By ROMMEL BALAJADIA II
BAGUIO CITY — Hundreds marched in the city center to commemorate International Labor Day. The March was led by Kilusang Mayo Uno (May First Movement) Cordillera. “Fight for a National Minimum Wage,” chanted the workers.
This is the demand of all working Filipinos, Vicente Dilem, Kilusang Mayo Uno – Cordillera spokesperson, said. “So far the government has done nothing and instead has gone against the interest of workers,” Dilem said.
“When I was working in Lepanto Mining Corporation, we launched a strike for the just wages and benefits but the Secretary of Labor used the assumption jurisdiction to force us to return to work,” he said.
According to Dilem, now, most mining companies only pay minimum wage to their workers. In worst cases, workers are being paid less than the minimum wage, he said. “That is why we need to fight for a living wage,” Dilem concluded.
Geraldine Cacho, chairperson of Organisasyon dagiti Nakukurapay nga Umili ti Syudad-Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Ornus-Kadamay), recalled the history of labor day. She said that labor day can be traced to the working class’ struggle for an eight-hour work day. On May 1, 1884, labor unions across the United States of America held a general strike demanding an eight-hour workday with no cut in pay, Cacho said.
A few days later, the police opened fire to disperse protesting workers at the Haymarket Square in Chicago, several workers were killed that day and seventy others wounded, Cacho said. Their sacrifice is honored every time we commemorate Labor day, she said. In the Philippines, labor day was first held in 1902, when the Philippines was a US colony, she continued. One-hundred thousand workers cried “Death to Imperialism.” Cacho said.
In his speech, Mike Cabangon, Anakpawis Cordillera spokesperson, said that the lives of workers have only become worse during the Aquino presidency. Nearing the end of the Aquino presidency, poverty is worse and wages are low, Cabangon said. Wage hikes during the Aquino term are the lowest since 1990, according to an Ibon Foundation study.
The Aquino administration boasts of uplifting poor based on a poverty threshold they have set at P46 per person per day. “Are they saying that a person who earns P46 a day is not poor?” asked Cabangon. Forty-six pesos could roughly buy one a kilo of rice, he added. “How about other basic needs?” asked Cabangon.
Health is a basic need that this government neglects, Carmen Bolinto of the Alliance of Health Workers claimed.
“Health workers experience the same low wages and government apathy,” she said.
Majority of health workers are now being employed as contractuals, Bolinto added.
Some nurses are being paid as low as P6,000 a month, she added.
“In this situation, it is not only the health workers that suffer but most importantly the patients,” Bolinto explained.
“Health workers are being overworked and underpaid resulting in low quality health services,” Bolinto concluded. # nordis.net