MANILA, Philippines—Workers and activists Sunday marched on the streets of major cities across the country to demand higher wages amid rising prices and to protest contractualization, while the government held jobs fairs in every region.
In Manila, workers and their supporters showed different shades of dismay over what President Benigno Aquino III announced at a dialogue with labor leaders on his first Labor Day, describing it as “empty good news.”
“He did not address our demands for wage increase. He did not address the protection of job security through opposing contractualization. He did not address our appeal for the reduction of oil prices,” Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) national chair Renato Magtubo said at Chino Roces (formerly Mendiola) Bridge.
PM has been fighting alongside the Philippine Airlines Employees’ Association (PALEA) in overturning the termination of some 3,000 contractual employees.
PM members and allies led a march on and attended Mass at the Chino Roces Bridge from morning until noon.
Effigy, ‘Porsche’ burned
In the afternoon, Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) led a program at the Liwasang Bonifacio, where an effigy of Mr. Aquino in his Porsche was torched. They later marched to Chino Roces Bridge to dramatize their appeal.
Red, blue and yellow flags bearing the names of the groups were waved, and cries of “Uring manggagawa, hukbong mapagpalaya (The working class is the army of liberation!)” rang in the air.
Many groups such as the Alliance of Progressive Labor, United Cavite Workers Alliance, Sanlakas, National Confederation of Labor and Samahang Demokratiko ng Kabataan joined PM in the march from Mehan Garden near Manila City Hall.
A car covered in paper to look like a white Porsche, an effigy of a Dalmatian with Mr. Aquino’s face, and a man wearing a cartoon mask of Lucio Tan’s face, made rounds. Tan is the owner of PAL.
Demonstrators spread in streets surrounding the bridge as they joined in the Mass celebrated by Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo, a convenor of the Church-Labor Conference.
A sign on the backdrop of the makeshift stage and altar read, in Filipino, a quotation from Pope John Paul II’s encyclical “Laborem Exercens.”
“People are more important than things. Labor is more important than capital,” a central message of the labor group-Church coalition, Pabillo said.
He considered Mr. Aquino’s statements Sunday insubstantial. “The real good news would have been him taking a clear stand for or against contractualization,” he said.
The Aquino administration should prioritize equitable resource allocation instead of focusing on increasing income or production, he said.
The KMU-led “People’s Day of Outrage” at Liwasang Bonifacio was more festive, with a rainbow tent pitched near the street. Speeches by civil society leaders on a stage alternated with songs, one in rap.
Those at the Liwasan were largely composed of allied party-list groups, such as Bayan Muna, Gabriela, Kabataan and the Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees.
Most expressed dismay over Mr. Aquino, saying their major demands were a legislated wage increase and cuts in fuel prices. They accused Aquino of prioritizing capitalists and businessmen.
“We need to have change. We were given loose change, and the Filipinos were shortchanged,” said KMU chair Elmer Labog.
He said his group’s basic demand was to raise wages through legislation and not though regional tripartite wage boards.
“We need to revive the House bills calling for a P125 wage hike across the board for the private sector and the P6,000 per month increase for government employees,” he said.
The groups marched on Mendiola at around 4:30 p.m.
Job fair in Rizal Park
While activists took to the streets of Manila, thousands trooped to Rizal Park in the city to look for employment.
Rizal Park was the sole venue in Metro Manila for the labor department’s Labor Day Job and Livelihood Fair. Similar fairs were held simultaneously in every region of the country.
In Pampanga province, workers of Central Luzon marched in Angeles City to protest low wages amid rising prices of fuel, food and basic services.
The Manggagagawa para sa Kalayaan ng Bayan (Makabayan) and the Workers Alliance for Region (War) 3 mounted separate rallies in Angeles City’s Plaza Miranda. Makabayan reported gathering 700 workers and War 3, 400.
Dexter Datu, War 3 chair, said unions based at the Subic Bay Freeport were joined by religious and urban poor leaders in Olongapo City for a rally at the free port’s main gate.
He said workers at the Luisita Industrial Park in Hacienda Luisita, a sugar estate owned by the family of Mr. Aquino’s mother in Tarlac, held a protest rally at a park and later at the public market in Tarlac City.
Makabayan also organized rallies in Subic, Zambales, and Mariveles, Bataan.
In Zambales province, workers of Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction-Philippines Inc., who called their group Samahan, read a statement by Pabillo quoting “Laborem Exercens” which said “labor holds priority over capital.”
In Baguio City, some 150 union members and activists marched through downtown for the city’s leg of the “National Day of Outrage” organized by the KMU nationwide.
In Legazpi City in Albay province, more than a thousand workers and activists marched along major streets. The KMU, Bayan-Bicol and Gabriela held brief rallies at the Daraga Ninoy Aquino Park, the regional office of the Department of Labor and Employment, the Pinaglabanan Monument and the Peñaranda Park.
Protesters also staged rallies in the cities of Iloilo, Roxas and Bacolod, as well as in Kalibo town in Aklan province, to demand higher wages.
In Iloilo City, around 2,000 protesters led by the KMU and Bayan assembled at the Jaro District plaza and in front of the University of the Philippines before marching to the capitol.
Hundreds joined similar rallies in the capital town of Kalibo and in Roxas City in Capiz province.
Three rallies were held in Bacolod to demand an increase in wages. About 1,000 members of KMU and Bayan staged a rally at the Bacolod Public Plaza to demand an across-the-board increase of P125.
At the Fountain of Justice on Araneta Street, some 1,500 members of Lumaya Ka and the Democratic Association of Labor Organization-Negros converged for a protest action. They demanded that the Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board in Western Visayas approve the petition for a P99-adjustment in the minimum wage.
At least 200 members of PM-Negros held their own rally at the Bacold Arts and Youth Center.
Cebu jobs fair
Jobs fair and rallies marked Labor Day in Cebu.
Hundreds of people went to SM City Cebu, Cebu City Sports Center and the Cebu International Convention Center to try their luck at finding jobs offered by several companies.
But at least 3,000 members belonging to 12 labor organizations converged downtown and walked on the office of the labor department in Central Visayas where they held a rally.
The groups belonged to an umbrella organization Kanamasu or Kahugpungan sa mga Nagkahiusang Mamumuo sa Sugbo.
The workers demanded an end to contractualization and sought security of tenure and decent living wages.
In Cagayan de Oro City, journalists joined in the call for better work conditions.
In a statement, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said: “Very few media workers in the country are regular employees … (and yet) they perform the work of regular reporters but lack job security and benefits, including life and medical insurance, and allowances.”
The NUJP claimed that the race to transform news organizations into multiplatform operations was resulting in more work for workers without any corresponding payment. With reports from Tonette Orejas, Inquirer Central Luzon, and Vincent Cabreza, Inquirer Northern Luzon; Mar Arquelles, Inquirer Southern Luzon; Carla P. Gomez, Jhunnex Napallcan and Nestor P. Burgos Jr., Inquirer Visayas; and Ryan D. Rosauro, Inquirer Mindanao