THOUSANDS of trade unionists and activists poured into the streets of Manila and other key cities to celebrate May Day amid renewed hopes that the two latest efforts at labor unity will provide strong impetus to their uphill battle for labor and trade union rights.
At least 5,000 affiliates of the Sentro ng mga Progresibong Manggagawa (Sentro), a newly organized labor center, joined a more massive march and rally in Manila of the recently launched Nagkaisa! labor coalition.
From five converging places along España Blvd., about 20,000 Nagkaisa! members linked up and marched towards Mendiola, near the Malacañang Palace, for an unprecedented unity calling for an end to rampant contractualization, enactment of the Security of Tenure bill in the Congress, across-the-board wage hike, among others.
Similar Sentro and Nagkaisa! mobilizations were simultaneously held in main cities or provinces nationwide, including Lipa, Pampanga, Baguio, Legaspi, Cebu, Iloilo, Davao, Cagayan de Oro, General Santos, and Cotobato.
“Labor unity, however elusive is not totally impossible; but it must be actively pursued and nurtured because a fragmented and weak labor movement can never effectively defend and advance the interests of the workers and the masses, especially at this time of relentless global attacks from the neoliberal clique,” Frank Mero, SENTRO spokesperson said.
“The ‘Labor Unity March’ is a signal that the majority of the mainstream trade unions and other workers’ organizations are ready to take on the policies issues that have been ignored by governments for a long time,” Mero said.
Both SENTRO and NAGKAISA are calling on the Aquino government to: address the worsening precarious work in the country and certify as urgent the passage of security of tenure bill for the private sector (HB 4853) and for the public sector (SB 2875) that is now pending in Congress; support the workers’ demand for across the board wage increases for both the public and private sectors; address the failures of market-oriented policies in public utilities by scraping the EPIRA law and the Oil Deregulation law; prevent the violent demolitions of informal settlers by issuing an Executive Order that would stop the demolition of informal settlers and fast track the development of decent and adequate housing for the poor; provide solid guarantees for workers’ right to self-organization; and, protect and generate secure and decent jobs for all.
Launched only on April 12, Sentro is a national labor center composed of unions and federations in different industries and their subsectors – metal, including automotive, hotel and hospitality, postal, banking, broadcast media, food and beverages, seafaring – as well as the public sector and sectoral groupings of informal sector and urban poor, women, and youth.
Sentro is a member of the broad labor coalition aptly named Nagkaisa! (or united) that was also established last month and comprised by about 40 major trade unions and federations in the country.
Described as an issue-based, multiform and multi-ideological labor alliance, Nagkaisa! is nonetheless a breakthrough in the Philippine labor front as the last time a comparable coalition existed was in 1989 – the Labor Alliance for Wage Increase of P35 (Lawin 35).
The Sentro affiliates are the Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL), APL-Youth, Federation of Coca-Cola Unions (FCCU), Kapisanan ng Maralitang Obrero (KAMAO), League of Independent Bank Organizations (LIBO), MARINO seafarers’ group, National Alliance of Broadcast Unions (NABU), National Confederation of Transportworkers’ Unions (NCTU), National Union of Workers in Hotel, Restaurant and Allied Industries (NUWHRAIN), Philippine Independent Public Sector Employees Association (PIPSEA), Philippine Metalworkers’ Alliance (PMA), Pinag-isang Tinig at Lakas ng Anakpawis (PIGLAS), Postal Employees Union of the Philippines (PEUP), and Workers’ Solidarity Network (WSN).
On the other hand, the roster of the Nagkaisa! include the Alliance of Filipino Workers (AFW), affiliates of the Associated Labor Unions-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (ALU-TUCP), members of SENTRO, Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP), Confederation of Independent Unions in the Public Sector (CIU), Federation of Free Workers (FFW), Manggagawa para sa Kalayaan ng Bayan (MAKABAYAN), National Federation of Labor Unions (NAFLU), National Mines and Allied Workers’ Union (NAMAWU), National Confederation of Labor (NCL), Philippine Airlines Employees Association (PALEA), Philippine Government Employees Association (PGEA), Partido ng Manggagawa (PM), Public Services Labor Independent Confederation (PSLINK), Philippine Transport and General Workers Organization (PTGWO), Technical Education and Skills Development Authority-Association of Concerned Employees (TESDA-ACE).