Laura Sarmiento
RDIP Officer 
Workers Assistance Center
Tel. no.: (046)-8840076

United under the slogan “Labanan At Biguin Ang Panunupil Sa Karapatan At Kabuhayan, Makibaka Para Sa Pambansang Industriyalisasyon”, workers from Cavite and Batangas were joined by other people’s oganizations and concerned citizens in simultaneous May One rallies to press their demands for wage hike, job security, immediate economic relief and the transformation of the nation’s economic system to address, avert and eventually thwart the onslaught of economic crises that wreck havoc on the people’s lives.

The 3,000-strong rally in Cavite, led by the Solidarity of Cavite Workers (SCW), kicked off at 7AM from Noveleta and Tanza, and converged in front of the Cavite Economic Zone in Rosario where a program was held until around 12:30 PM. The rally in Batangas, on the other hand spearheaded by the Batangas Labor Alliance for Social Transformation (BLAST), took off from the Tanauan market and the Sta.Clara Barangay Hall in Batangas City before converging at the Lipa City Market where they held a program until 1 PM. Both contingents proceeded to Calamba City, Laguna to join other workers and sectors in the regional May 1 rally in the afternoon.

Merly Grafe, chairperson of the SCW, said that wage hike, jobs and democratic rights are the central issues of this year’s May One Rally. She stressed that contrary to the claims of big businesses and the Arroyo government, it is now more than ever that the justness of these demands and the need for genuine development is underscored. Grafe said that a higher wage and a secured job would provide the people with the purchasing power to fuel the nation’s economic activity that in the end would bail the people out of extreme poverty.  “The wage hike freeze, lay-offs and work flexibilization arrangements only ensures huge profits of businesses who possess and control vast capital and resources while relegating the workers and their families to destitution,” she explained. “They refuse to grant these demands of the workers because that would mean lesser profits for them.”

Reverend Father Jose Dizon, executive director of the Workers Assistance Center (WAC), agrees with Grafe. “A just wage is just as important as job security and job creation,” reacting to a statement from Malacañang last April 25. Father Jose further quipped, “it is even more absurd that (Press Secretary Cerge) Remonde left the issue of wage increase to collective bargaining negotiations (CBN) at the factory level.“ He explained that in reality, capitalists exert every conceivable ploy to prevent the workers from forming a union, the only organization authorized by law to enter into a collective bargaining agreement with the company. At the very few times that the workers succeed to reach CBN, the management conjures up every conceivable excuse, even this current crisis, not to grant additional wage and benefits citing the case of Golden Will Fashion located inside the First Cavite Industrial Estate in Dasmariñas, Cavite.

The union in Golden Will and its management are currently in a collective bargaining negotiation. According to WAC, the management started to implement flexible work arrangements like rotation, temporary shutdowns, and even dismissal of active union members and officers to force down its proposal of, basically, no additional wage and other benefits.

Both the SCW and the BLAST reiterated these urgent demands in separate statements released during the May One Rallies. The two organizations assert that the government has at its disposal the power and resources to ensure decent life for the workers and the people even in times of crisis. The government could repeal the law on EVAT and other add-on taxes on prime commodities and services to lower its prices; suspend the payment of its loans, which now accounts for almost half the national budget and channel the national resources to cushioning the impact of the crisis on the people especially providing assistance to those who are displaced by the current crisis.

In an earlier interview, Robilindo Ordoñez, public information coordinator of BLAST, said that instead of wasting time and money on pushing for the Chacha (charter change) and defending the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), the government should focus on helping the workers and the people. Speaking in Filipino, Ordoñez remarked, “but what would you expect from the corrupt government of Arroyo? She and her minions could only think of staying on in power now that the May 2010 election is looming. It shows that this government is incapable of ensuring decent lives for the Filipino people.”

The WAC, SCW and BLAST are unified in their call for national industrialization and genuine land reform. “But a corrupt, dirty and pro-business Arroyo government could not implement these strategies but a government that is ran and controlled by the people, a government whose interest is the advancement of the nation and the people’s lives,” declared Grafe. ###

For interviews, Father Jose Dizon may be contacted through the WAC office number (046)-8840076; Merly Grafe through mobile number 09068898274 and Robilindo Ordoñez through mobile number 09024535760