of labor groups Associated Labor Unions-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines; Makabayan, APL, Marino, Partido ng Manggagawa, the Philippine Government Employees Association and Sentro ng Progresibong Manggagawa, among others.