Denounce our oppression, affirm our calls

January 11, 2015

All Workers' Unity welcomes Pope Francis in the Philippines.

All Workers’ Unity welcomes Pope Francis in the Philippines. Image from All Workers’ Unity

An Open Letter to Pope Francis from All Workers’ Unity

Warm greetings! We are All Workers’ Unity, a broad network of private- and public-sector workers and employees in the Philippines. We count among our members some of the biggest and most progressive organizations of workers and employees in the country. We come together united in our calls for the enactment of National Minimum Wage in the amount of P16,000 monthly and the banning of contractual employment.

First of all, we would like to thank you for speaking out against the huge inequality in the world, the enormous and still growing wealth and power of the few, and the worsening impoverishment of the poor, including the workers. We thank you for speaking up in favor of compassion towards the poor, taking action against poverty, workers’ rights especially the right to form unions, and the need for decent work.

These statements of yours are most welcome in a time of intensifying neoliberal attacks against Filipino workers by big foreign and domestic capitalists in cahoots with the government of Pres. Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino III. Your statements have prodded us to write you, hopeful that you will pay attention to the worsening plight of Filipino workers and lend your most precious support to our most pressing calls.

Wages in the Philippines are very far from living wage levels. The government has discontinued its research on what it calls a “Family Living Wage,” displaying a lack of commitment to achieving living wages for workers. An independent think-tank which continued the research states that the FLW in the country stands at P1,086 (US$ 25) a day last August 2014, a far cry from the P466 (US$ 11) minimum wage in Metro Manila.

There is practically no minimum wage in the Philippines, as there are now more than 1,000 wage levels across the country according to the government itself. The meager minimum wage levels set by the law are being openly violated, and almost 50 per cent of workers are not receiving the minimum wage. Various schemes have been invented by big capitalists and the government to undermine and attack the minimum wage.

The government brags about the P466 (US$ 11) minimum wage in the Metro Manila region, the highest in the country, to try to make it appear that Philippine wages are comparable with those in other countries. The truth is that for most regions, minimum wage levels are no more than P300 (US$ 7). And even the Metro Manila minimum wage is only 42 per cent of the minimum amount needed daily by a family to live decently.

The exploitation of workers has been made worse in recent decades by contractual employment. Contractual workers now comprise the majority of Filipino workers. They often get wages less than those given to regulars and less than the legally-mandated minimum wage. They are often denied benefits. They can be easily removed from work, and are hindered from exercising their rights to form unions and assert their rights.

The biggest foreign and local capitalists in the country employ the most number of contractual workers. The government, the single biggest employer in the Philippines, is supposed to protect workers’ rights but has also contractualized the majority of its work force. It has approved and implemented various policies that legalize contractual employment, despite its promise of working for the regularization of contractuals.

We ask you, Your Eminence, to lend your voice in condemning the situation of Filipino workers, especially during your visit to the Philippines. We ask you to speak in favor of a genuine national minimum wage, one that is geared to achieving a living wage, and of job security and regular employment. We ask you to continue speaking up in favor of workers against the abuses and attacks of big capitalists aided by various governments.

We hope that your visit to the Philippines will pave the way for stronger ties and cooperation between the Philippine labor movement and the Catholic Church in defending and advancing workers’ rights to a living wage, job security, and trade-union rights. May the hope that your visit has inspired in all of us be sustained by stronger unity in struggling for workers’ rights and dignity in the Philippines and the world.

Thank you.

All Workers’ Unity
Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) | Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (COURAGE) | Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) | Alliance of Health Workers (AHW) | Water System Employees Response (WATER) | League of Local Government Employees (LEAGUE) | Judiciary Employees Association (JUDEA) | National Federation of Employees Associations of the Department of Agriculture (NAFEDA)