By Jinky Jorgio
A labor group warned that there will be much more similar cases of Alchie Paray if reforms are not legislated and implemented regarding employer-employee relations. Paray, a former security guard, took several Virra Mall employees as hostage after he was allegedly dismissed from his job without due process. He denied the offered money to him by his security agency in exchange for the hostages and opted instead to be given the chance to be heard by media.
The Bukuran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP) said without a complete reversal of the administration’s policies of starvation wages, contractual employment, general disregard for labor standards, and infringement to the workers’ right to seek redress of legitimate grievances, Filipino workers would be driven to desperate means to alleviate, or merely amplify their plight as in the case of Paray.
“Millions of workers are on the tipping point. The daily grind for measly pay is no longer secure because of the prevalence of contractual employment. On a whim by abusive employers, contractual workers and their families are easily pushed to the brink of hunger and death through the termination of their employment contracts. If one wants to see the level of desperation among Filipino workers, a simple interview of aggrieved workers at the labor courts and mediation boards would provide a shocking revelation,” said BMP chair Leody de Guzman.
“Would the president and his supermajority in Congress want more workers to do a Paray, so they would review and reverse their stand to employment malpractices?” De Guzman asked.
The labor leader challenged the administration to take a hard look at the unfortunate events and what led Paray to take drastic measures. He warned that unjust policies and other social realities will enable more Parays to follow suit.
During the campaign period President Duterte promised to stop the practice of contractualization and abolish the regional wage boards and work towards a new wage determination mechanism for the entire country.
Challenging economy provides backdraft for more abuses
The BMP stressed that employer abuse to labor rights and standards, with the threat of unemployment as their blackmail line, would be heightened in the coming months as the world economy stands of shaky grounds due to the global spread of the COVID-19 virus.
De Guzman emphasized, “The decade of growth in the financial markets after the 2008 global financial crisis, particularly in US stocks, has ended. Only time will tell if it would soon develop into a slowdown or a crash that is akin to the 1929 Depression or the 2008 global financial crisis. The corona virus is slowing down the global value chains. Lucio Tan and Philippine Airlines are now using the crisis to further reduce their workforce as it attempt to replace regular workers with cheap and docile contractual and subcontracted employees”.
“If the Duterte regime fails to call out these practices by employers, then the outspoken Paray will have his counterparts in all other industries and establishements. But this time, the millions of underpaid contractual workers will amplify their voice through unity and solidarity and in actions that are as spontaneous, bold, catalyzing, polarizing as the hostage taking by Paray,” he warned.
De Guzman says that the ball is now in the court of the administration. “The choice is his to make. Give us reform for labor protectionism or we will give you revolution”. In response to more abuse by capital against labor due to the vulnerabilities in the global economy, the BMP is demanding the following reforms under slogan for “Proteksyon sa Paggawa”: a) unemployment insurance, b) the abolition of all forms of contractual employment, c) the end to trade union repression, d) a reduction to a six-hour working day without loss in pay, thereby creating another shift for firms that operate for 24-hours in order to facilitate more employment.