By Juan Manggagawa, Partido Ng Manggagawa (Labor Party Philippines)
May Day this year was commemorated around the world in mass protests if not by general strikes. May 1st was a day to express the resistance of the 99% to the greed of the 1%. The convergence of the youth-led Occupy movement with the traditional labor movement will radicalize and strengthen both. In the US, the Occupy movement called for a general strike, meaning “no work, no school, no shopping, no banking, and no trading.” The call reverberated in hundreds of cities across the globe and a worldwide disruption of the status quo was the agenda.
The struggle of the Philippine Airlines Employees’ Association, or PALEA, against outsourcing and contractualization is part of the global rebellion of the 99% against the 1%. In the midst of such life-and-death battles for workers' welfare and rights, the unity in action of the newly-formed coalition in the Philippines called Nagkaisa (United) will be tested and forged.
Nagkaisa led a 20,000-strong May Day mobilization that filled the streets leading to the Philippines presidential palace and obliged President Benigno Aquino III to respond to the demands presented by the labor leaders. Aquino, however, gave no commitments nor concessions. Labor unity was enough to compel the government to listen to workers’ concerns. Workers’ struggles will be necessary to force the state to accede to labor’s demands.
In the Philippines as elsewhere, the state is captive to a defective economic model known as neoliberal globalization which sacrifices workers needs to the interests of foreign investors and local capitalists. The regime of suppression of workers wages and labor rights for the sake of an illusory development anchored on foreign investments and global competitiveness continues unabated.
This is confirmed by the International Labour Organization's (ILO) Global Wage Report 2010/2011, which notes that workers in the Philippines are among the lowest paid in the world and wages are falling still. Low wages particularly afflict women workers and even those with high educational attainment. But we really do not need the ILO to confirm the bitter reality felt by workers in the Philippines and elsewhere—low wages, few benefits, contractual jobs, mass unemployment and repression of unions as a result of the race to the bottom in wages and working conditions.
It is not in competition but in solidarity that workers will change the world. As is being learned first-hand by workers in the fight against outsourcing in Philippine Airlines and others, international workers solidarity is a key link in winning struggles. Workers unite!