Labor activism

In 2016, Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte promised go end the parctice of contractualization in the country. Contractualization is a labor practice that basically denies workers job security, and essentially props up other labor practices detrimental to worker’s rights, such as union busting and paying workers salaries that are lower than the legally-mandated daily minimum wage.

Unfortunately for Filipino workers, Duterte has yet to live up to his promise. In fact, nothing much has changed for workers in the past year. During Labor Day 2017, the government raised minimum wages by a measly P10, which is enough for a 4 kilometer ride on a jeepney with some change left over but definitely not enough to assist poor families in making ends meet. And although labor groups have presented the government study after study that emphasizes the need to raise wages by at the very least P100, the government appears unwilling to listen to these proposals. In fact, several government officials have even commented how raising wages would be “bad” for the economy, without even acknowledging the dismal state majority of poor Filipino families are currently in due partly to very low wages.

Although posturing as a pro-people president, Duterte has in fact given his economic managers a free hand in managing the economy, with his people more often than not espousing neoliberal economic policies that have been internationally proven and acknowledged as causing undue hardships to the population of countries whose governments implement them. I don’t know when, or if, Dterte really has any plans on fulfilling his promise to end contractualization, but I do know that the workers in this country are cognizant of the fact that contractualization will never, ever benefit them as a sector.

The labor activist in this image is part of a growing and revitalized militant trade union movement that has vowed to continue struggling for job security and just wages for workers in the whole country. Why do they have to be so militant and engage in confrontative actions like rallies and strikes? Well, I have always believed that whatever is worth having is worth fighting for. And nothing is as worth fighting for as living a decent life free from all worries such as job insecurity.

And oh, rallies and militant labor actions HAVE been known to produce results, in case you didn’t know that or your teachers in school didn’t teach you that. 8-9 hour workday, social security benefits, health insurance, you name it, more often than not it was the MILITANT side of the labor movement that has pushed for–and won for workers everywhere–these benefits. In case you missed that, maybe you should start reading up on why labor activism is so important for all of us.

(Photo by Mark Ambay III)