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Workers’ call for better protection, adequate relief amidst pandemic and stop to rights abuses!

Updated: May 1, 2021

Philippines’ Labor Day celebration is traced back to the mobilization of thousands of workers on May 1, 1903 led by the Union Obrera Democratica de Filipinas in Plaza Moriones, Tondo. The group marched to Malacanang asserting Philippine independence from American imperialism. Worldwide, May Day is over a century old commemoration of workers who led international demonstrations in 1880 fighting for the working class.

Workers sector led by progressive labor groups in the Philippines have long fought for just demands, protection and compensation. Their resolve to uphold workers rights and welfare remains steadfast amidst the pandemic, continued neglect of the Duterte regime and the worsening human rights abuses in the Philippines.

The situation of Filipino migrant workers in Canada is far from “greener”. Throughout the pandemic, thousands of migrant workers including Filipinos continue to be deprived of labour protections, access to paid sick days, and subjected to racism, discrimination.

The outbreaks at two Alberta meat plants (Cargill and JBS), where a high percentage of the workforce are temporary foreign workers, were blamed on the workers for carpooling, crowded housing, and resulted to racism and discrimination. The government prioritized continued operation of the profitable meat plant companies above the safety of workers.

Up to now, many low-income workers including migrant workers and farm laborers, lack access to paid sick leave and are forced to go to work despite having symptoms because they worry about their rent, groceries, send money back home, or afraid to lose their jobs. Most lack the most basic rights to even qualify for the federal government’s Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit, which has been criticized as temporary and very restrictive.

A short term permanent residency program for essential workers that excludes most migrants has been launched by the federal government. Labor critics stated families will remain separated and the threat of deportations remains a living nightmare for the sector.

In the Philippines, in response to the measly government subsidy during the pandemic, community groups, progressive organizations and individuals took the initiative in putting up community pantries all over the country to deliver food and basic necessities to those who need it most.

Borrowing from the Marxist slogan “To each according to his needs, from each according to his contribution”, community pantry organizers asked for donations and the response was overwhelming. People from all walks of life contributed whatever they could and took only whatever they needed to tide them over to the next day.

With the number of Covid-19 cases breaching the 1 M mark and the vaccination program delayed and at a snail’s pace, millions of workers, farmworkers and urban poor have lost their income due to the militaristic lockdown imposed by the government for over a year now.

Malicious red-tagging by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF ELCAC) has resulted to numerous activists killed and illegally arrested – two were labor leaders, Dandy Miguel and Manny Asuncion. The workers sector along with many progressive groups are demanding to abolish and defund the NTF-ELCAC’s 19.5B 2021 budget and re-align this to be distributed to affected families.

The Makabayan Bloc in the House of Representative filed House Bill 9262 seeking for the national government to hand out a daily 100Php daily wage subsidy to workers and cash aid in the amount of 10,000 to 15,000Php to families who have no income. The bill aims to re-align the 19.5B NTF-ELCAC budget for this initiative.

The bill also asks the government to source out additional funds from the unreleased and unobligated funds from 2020 and 2021 national budgets of the Department of Social Welfare and Development and from the contingent funds of the 2021 national budget.

Instead of heeding the growing clamor for subsidy, the government let loose its attack dogs in the NTF-ELCAC in the person of Gen. Parlade and Undersecretary Badoy-Tarrosa to discredit the #Community Pantry by maliciously red-tagging, demonizing and linking the initiative to the CPP/NPA/NDF.

The red-tagging spree of Parlade and Badoy-Tarrosa boomeranged as the clamor for the defunding and re-aligning of the Task Force’s budget grew louder and stronger, forcing the government to issue a gag order on both and ordered the PNP to set up copycat community pantries and “plant civilians so as to manifest community appreciations” and take pictures and post in the PNP’s respective social media accounts.

This Labor Day, voices from thousands of workers are united demanding the Filipino workers demand for just work, adequate subsidy, better government service and ouster of Duterte.

We amplify the call to stop red-tagging and attacks on worker’s unions and labor leaders, progressive groups, investigate and bring justice to victims of extra-judicial killings and abolishment of the destructive NTF-ELCAC long overdue.

Fight for just living wage, better subsidy and job security! Justice for victims of extra-judicial killings and illegal arrests! Oust Duterte’s tyrannical and fascist regime!

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