Young Progressives call on the Youth to Fight for Workers Rights

2012 International Workers Day statement of Akbayan Youth (AY)

Akbayan Youth calls for the passage of the Security of Tenure Bill

Currently Philippine economy is deeply anchored to a capitalist economic framework. Evidences of which are the neoliberal policies the government has embarked on for the past 30 years. Privatization, deregulation and liberalization of trade are the typical examples of neoliberal policies which have shaped our economic situation. However, these neoliberal policies which the government said will boost the country’s economic development have resulted to a quagmire of economic difficulties which confront the Filipino masses.

Privatization of national companies which are supposed to provide the basic needs of the people, such as electricity and water, has resulted to an often-fluctuating prices of these basic commodities. Deregulation has, meanwhile, resulted to an uncontrolled pricing of oil and fuel where determination of oil and fuel prices are controlled by oil cartels and are basically geared towards profit maximization of oil companies. Liberalization of trade has resulted to loss and shut downs of local industries since imported products are relatively cheaper than those produced domestically. More so, liberalization policies have resulted to a decline in the agriculture sector. With the increasing cost of living, minimum wage of Filipino workers is constantly eroding. This combination of economic difficulties coupled with scarcity of permanent employment resulted to incapacity of Filipino workers with average-sized families to meet their daily basic needs necessary to have a decent life.

Wages, inflation and scarcity of permanent employment are just few of the pressing labor issues in the country which, in effect, lead to food insecurity and ultimately to poverty among the Filipino masses. Currently 26% of the country’s population is poor and 10.8% is food poor. Moreover, as of January 2012, unemployment rate is at 7.2%. With a huge unemployment rate and the fact that permanent jobs are scarce, the Filipino masses tend to take on any available employment without considering the risks it entails and settle with employment conditions that are disadvantageous on their part as long as they earn a living in order to provide their families’ needs. This has given the private companies and industries control on labor-management relations, more so an opportunity for the private sector to hire employees at a minimal cost and with fewer obligations – that is, through contractual employment.

Contractualization of employment has only intensified the dire economic condition of the Filipino masses. Contractual workers do not have security of tenure on their work hence making them defenseless when employers make extreme cuts on their employment to ensure profit. Certain rights of workers, such as the right to form unions and engage in collective bargaining agreements, are infringed putting the workers at high risk and vulnerability to abuse and exploitation.

These problems are linked to and created by the capitalist economic system we have. It is imperative that reforms on the economic policies on employment are needed in order to ensure that the rights and welfare of every Filipino worker are well-recognized, protected and promoted. Given the problems mentioned above, Akbayan’s Security of Tenure Bill, an on-going legislative action aimed at redesigning policy on contractual employment and ensures the security of employees, should be immediately pushed by our legislators. Another necessary reform, in response to incessant price increase of fuel, is the removal of VAT on oil products and government intervention in the country’s oil industry to regulate oil pricing.

These labor issues, among others, are cross-sectoral issues affecting every Filipino as employment is essential to provide for the basic needs of every Filipino family. The fight against contractualization, for instance, is that of the youth as well. Vulnerability of young people to contractual work and unemployment is high. Youth unemployment rate in the country is at 17.6%, which is actually higher than the national average of 7.4 per cent. Based on 2011 Labor Force Survey, 1.42 million of the 2.81 million unemployed are young people between ages 15 – 24. With the scarcity of permanent jobs and increasing number of graduates the young people tend to apply for available jobs which are contractual, such as jobs in the service sector which accounted to 6.49 million of the employed youth last year.

Unemployment and underemployment of youth are often linked to the quality of education we have in our country. Aside from economic reforms, there are as well institutional reforms needed that will complement the political and economic reforms. Reforms in the education system of our country are necessary in order to provide accessible and good quality education which is geared towards total human development rather than being responsive only to the global labor demand. More so the government should create jobs which are not anchored to the demands of the global market but jobs that would complement economic development with human development.

Lest we forget the youth, being the future workforce of the country, plays an important role in the development, or underdevelopment, of our economy. Providing academic and decent employment opportunities to the youth are essential in ensuring a better workforce. On the other, the youth should take a progressive stance on these issues considering that we are the next generation of the workforce needed by our country. We should not allow these labor issues to perpetuate, we need to put an end to the oppression and violations of the rights of Filipino workers.

Akbayan Youth calls on the Filipino youth to be militant and be in solidarity with the Filipino workers in the demand for decent working conditions, where rights and welfare of every Filipino worker are recognized and protected, towards a better society. ###

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Media Officer: Sigrid Jan Sibug – 09157690439

AY National Spokesperson: JC Tejano – 09178360345

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