“Upang maitindig natin ang bantayog ng ating lipunan, kailangang radikal nating
baguhin hindi lamang ang ating mga institusyon. Kun di maging ang ating
pag-iisip at pamumuhay.” Apolinario Mabini, La Revolucion Filipina (1898)
AFTER MORE THAN a century of struggle for social equity, workers remain the most exploited sector the world over.
Reason that, according to Wildon Barros, Kilusang Mayo Uno-Northern Mindanao Region (KMU-NMR), there is no sane reason to “celebrate” the occasion of the 106th International Labor Day, yesterday.
Member unions of KMU-NMR, together with other allied sectoral organizations, at least 800 activists marched under the scorching heat, yesterday afternoon where in the middle of their program on a makeshift stage they endured the sudden bursts of rain.
“Most people spend this day at the beach after ‘celebrating’ Labor Day with the customary parade through the city streets and a program at Kiosko Kagawasan, which is aimed at patting each other’s back for a job well done,” Barros said.
According to Kristine Lim, secretary general of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan-NMR), these programs are misleading to the people as it projects a picture that everything is fine for the workers.
Barros said that they chose to ‘commemorate’ Labor Day by taking to the streets to wake people up to the reality that workers’ conditions remain dire—barely surviving at best.
“We take to the streets because we are a sector betrayed,” Barros said adding that the people have been betrayed by the very people sworn to uphold their rights and welfare but have instead turned a blind eye.
Barros bared that when the global bubble economy burst late last year, many first world countries’ economies slinked into recession. More than 40,000 workers coming from the Export Processing Zones in the country have been rendered jobless as a direct result of the global economic crunch, he said.
According to the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA), this year the unemployed is expected to balloon to at least 800,000 more to the list of those already jobless.
Also because of the global financial crisis, Barros claimed that some 20,000 Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) have returned to the country—another addition to the rising figure of unemployed in the Philippines.
“There are currently 4.3 million Filipinos who are unemployed and 6.2 million underemployed,” Barros added.
He said this figure would worsen, as another batch of fresh graduates will join the fray for employment this year.
Outside the National Capital Region (NCR), like Cagayan de Oro, the cost of living for a family of six is P802. This, while the daily minimum wage in Northern Mindanao—through the Regional Tripartite Wage and Productivity Board (RTWPB)—is only P256. This means that workers in our region are P546 short of a living wage.
“All in all, you can see that there really is nothing to celebrate about,” Barros said.
The Labor Day rally yesterday, however, was not all speeches and discourse as members of the Samahan ng mga Lingkod na Artista sa Mindanao (Salamin)—Bayan-NMR’s cultural arm—kept the crowd on their feet with their socially relevant songs.
Barros reiterated the workers’ clamor for a national legislated wage increase of P125 to private workers and P3,000 to government employees—across the board, nationwide.
Yesterday, workers’ chants rang throughout Cogon market demanding for just wages, humane working conditions and security of tenure.
Until now, Barros said, the struggle of the workers for social justice and economic emancipation carries on, 105 years hence.