For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and,
“The laborer deserves his wages.”
1 Timothy 5:18, NIV
The National Council of Churches in the Philippines joins the world in celebrating and commemorating Labor Day on May 1. To this day, we continue to struggle for the rights and dignity of workers all over the globe as we recognize their collective power and historical contribution to creating wealth for the people and society even amidst the rising rights violations and repression. Historically, their collective assertion and action paved the way for many substantial achievements that led to better and more humane conditions for the people such as the eight-hour workday and reducing inequality in the workforce.
However, our workers remain to be one of the most exploited and vulnerable sectors in our society. There is rampant poverty and the average nominal minimum wage nationwide of just Php 8,902 monthly is barely enough for a worker and their family’s survival, way below the average monthly family living wage of Php14,885.1 Contractualization and “endo” is prevalent and most workers do not have hazard pay and insurance.
Over the years, repression among workers who are exercising their right to organize and form unions to collectively demand higher wages and better working conditions has dramatically increased. Crackdowns, red-tagging, and even killings of trade unionists have become prevalent, especially during the pandemic. The Philippines is ranked poorly in its TU Rights Index, indicating the country as one of the 10 worst countries for workers to live in.2
Some 56 workers and unionists were killed under former President Rodrigo Duterte, while some 30 unions all over the country have been red-tagged, and many of its leaders were harassed and accused of being part of fronts of “communists-terrorist groups”.3 These repressions continue unabated, especially after the passage of the Anti-terrorism Law and with the aid of the NTF ELCAC, which maliciously labels and accuses activists and labor leaders as “communist terrorist fronts”. Killings and rights violations continue under the government of Pres. Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., BPO union organizer, Alex Dolorosa from Bacolod was recently murdered.
This Labor Day, as we pay tribute to the working class, let us continue to call for the government to respect and uphold the rights of our workers. Let us collectively raise our voices to shout: “Sahod Itaas, Presyo Ibaba!” to amplify our demand to the government of President Marcos Jr. for a just and living wage by institutionalizing a nationwide wage hike. As the Bible says, the laborer deserves his wages. Let us also call for a stop to workers repression and to repeal laws that impede on their rights like the Anti-Terrorism Law and to abolish the NTF-ELCAC.
1 May 2023
REV. FELIPE B. EHICAN, JR.
RT. REV. JOEL O. PORLARES
DR. GAY B. MANODON
MA. KAY CATHRINE F. ALMARIO
MS. MINNIE ANNE M. CALUB
Acting General Secretary
1Ibon Foundation, Inc.
2According to the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), the Philippines is one of the top 10 worst countries for workers for sixth straight year, https://www.bworldonline.com/infographics/2022/06/29/458068/philippines-one-of-the-top-10-worst-countries-for-workers-for-sixth-straight-year/
3According to the Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR), https://maritimefairtrade.org/ilo-investigates-killings-of-workers-in-the-philippines/