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Youth group apprehensive over DOLE pronouncements on job creation, minimum wage, labor disputes

July 3, 2010

“Photo-copied from Arroyo’s book”

This was the reaction of Anakbayan vice-chairperson Anton Dulce in response to several statements of newly-appointed Dept. of Labor and Employment secretary Rosalinda Baldoz regarding the Aquino Administration’s platform on labor and employment.

In her statement, Baldoz claimed that wage levels in the Philippines, especially Metro Manila, are no longer competitive as compared with other countries in the region. She said it would be ‘necessary to re-assess’ the current minimum wage in Metro Manila.

“By making an issue out of the so-called competitiveness of our minimum wage levels, the DOLE is trying to condition the public, especially the workers, into accepting a continuation of Arroyo’s wage-freeze policies” said Dulce.

“The problem with the DOLE and the new Administration is that it is parroting Arroyo’s perspective that only foreign investments can bring about new jobs. Hence, they are aiming to minimize wage hikes, or even possibly implement rollbacks” added the youth leader.

The youth group challenged the DOLE to focus on local sources of job generation, such as the agricultural sector and SMEs (small-medium enterprises).

“There is more than enough land to provide a stable livelihood for the millions of rural poor in our country. The problem is that agricultural lands are monopolized by landlords. Noynoy should overcome his historical allergy with the land reform issue if he is sincere in providing employment” said the group’s vice-chairperson.

He cited a 2007 study by the KMP (Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas) that those with holdings equal to 50.1 hectares or more owned a combined 20.79% of all agricultural lands in the country. These translated to only 9,466 individuals, or 0.45% of all agricultural landowners nationwide.

“SMEs can also provide employment opportunities. However, the high prices of products and services, such as petroleum and electricity, make it hard for them to do business. Noynoy should focus on controlling these prices, starting by bringing back regulation to the oil industry, reversing the privatization of NAPOCOR, and removing the Value Added Tax” said Dulce.

He meanwhile slammed Baldoz for ‘ignorance’ in claiming that the low number of strikes in the country is due to an alleged ‘very effective conciliatory machinery’ of the government.

“Under which rock does Baldoz reside? The low number of strikes is due to Arroyo’s anti-union policies, including the usage of military force against unionists and union leaders, and promotion of contractualization.”

One of the more notorious cases of force being used in a labor dispute under Arroyo was the Hacienda Luisita massacre in November 2004. Members of the military fired upon a barricade of striking sugar mill and farmworkers, killing seven and injuring hundreds.  From 2001 to 2010, 25 labor leaders and union members were assassinated by suspected military elements.

“With such a pronouncement, we have reason to fear that history will be repeating itself” added Dulce.

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