Monday, March 23, 2015

BPO’s asked to provide work-life balance for women workers

Press Release
March 23, 2015
Inter-Call Center Association of Workers (ICCAW)

With women’s month about to end, the Inter-Call Center Association of Workers (ICCAW) called on the BPO industry to provide “women-friendly benefits in furtherance of work-life balance.” Rhejay Eusebio, ICCAW-NCR spokesperson, asserted that “BPO jobs are characterized by monotonous tasks, intense work and strict metrics. The competitive culture promoted in the BPO industry has led to work-life imbalance. This imbalance disproportionately impacts women employees who are breadwinners and with children.”

Specifically the group is asking BPO companies to provide child care facilities where employees can leave their children while at work. Also ICCAW is demanding that the industry take the lead in providing 120 days of pregnancy leave for women workers.

“My personal experience as a BPO worker for several years shows how family life is frequently sacrificed at the altar of work productivity,” Eusebio elaborated. She has a pending case at the National Labor Relations Commission for illegal dismissal. Eusebio is alleging she was fired without valid cause and due process after taking an emergency leave to take care of her sick daughter.

She insisted that “For sure, BPO companies will argue that these are costly benefits to provide. Yet BPO’s can very well afford these measures since it is a dollar-earning industry. BPO’s do not deserve to be called a sunshine industry if it cannot provide for above-average working conditions and labor standards.”

The BPO industry earns around USD 20 billion or almost PhP 1 trillion in revenues. Also it is estimated that there are more than a million BPO workers in the country. A survey in 2010 by the Bureau of Labor and Employment Statistics found that some 54% of BPO workers are women. “I believe that many of these women BPO workers are either breadwinners for their families or with children to take care of. Thus women-friendly benefits are an imperative for the BPO industry,” Eusebio emphasized.

ICCAW was founded in Cebu in late 2012 as a result of the fight of workers of Direct Access, a call center that unceremoniously shutdown leaving its 600 employees without jobs and with unpaid wages and benefits. It has since then expanded its membership nationwide even as it sits as the labor representative in the Cebu City tripartite body on the ICT industry.

ICCAW seeks to be an industry-wide organization for employees in the call center and business process outsourcing sector (BPO), and be a voice for industry workers’ concerns, grievances, demands and interests. Among ICCAW’s platform is the call for industry-wide standards for wages, benefits and entitlements that must be well above the minimum mandated by law and commensurate to the profitable dollar-earning nature of the call center industry.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

P15 wage hike is loose change that can’t cover MRT fare hike—labor group

Press Release
March 19, 2015

The militant Partido Manggagawa belittled the minimum wage hike for workers in the National Capital Region (NCR) as “loose change that cannot even cover the fare hike for MRT and LRT.” The NCR Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board announced a P15 pay increase for some 600,000 minimum wage earners in NCR.

Renato Magtubo, PM national chair, asserted that “How can inclusive growth be true and of what use is the Philippine economy being the star performer in Asia, when all that workers can receive as their added share in the fruits of their labor is a measly P15? With MRT fares increased from P15 to P28, a minimum wage earner riding to and from work is worse off than before even with the wage hike. And electricity bills are due to balloon in the coming days.”

Magtubo cited a study which reveals that 70% of MRT and LRT riders are people who earn less than the minimum wage. He said that he expected labor groups attending a meeting tomorrow of the Tripartite Executive Committee of the National Tripartite Industrial Peace Council to register their negative sentiments on the measly pay increase.

“With their sorry track record of propping up the cheap labor policy, the regional wage boards deserve to be abolished,” Magtubo declared. PM is advocating the abolition of the wage boards and its replacement by a National Wage Commission. The mandate of the Wage Commission will be to fix wages based on the single criterion of cost of living.

“Despite the huge gap between the present minimum wage and the current cost of living, the Wage Commission can achieve equalizing the two by a host of mechanisms among which are direct wage increases, tax exemptions, price discounts at social security subsidies for workers,” Magtubo explained.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Government, private power to blame for expensive and unreliable power

