Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Labor Coalition Nagkaisa Chides PNoy: Hindi Tuwid, Hindi Tama, Hindi Makatuwiran Kapag Pag-unlad ay Para sa Iilan Lamang!

Labor coalition Nagkaisa chided President Benigno Simeon Aquino III
for continuing to dishonor workers on Labor day by failing to respond
to important issues raised by labor representatives during the
non-ceremonial pre-labor day dialogue in Malacanang the other day.

"President Aquino continues to ignore for four years the issues which
we believe would help impact the plight of the working people. Workers
are feeling deprived of the benefits due them despite of their great
contribution to improving economy," the Nagkaisa said in a statement.

"Since assuming presidency in 2010, Mr. Aquino is always being
remembered by workers in every Labor day memorial as a leader who has
abandoned and failed them at the critical moment when they needed his
leadership in view of growing joblessness, rising cost of living,
rampant and unfettered precarious work arrangement, high cost of
electricity rate and by conceding social protection services to greedy
capitalists," they added.

"Hindi tuwid, hindi tama, hindi makatuwiran kung pag-unlad ay para sa
iilan lamang (it is not straight, it is not right, it is unjust if
growth is shared only by a few)," the group stressed as they plan to
muster 30,000 of their members march from Welcome Rotonda to Mendiola
in today's Labor day commemoration. The group will assemble along
Espana at around 8a.m.

Aside from chastising Aquino, labor groups belonging to Nagkaisa also
lambasted Energy (DOE) Secretary Jericho Petilla and (BIR) Bureau of
Internal Revenue Commissioner Kim Henares for failing to offer
government solutions to pressing long-standing workers' issues raised
by Nagkaisa (United) during the yearly Labor day dialogue with
President Benigno Simeon Aquino III held the other day.

The group also tagged the duo as "the weak link that help makes Aquino
appear out-of-touch, out-of-tune and widely disconnected with workers'
issues raised by Nagkaisa in the past four years."

"Out of the several cabinet secretaries who responded to the issues
that Nagkaisa raised, it was Ms. Henares and Mr. Petilla who appears
to be badly serving the president by refusing to offer solutions to
the high cost of electricity and tax issues as a way and means of
non-wage economic relief to workers in view of not benefitting from
despite of significant contribution to make the economy performed
excellently in the past years," the Nagkaisa said in a statement.

During the span of the two-year Nagkaisa dialogue with the executive
government, the alliance have demanded for Henares to provide tax
breaks to workers by way of taxing only the incremental amount of the
negotiated minimum wage of regular workers and expand the tax exempt
de minimis fringe benefits enjoyed by employees from their employers
as performance incentive.

"It is clear to us that Ms. Henares wants to meet her revenue quota by
making workers bleed in the sand, clearly ignoring the fact that these
workers are the backbone of the economy and were responsible for high
economic growth that she, the employers, and this administration are
flaunting about," the group said.

On the issue of the high cost of electricity, Nagkaisa have demanded
that to make the country attractive to investors that creates jobs a
Presidential Commission on Power must be created immediately.

"We proffered that the Commission to be made up of a national
multi-sectoral and multi-agency actors who will craft a 24-month
national strategy response that will craft a 24-month roadmap aimed at
lowering the cost and ensuring sufficiency of energy supply. That way,
a reduced electricity cost will make workers spend more on their food
and basic necessities at the same time invite foreign and local
investors put up more shops, offices and factories creating jobs for
the millions unemployed," the alliance said.

"However, it was clear to all that Mr. Petilla downgraded the proposal
to just create a task force under the auspices of the Department of
Energy (DOE) rather than a presidential commission is a signal that he
wants the Filipino people to be continued hostage by the monopsony of
a few powerful elites that controls the entire energy sector. Nagkaisa
condemns his arrogance and we will continue to hold him into account.
Nagkaisa will insist on the establishment of a commission."

On the issue of contractualization otherwise known as "555" or "endo",
a precarious scheme of employment arrangement, as the most important
issue that Nagkaisa raised in the dialogue, the group welcomed
Aquino's announcing his middle-ground response to this issue on May
28th.

Aside from eliminating contractualization scheme, lowering electricity
rates and providing tax breaks to workers, Nagkaisa welcomes the
response of Trade and industry Secretary Gregory Domingo, Justice
Secretary Leila De Lima, Yolanda Rehab and Reconstruction czar
Secretary Panfilo Lacson for acceding to Nagkaisa demand for labor
sector to be included in the crafting of a jobs-led agro-industrial
plan, monitoring and evaluation of the prosecution of extra-judicial
killings of union organizers and journalists, and inclusion of
Nagkaisa representatives in the formulation and implementation of
Yolanda-hit reconstruction and rehabilitation strategies.

