Decent work essential to human dignity
In a country long ruled by wealthy oligarchs, the personality of President Duterte who rose from middle class roots, with his unconventional ways and staunch advocacy for change, made it easy for the Filipino people to be optimistic and to hope again of a new dawn for the Philippines.
However, several months have passed and nothing much has changed, particularly in the situation of the Filipino workers. How can there be genuine change when President Duterte’s economic planners still adhere to the same old neoliberal economic policies of the previous administration? The present administration’s “Dutertenomics” is anchored within the same neoliberal framework which emphasizes advancing corporate profit through unbridled welcoming of foreign investments.
After almost a year into the Duterte presidency, contractual employment continues. According to the research group Ibon, some 24.4 million working Filipinos or nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of the total number of the employed are nonregular, agency-hired, unpaid family workers or in the informal sector. The labor groups’ pleas to end all forms of contractualization and to uphold the workers’ basic rights (e.g., security of tenure, safe working environment, living and just wage, and the rights to freely form and join unions and labor organizations) remain unheeded.
The rising incidence of drug-related extralegal/judicial killings and human rights abuses in urban poor communities paints a grimmer picture of the dire conditions the struggling masses are in.
Not able to find decent jobs and living wages in the country, and facing an array of chronic socioeconomic problems, more and more Filipino workers are forced to seek jobs overseas, leaving their families behind. With the prevalent low-wage level against the increasing cost of living, they are bled dry, thus making overseas employment a necessity to support their families.
Labor Department Order No. 174 only distinguishes between “legitimate” and “nonlegitimate” contractualization; the Department of Labor and Employment is merely regulating contractual labor and not really abolishing it. All these interventions are exacerbating the pains and sufferings of the working class.
Today, more than ever, workers need proworker and propeople policies that will empower them to dream again and work toward the fulfillment of their dreams through decent work. Decent work is essential to human dignity. If the government is sincere in bringing about constructive and progressive change, it should start at putting an end to contractualization which denies the workers the benefits enjoyed by regular employees and the chance of promotion and proper compensation, which could elevate their life. Pope Francis himself has said, “honoring the dignity of work is a cornerstone for any just society…”
The Church-People Workers Solidarity (CWS) joins the thousands of Filipino workers in their clarion call to end all forms of contractualization, and to respect their dignity and rights as persons. This can only be done by veering away from the conventional and elitist neoliberal economic agenda and by pursuing a truly propoor and propeople economic program through national industrialization and genuine agrarian reform.
Hence, CWS fully supports the peace talks between the Philippine government (GRP) and the National Democratic Front (NDF), especially now that both parties have achieved significant advances in crafting a Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms that will address the root causes of the armed conflict.
The economy must serve the people, not the other way around. Work is more than a way to make a living, it is a form of continuing participation in God’s creation. We keep ablaze the passion and hope as the struggle continues. The courage to hope lies within the resolute and steadfast Filipino spirit. The many stories of triumphs as well as defeats of the toiling masses are testament to the resiliency, determination and zeal of the Filipino workers.
Mabuhay ang Uring Manggagawa!
ARLYNE CASAS, NDS, for Churchpeople Workers Solidarity
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