Saturday, May 06, 2006

Workers demand wage hike nationwide

By PDI Bureaus - Inquirer

THOUSANDS of workers across the country marched on Labor Day to demand wage increases in rallies that were generally peaceful.

The loudest cheers were heard in Davao City when Mayor Rodrigo Duterte announced that he had allotted P10 million as a bonus for City Hall workers.

“I understand your situation, especially during these times. I urge Congress to grant the workers’ salary demand for a wage and salary increase,” said Duterte at the rally attended by 1,000 workers at Rizal Park across from City Hall.

In Baguio City, about 100 workers found their ranks “invaded” by self-proclaimed teenage “anarchists” whose May 1 message contradicted the crusade that union workers had been asserting for centuries.

The spike-haired teenagers’ cause was “anti-work.” They argued that militant workers should fight to “free themselves from slave labor to win genuine freedom from capitalists.”

One worker reacted angrily to the teenagers, saying: “All forms of work are dignified, but we are fighting for higher wages to guarantee that this dignity of work continues. These children know nothing about real work.”

The youths were members of an underground punk music movement that had been protesting the Feb. 14 arrest of 11 teenagers who were linked to an alleged communist rebel raid on a military detachment in Benguet province.

They carried placards that said: “Tired of your work? Go anti-work.”

Other placards advised people to “love your life, not your work” and “work for your life, not for your boss.”

Cha-cha heckled

Negros Occidental Governor Joseph MaraƱon said in Bacolod City that business groups had agreed that those who could afford to should raise the wages of their workers to help cushion the effects of rising prices.

More than 4,000 workers attended rallies in the capital city of Negros Occidental province.

In Iloilo City, around 2,500 protesters assembled at a rally led by the militant groups Kilusang Mayo Uno and the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) at the Iloilo Rotary Amphitheater.

They heckled activists portraying President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez and dancing the “cha-cha” to show opposition to Charter change.

In Capiz province, around 800 protesters participated in a rally led by Bayan, Gabriela, Anakbayan and the Capiz Movement Against Arroyo’s Cha-cha at the Roxas City Bandstand.

In Aklan province, 300 protesters marched from Pastrana Park to Crossing Banga in the capital town of Kalibo.

More than 2,000 laborers joined separate rallies on Colon Street in Cebu City. The rallies were peaceful, except for a brief confrontation between the Partido ng Manggagawa and the KMU.

In Leyte province, more than 300 members of different militant organizations held a rally at the Old Bus Terminal on Rizal Avenue in Tacloban City.

Calabarzon protests

An estimated 12,000 workers from the highly industrialized Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon) staged protests in different parts of the region and demanded economic relief for workers instead of Charter change.

A caravan of close to 1,000 motorcycles and tricycles also joined the protest mobilizations in four sites.

Doris Cuario, secretary general of the human rights group Karapatan in Southern Tagalog, said at least 150 workers were prevented by police and military troops from marching toward a park in Antipolo City in Rizal province.

In Albay province, about 1,500 protesters from different multisectoral groups joined the rally. They started marching at 9 a.m. from the Ninoy Aquino Park in Daraga town to the Pinaglabanan monument in downtown Legazpi City.

Release Beltran

Beverly Quintillan, Bicol-Bayan Muna public information officer, said her group would like Anakpawis party-list Representative Crispin Beltran and five other militant congressmen facing rebellion charges to be freed.

The protesters also insisted on a P125 daily wage increase for workers in the private sector and a P3,000 across-the-board raise for government employees.

In Tabaco City, also in Albay, over 1,000 laborers of Tabaco Port Cargo Corp., the biggest labor organization in the city, marched in the downtown area.

In General Santos City, some 1,500 militants staged a rally pressing for a P125 increase in daily wages.

In Cagayan de Oro City, about 4,000 paraded in the streets. They came from as far as Bukidnon, Iligan City and other towns of Misamis Oriental province.

Muslims cry harassment

In Pagadian City, at least 700 protesters gathered at the plaza. In Cotabato City, angry Muslims accused lawmen of harassing them while they staged a rally.

In the City of San Fernando in Pampanga province, some 1,500 workers from the three biggest economic zones in Central Luzon demanded a minimum “living wage” of P600 daily.

The marchers belonged to several unions at the Bataan Economic Zone in Mariveles, Bataan; Subic Bay Freeport Zone in Zambales and the Clark Special Economic Zone in Pampanga where 100,000 workers are employed in mostly exporting companies.

Emily Fajardo, spokesperson of the Manggagawa sa Kalayaan ng Bayan (Makabayan), said the current daily minimum wage in the region, ranging from P178.50 to P228.50, should be raised threefold to meet the basic needs of families.

The National Economic and Development Authority pegged the cost of living at P600 daily, she said.

Subic Bay Freeport

In Olongapo City, some 500 members of the Makabayan in Zambales picketed at the gate of the Subic Bay Freeport to seek living wages.

Before they joined the rally, at least 120 garment workers from Clark were stopped for 30 minutes by police at Barangay Sindalan in San Fernando, according to their leader Emy Guevarra. Nestor P. Burgos Jr., Jolene R. Bulambot, Carla P. Gomez and Joey A. Gabieta, PDI Visayas Bureau; Delfin T. Mallari Jr., Job B. Belen and Michael B. Jaucian, PDI Southern Luzon Bureau; Rolando Pinsoy, Dennis Jay Santos, Judy Quiros, Aquiles Z. Zonio, Grace Cantal-Albasin, Jeoffrey Maitem and Michael Sarcauga, PDI Mindanao Bureau; Tonette Orejas, Central Luzon Desk; and Vincent Cabreza and Desiree Caluza, PDI Northern Luzon Bureau

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