Nagkaisa also welcomes the assurance of Aquino to immediately ratify
the ILO convention 151— a convention concerning protection of the
right to organize and procedures for determining conditions for
employment in government service.

The group also awaits Aquino's unequivocal policy statements in the
next dialogue on the issue of revision in the EPIRA law, providing
affordable in-city housing program, non-violent transfer of urban poor
communities in danger zones, appointment of a workers' sector
representative in the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC), and approve
into law the Freedom of Information bill.


ABOUT NAGKAISA

Launched on April 2012, the Nagkaisa is the biggest alliance of labor
groups and workers organizations in modern history of trade union
movement in the country. It is composed by the Alliance of Free
Workers (AFW) , All Filipino Workers Confederation (AFWC), Automobile
Industry Workers Alliance (AIWA), Alab Katipunan, Association of
Genuine Labor Organizations (AGLO), Associated Labor Unions (ALU),
Associated Labor Unions- Association of Professional Supervisory
Officers Technical Employees Union (ALU-APSOTEU), ALU-Metal,
Associated Labor Unions-Philippine Seafarers'Union (ALU-PSU),
ALU-Textile, ALU-Transport, Associated Labor Unions-Visayas Mindanao
Confederation of Trade Unions (ALU-VIMCOMTU), Alliance of Progressive
Labor (APL), Association of Trade Unions (ATU), Bukluran ng
Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP), Confederation of Independent Unions
(CIU), Confederation of Labor and Allied Social Services (CLASS),
Construction Workers Solidarity (CWS), Federation of Coca-Cola Unions
(FCCU), Federation of Free Workers (FFW), Kapisanan ng Maralitang
Obrero (KAMAO), Katipunan, Pambansang Kilusan sa Paggawa (KILUSAN),
Kapisanan ng mga Kawani sa Koreo sa Pilipinas (KKKP), Labor education
and Research Network (LEARN), League of Independent Bank
Organizations (LIBO), Manggagawa para sa Kalayaan ng Bayan
(MAKABAYAN), MARINO, National Association of Broadcast Unions (NABU),
National Federation of Labor Unions (NAFLU), National Mines and Allied
Workers Union (NAMAWU), National Association of Trade Unions (NATU),
National Confederation of Labor (NCL), National Confederation of
Transport Union (NCTU), National Union of Portworkers in the
Philippines (NUPP), National Union of Workers in Hotel, Restaurant and
Allied Industries (NUWHRAIN), Philippine Airlines Employees
Association (PALEA), Pepsi Cola Employees Union of the Philippines
(PEUP), Philippine Government Employees Association (PGEA),
Pinag-isang Tinig at Lakas ng Anakpawis (PIGLAS), Philippine
Integrated Industries Labor Union (PILLU), Philippine Independent
Public Sector Employees Association (PIPSEA), Partido Manggagawa (PM),
Philippine Metalworkers Alliance (PMA), Public Services Labor
Independent Confederation (PSLINK), Philippine Transport and General
Workers Organization (PTGWO), SALIGAN, Trade Union Congress of the
Philippines (TUCP), Workers Solidarity Network (WSN).

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Nagkaisa Labor Groups' Labor Day Demands Are Now in Aquino's Hands

The eight workers' issues and non-wage benefits raised by labor group
coalition Nagkaisa since May 2012 are now in the hands of President
Aquino to act on following a last minute series of meetings with
members of his cabinet with the representatives of the group on
Wednesday.

Final details of the issues were threshed out in meetings that took
place on April 8 with the secretaries of the Department of Labor and
Employment (DOLE), Department of Justice (DOJ), and Department of
Trade and Industry (DTI), and on the following day with the Department
of Energy (DOE), said Alan Tanjusay, spokesman of the Trade Union
Congress of the Philippines (TUCP).

"After more than 100 man hours of discussions with different
government staffs, undersecretaries and secretaries within the two
year period, we think it is more than fair enough to say that the ball
is in the hands of President Aquino. These issues are now on his
table," said Gerard Seno, executive vice president of the Associated
Labor Unions-TUCP and a convenor of Nagkaisa.

The issues that were finalized by the Nagkaisa and the cabinet level
are for government to (1) ensure security of tenure of workers by
eliminating contractualization scheme and deter extra-judicial killing
of union organizers and journalists, (2) provide exemption and
enhancement on minimum wage taxation, (3) institutionalize core labor
standards in the agro-industrial plan, (4) lowering of the cost of
electricity and protect consumers from the cartelization of power, (5)
provide affordable housing program and non-violent transfer of urban
poor communities from danger zones, (7) ratification of ILO Convention
151--a convention concerning protection of the right to organize and
procedures for determining conditions for employment in the government
service, and (8) ensure a jobs-led and workers' sector participation
in the planning and implementation of programs of the rehabilitation
and reconstruction of Yolanda-hit areas.

