By All Workers’ Unity
“Let’s say together with our heart: no worker without rights, no person without dignified labor.” – Pope Francis
Just a few days before his arrival in the country, workers from both the private and public sectors called on Pope Francis to stand with them in pushing for the implementation of a national minimum wage and the banning of contractual employment in the country.
At a press conference in Quezon City, leaders belonging to broad campaign network All Workers’ Unity said they are hopeful that the Pope, who has made many statements in favor of workers’ rights and decent work, would heed their call.
“All Workers’ Unity warmly welcomes Pope Francis to the Philippines. We are hopeful that he will again speak up for workers’ rights during his stay in the country,” said Roger Soluta, secretary-general of national labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno or KMU.
The campaign network presented their open letter to the Pope entitled “Denounce our Oppression, Affirm our Calls” where it underscored how the lack of a living wage and a minimum wage and how contractual employment violate workers’ rights and trample on workers’ dignity.
“Your Eminence, Filipino workers and employees are under attack from big foreign and local capitalists and corrupt politicians. Your statement and support would be of great help for us,” said Ferdie Gaite, national president of the state employees’ national center Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees or COURAGE.
In the open letter, All Workers’ Unity said the highest minimum wage in the country, the P466 (US$ 11) in Metro Manila, is only 42 per cent of the P1,086 (US$ 25) Family Living Wage, or the amount needed daily by an average family to live decently.
“Pope Francis, the educators of the youth in the Philippines are overworked, underpaid and increasingly under precarious employment. Help us advance our rights which previous governments have removed even in our textbooks,” said France Castro, secretary-general of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers or ACT.
The campaign network, which also unveiled a mural depicting workers’ unity at the press conference, told the Pope in its letter that most workers in the country are now contractuals, including those of the government, which is supposed to uphold workers’ rights.
“Like most workers in the country, health workers are afflicted with low wages and contractual employment. We are calling on Pope Francis to stand with us as we struggle for decent work and workers’ rights,” said Jossel Ebesate, chairperson of the Alliance of Health Workers or AHW.
“The government brags about Metro Manila’s P466 (US$ 11) minimum wage in trying to show that wages in the country are comparable with those in other countries. The truth is that minimum wage levels in most regions in the country do not exceed P300 (US$ 7),” said Gloria Bongon, spokesperson of KMU-National Capital Region.
References: Elmer “Bong” Labog, KMU chairperson, 0908-1636597 | Ferdie Gaite, COURAGE national president, 0920-8515163 | France Castro, ACT secretary-general, 0920-4166441 | Jossel Ebesate, AHW chairperson, 0918-9276381 | Gloria Bongon, KMU-NCR spokesperson, 0933-1819880