May Day Disappointment leads to Mass Rallies in Manila

| Source: BusinessWorld Online
WORKERS WERE LEFT empty-handed on Labor Day, not even getting the non-wage benefits earlier promised by officials or the traditional May Day greeting from President Benigno S. C. Aquino III.

Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda said Mr. Aquino — who instead opted to rest and then campaign for administration bets in his hometown of Tarlac — already expressed his sentiments during Tuesday’s dialogue with labor leaders.

As militant groups staged protests, Mr. Lacierda said the government was not ignoring worker concerns, claiming that the president had ordered further studies on issues such as taxes, cheaper electricity and labor law enforcement.

During the Tuesday dialogue, Mr. Aquino rejected calls for the certification of security of tenure bills and tax breaks, claiming the need to balance investor and labor interests. He also indicated that workers needed to contribute more, proposing higher social security deductions.

Alan A. Tanjusay, advocacy officer of the moderate Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP), yesterday reiterated the criticism that Mr. Aquino was disregarding the labor sector.

“The president did not even give the non-wage benefits that they (government officials) were saying earlier. We did not get anything concrete from him,” Mr. Tanjusay said.

He also said the lack of a May Day message was striking.

“It goes to show he (Mr. Aquino) is out of touch and insensitive and that labor concerns are not his priority,” he said.

“Labor Day is supposed to be a day to honor the workers’ contribution to the development of the country. We did not see that even in his speech yesterday (Tuesday).”

Mr. Lacierda, however, said the Palace, upon the Labor department’s suggestion, had decided to move Mr. Aquino’s Labor Day activities to April 30 “so as not to crowd the labor group activities for May 1.”

In Manila, mass rallies were held in Mendiola near Malacañang while the Labor department staged job fairs. Mr. Aquino did not attend any of the government-sponsored activities.

The militant Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), which was not included in the Tuesday dialogue, also criticized the president as being anti-labor.

The KMU is calling for a legislated wage increase while the TUCP recently filed for an P85 per day adjustment in Metro Manila minimum wages. Unlike in 2012 when Mr. Aquino called on regional tripartite boards to act on petitions for increases, he has said little this year on the issue of wage hikes.