The group also expects Aquino to make an unequivocal commitment to his
promised regular dialogue with Nagkaisa on emergent issues affecting
the working class.

Labor groups in Nagkaisa were always dismayed at Aquino's alleged
disconnect with workers' issues raised by Nagkaisa every time he meets
with labor group representatives in the traditional labor day
breakfast since 2010 in Malacanang palace.

"If we want to emphasize how important these issues are to labor
groups in Nagkaisa, well, we have expended substantial amount of
unions' financial and manpower resources for these meetings to
enlighten executives the need for government to address these issues
that endangers Filipino workers and their families today. As
representatives of workers, we have done our part in transmitting
these concerns to the administration. We will now observe very closely
how the president will respond to these issues and how he treats the
working people on or before May 1 Labor day," said Frank Mero,
chairperson of Sentro.

However, the group emphasized Nagkaisa will proceed with their Labor
day activities regardless of Aquino's response.


"With or without President Aquino's imprimatur on these issues,
Nagkaisa labor groups will go on with our May 1 Labor day simultaneous
activities nationwide. President Aquino may chose or not chose to
favorably or unfavorably respond to some or to all issues we have
raised to his attention, he has that choice. But Nagkaisa will pursue
resolution of the issues at will whatever the cost and in any possible
way because these issues are legitimate and important for workers,"
added Wilson Fortaleza, spokesman of the Partido Manggagawa.

Aside from ALU, Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP), PM and
Sentro, there are 47 other member labor federation and workers'
organizations in Nagkaisa. It was established in April 2011, the other
members of Nagkaisa includes Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP),
Federation of Free Workers (FFW), Public Services Labor Independent
Confederation (PSLINK), Philippine Government Empoyees Association
(PGEA), Confederation of Independent Unions (CIU) and KAMAO.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Labor group urges ERC to order full stop in rate hike


Workers want a full stop, not a mere recalculation of spot market prices which triggered sharp spikes in the December 2013 and January 2014 billing of Meralco. 

 

It is also demanding for the suspension of operations of the electricity spot market.

 

Groups belonging to the country’s biggest labor coalition Nagkaisa made these calls during a picket held outside the offices of the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) this morning, two days after the Commission issued an order voiding the applied rate hike of Meralco. 

 

“It would be pointless to invoke the State’s police powers if the ERC cannot impose a full stop to all rate hike petitions, including that of Meralco and other distribution utilities in Luzon that were affected by ‘market failure’ during the maintenance shutdown of Malampaya gas platform between November and December last year,” declared the group in a statement.

 

Based on the findings of ERC, WESM prices during that period would not qualify as “reasonable”, “rational”, and “competitive”, thus it ordered the Philippine Electricity Market Corporation (PEMC) to do a recalculation of such prices. 

 

But initially the Commission has already found evidence of market abuse by way of physical and economic withholding of capacities by several plants that led to the tightening of supply during the said period. 

 

Nagkaisa, however, was cautious about a recalculation that may simply result to reduction in rates rather than the full prohibition of the amount applied, which in the case of Meralco totalled P4.15/kWh in December and P5.33/kWh in January. 

 

The group added that any collections made by Meralco reflecting such unjust prices must be refunded to the consumers.

 

“Let we remind the ERC of the principle that unjust prices resulting from market failure cannot be passed on to or borne by the consumers,” said the group. 

 

Workers had been accusing the ERC of ‘regulatory capture’ during the last 12 of years of EPIRA implementation.  It also played dead on many reports pertaining to market abuse in the spot market.  No wonder it suffered downright condemnation when it approved the Meralco rate hike of P4.15/kWh last December. 

 

According to the group, the ERC is fully aware that the WESM itself is a failure since it began operating in 2006.  By concept it is supposed to be at WESM where we can buy the cheapest electricity since the product is sold here at marginal cost of declared excess capacities of power plants. 

 

In July 2006 the inaugural price at WESM was P2.00/kWh.  During the Malampaya shutdown between November and December last year prices at WESM breached the maximum cap of P62.00/kWh. 

 

“There is no reason therefore to perpetuate this farce,” concluded Nagkaisa.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Revoke Meralco Franchise, Pull the Plug on EPIRA

On Valentine’s Day, the Power to the People Coalition tell Meralco, “It’s Over.”

