Wed, May 02, 2018 - Page 5 News List

Philippine workers protest contracts

‘HISTORIC UNITY’:Rodrigo Duterte achieved what other leaders failed to do in 30 years and united fragmented labor groups, Bayan movement leader Renato Reyes said

Reuters, MANILA

Protesters pull a giant effigy of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte as they march toward Malacanang Palace at the International Workers’ Day rally in Manila yesterday.

Photo: AFP

Thousands of Philippine workers and activists yesterday marched in the International Workers’ Day rally in Manila to protest against what they said was Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s failure to keep a campaign promise to get rid of short-term employment contracts.

There were no reports of violence, but the presidential palace complex was locked down, initially denying journalists’ access as protesters burned Duterte’s effigy with a sign “Liar King” several hundred meters outside.

A pledge to act against employers who hire workers short-term and without adequate benefits helped Duterte, a former city mayor, win the presidency in May 2016.

Shortly after assuming power, Duterte said that any company that failed to stop hiring short-term labor risked closure.

However, trade unions have said the practice has persisted, particularly in shopping malls and the fast-food industry.

Renato Reyes, a leader of the left-wing Bayan (Nation) movement, said Duterte had done what other leaders had failed to do in 30 years — unite fragmented labor groups.

“The historic unity of the working class is the direct result of the failure of the regime to bring an end to contractualization, a major campaign promise of the president,” Reyes said in a statement. “For two years, the executive dribbled the ball, only to pass it to Congress at the last minute.”

Police estimated up to 10,000 people, waving flags and carrying banners, took part in the march.

In central Cebu, Duterte asked the Philippines Congress to pass a law amending the “outdated” labor code “to keep it attuned to the realities of our time.”

“I remain firm in my commitment to put an end to ‘ENDO’ and illegal contractualization,” Duterte said, referring to commonly used term of “end of contract” among minimum wage earners.

“A mere executive order is not enough. I cannot be a legislator. It is not allowed, but I can only implement,” he said.

He signed an executive order prohibiting illegal contracting or sub-contracting, and asked the Philippine Department of Labor and Employment to submit a list of companies “engaged in or suspected to be engaged in labor-only contraction.

There were also protests in other key cities outside the capital as workers’ groups demanded higher wages and improved working conditions, including for millions of migrant workers abroad.

Last month, the department ordered fast-food chain Jollibee Foods Corp to regularize more than 6,000 workers by making them permanent.

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