18 March 2015
There is no principle of chain of command in the privatized and deregulated power industry yet President Aquino, acting as the country’s Chief Executive, should be blamed for his failure to address the country's decade-old problem of escalating rates and diminishing supply.
The labor group, Partido Manggagawa (PM), expressed this indignation in reaction to the impending spikes in power rates beginning this month due to the shutdown of the Malampaya gas platform,  the expected forced outages (FO) during summer, and the implementation of a palliative yet costly emergency measure called the Interruptible Load Program.
“We could have evaded the recurrence of another power crisis had the Aquino government, upon assumption to power in 2010, formulated a ‘war plan’ to address the twin crisis of high cost of power and energy security,” said PM spokesman Wilson Fortaleza.
Fortaleza noted that as early as 2011, the 19th Status Report on EPIRA Implementation already raised the red flag signaling the recurrence of energy crisis as the private sector failed to install additional capacity to the national grid.
Also as early as 2008, Fortaleza added, the Joint Congressional Power Committee (JPCP) then headed by Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago has declared EPIRA as a failure.  All Congressional hearings on this issue up to this time has also led to the same conclusion.  Yet the response is ‘business as usual’.
Fortaleza added that labor groups under the Nagkaisa coalition has been pressing the Aquino government to address the crisis of high cost of power by removing the indexation of natural gas to international oil and geothermal steam to international coal; the scrapping of Performance Based Rate methodology; removal of power from VAT coverage; and reforming the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC), among others.
“The crisis of escalating rates and unreliable supply is a lingering crisis that needed a battle plan where consumers will see themselves as winners.  What the government has on hand, however, is an old menu where consumers, whom the Chief Executive declared as his bosses, were treated as foot soldiers assigned to do the ultimate sacrifice,” said Fortaleza.
The implementation of the Interruptible Load Program (ILP) to address the power emergency is a clear manifestation on how consumers are being penalized by assuming the responsibility of footing the bill of expensive ILP power.
Fortaleza said that under ILP guidelines, the incremental cost of de-loading from the system during red alerts shall be borne by consumers.  This is to incentivize industries with embedded generators to participate in the program.  The incremental cost has already been pre-determined such as the fuel rate and maintenance cost.
“The ILP is merely a demand-side management strategy. It doesn’t solve the power crisis.  But why are consumers going to be penalized even temporarily when Henry Sy switch on his generator for own use?” lamented Fortaleza.
Fortaleza argued that poor families who use kerosene for light and cooking do not get subsidy from government, so why subsidize ILP players when their generators are for own use to run their business that earns profit even during crises?
He added that it is the ILP players who should bear the sacrifice since they have the capacity and the wealth to burn during crises.  The ILP players, he added, are also the big players in the power industry such as Henry Sy (NGCP), John Gokongwei (Meralco), and the Ayalas and Aboitizes, to name a few.
“They are the richest Filipinos in the latest list of Forbes Magazine. They have a combined net worth of $73 billion and one of the sources of their fortunes is the country’s very lucrative power industry,” concluded Fortaleza.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Over firing and suspension of union members: Workers of Korean-owned factory in Cavite restive anew

Workers strike at Tae Sung last February
Press Release
March 17, 2015

Workers of a Korean-owned metal factory in the Cavite economic zone, the biggest in the country, are restive once more because of a series of dismissals and suspensions of union members. The Tae Sung Employees Association, the labor union at Tae Sung Philippines Co. Inc., filed a notice of strike last Friday as it alleged unfair labor practices of the management.

In the three weeks since the settlement of a previous strike by the Tae Sung union, management has dismissed two union members and suspended six more, including one union officer. The Tae Sung union is alleging that the terminations and suspensions of active unionists are retaliatory acts and thus a violation of a settlement agreement that no such actions should be undertaken.

The National Conciliation and Mediation Board of Region IV-A has called for a meeting tomorrow between union and management in a bid to settle the new labor dispute. Just last February the Tae Sung workers launched a two-day strike over a deadlock in collective bargaining negotiations that has lasted for six months without an agreement between the union and management. The strike was settled with workers winning a wage hike and added benefits.

The Tae Sung union is citing the case of three workers in the spray department who were all charged with a case for eating in the production area. Two of them, who are active union members, were fired as a result but the third worker, who scabbed during the February strike, was given a “slap in the wrist” of just a five-day suspension.

The union is arguing that minor infractions by workers have been meted the maximum of 30-day suspensions thus constituting discriminatory acts. A 30-day long suspension means the loss of a month’s wage for the concerned workers.

Further, the union is complaining that management has delayed by a month the signing of the collective bargaining agreement even though the settlement provided it shall be finished in just one week.

The Partido Manggagawa warned of protests to support the embattled Tae Sung workers in case there is no breakthrough in the mediation meeting tomorrow. The union is also planning to hold a strike vote among its members.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Militants win PALEA elections anew

Press Release
February 28, 2015

Militants again won the elections for leadership of the Philippine Airlines Employees Association (PALEA), the union for ground crew of the national flag carrier. Since 2010, PALEA has been locked in a bitter dispute with Philippine Airlines (PAL) over outsourcing and contractualization. After more than two years in the picketlines, PALEA settled the dispute with PAL in November 2013.

A slate led by Gerry Rivera, incumbent PALEA president and vice chair of Partido Manggagawa (PM), won all the top executive positions and most of the union board officers in elections held over several days this week at PAL offices nationwide. They won on a platform of pushing for negotiations for a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) and the full implementation of the settlement agreement.

After handily winning the PALEA elections, the Rivera-led leadership is extending the hand of cooperation to all groups in the union. “We appeal to all PALEA members, including candidates for the elections, to move forward and unite for our common interests as PAL employees. Its time to leave partisan politics behind and respect the will of the majority as the union faces the challenge of securing a pay hike, other benefits and job security,” Rivera stated.

He also called on management to work with PALEA in attaining the industrial peace needed in PAL’s corporate plans. “PALEA is more than willing to ensure industrial peace based on respect for labor rights and decent work, as we have formally communicated to PAL President and COO Jaime Bautista,” Rivera explained.

After the buyback by the Lucio Tan group of PAL, PALEA wrote the new management in December last year about reopening talks for a CBA and realizing the reinstatement provision of the settlement agreement.

Rivera elaborated that “Wages for PAL employees have not been increased over the past 17 years except for a few times because there have been no new bargaining negotiations since the controversial 1998 CBA suspension. After we took leadership of PALEA in 2010 we immediately proposed a new CBA but talks got stalled over PAL’s insistence that it should cover only employees that will not be outsourced. But with the resolution of the outsourcing dispute, it is high time to put the CBA negotiations back on the agenda, together with the reinstatement of the PALEA 600.”

PALEA 600 refers to the approximate number of members who opposed the outsourcing plan in 2011 and were covered by the settlement agreement in 2013. Some 2,400 PAL employees were laid off in September 2011 as a result of outsourcing but many were forced to take the separation offer over the course of the protracted dispute.