 

Meralco has failed the Filipino people. They promised cheap, widespread access to electricity, yet the only thing they mustered thus far are scandalous electricity rates that they expected ordinary Filipinos to meekly comply with.  

 

Meralco has consistently regarded ordinary Filipino consumers with the heartless, corporate greed for profit. The most recent spike in power rates proved this. Meralco made the absurd argument that it is not responsible for the record-high electricity rates simply because it had no power over the forced outages their power suppliers implemented. It became even more ridiculous when Meralco played the victim by claiming that it had no choice but to source power from the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM) for the power deficit. 

 

Nothing could be farther away from the truth. Documents submitted to the Supreme Court showed that it was Meralco’s order to power supplier Therma Mobile, which it controls, to bid at the maximum allowable price of P62.00 per kilowatt hour no less than 25 times during that period that was responsible for the skyhigh clearing price at the WESM. In short, Meralco gamed the market to benefit itself and other power producers. By doing so it defrauded its consumers whom it is obligated to supply electricity at the least possible cost. 

 

We belie Meralco’s claims that it was powerless over the simultaneous forced outages of its power producers. The shutdown of Malampaya for maintenance, and the shutdown of two other power plants for the same reason, were all scheduled. Meralco saw it coming, and they took the most convenient and profitable course of action. They chose to sit back, game the power industry, and make consumers pay for it all. 

 

That Meralco systematically abused the Filipino people is but a symptom of the failure of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA). We must not forget that EPIRA is the main source of the problem; it put the whole industry under the gang rule of private power – from generation to transmission sectors, all the way to the cooperatives in the distribution sector. Privatization of the power industry has resulted in monopoly control, inefficient power delivery and sky-high prices, in direct contradiction to the promises EPIRA made to attain efficiency and break the monopoly in the electricity industry, and lower power prices. That Meralco’s profits have risen over 100 per cent since EPIRA went into effect in 2001, and that Meralco has the power to game the market at the expense of the people is a monstrous example of EPIRA’s failure.

 

13 years of Meralco’s greed and EPIRA’s exploitation of power consumers have pushed the people to a deeper level of destitution. To this, we raise our voice and declare that this abusive relations is over.  We call on the government to heed the people’s call: it is high time the government revokes Meralco’s mega-franchise and pulls the plug on EPIRA.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Oppose Meralco's Threat to Trigger Brownouts if TRO is not Lifted! Revoke Meralco's License and Repeal EPIRA!

Meralco, the electricity monopoly, threatened its 5.3 million consumers with brownouts if the temporary restraining order (TRO) on its scandalous 4.5 peso per kilowatt hour is not lifted.

The threat was made by Meralco lawyer Victor Lazatin during the Supreme Court hearings on the rate hike on Feb. 4.

Consumers will not tolerate this blackmail.

On the pretext of losing vast amounts of money, this monopoly, which made 17 billion pesos in profits in 2013, is trying to derail the investigation of its role in the suspicious series of events that led to the rate increase. Meralco has put the blame on seven of its power suppliers that went offline when the Malampaya natural gas plant underwent maintenance from Nov. 11 to Dec. 10, 2013, allegedly forcing Meralco to go to the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM) for its power deficit. But documents submitted to the Supreme Court showed that it was Meralco’s order to a power supplier--Therma Mobile—that it controls to bid at the maximum allowable price of 62 pesos per kilowatt hour no less than 25 times during that period that was responsible for the skyhigh clearing price at WESM.

Meralco gamed the market, to the detriment of its consumers whom it is obligated to supply at the least possible cost. Moreover, Meralco would not have resorted to buying at WESM’s inflated prices had it made provisions for reserve power from its suppliers in the event of a foreseeable event like the Malampaya shutdown. As President Aquino himself has said, ““There is periodic maintenance [of Malampaya] required. That’s a foreseeable event. If you know what producers of fuel will not be able to produce, then you have to find a substitute. So preparation should have been made for foreseeable events.”

But the problem goes beyond Meralco. It goes beyond the Energy Regulatory Commission, which is the classic example of a regulator that is in the pocket of the regulated. It goes beyond the Department of Energy, which has shown itself to be completely incompetent in planning for the energy needs of the country. The main source of the problem lies in the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA), which has placed power generation, transmission, and distribution completely in the hands of the private sector.

Privatization has resulted in monopoly control, inefficient power delivery, and sky-high prices, not in more efficiency, less concentration, and lower prices. Meralco, whose profits have risen over 100 per cent since EPIRA went into effect in 2001, is a monstrous example of EPIRA’s failure.

13 years of exploiting consumers is enough! We demand the revocation of Meralco’s license and the repeal of EPIRA.
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