The celebration of labor Day in the Philippines took place on May 1, 1903 under the Union Obrera Democratica de Filipinas, the first labor federation in the country. Thousands of workers marched from Plaza Moriones in Tondo to Malacañang to demand complete independence, while chanting anti American capitalism and imperialism.
The Union Obrero Democratica de Filipinas formerly known as the Union Obrera Democratica was founded on February 2, 1902 by Isabelo delos Reyes and Herminigildo Cruz. It advocated the rights of the labor force during the American occupation of the Philippines. Delos Reyes who was arrested on August 1902 for sedition, rebellion and “conspiracy to the raise the price of labor” was succeeded by Dominador Gomez. It was Gomez who led the first Labor Day celebration.
Later on April 8, 1908, the Philippine Assembly passed a bill making the first day of May Labor Day, a national holiday in recognition of the value of labor to the country’s economic growth and for government to give due recognition to labor as an integral part of robust economic development instrumental in spurring growth and progress in the rural areas.
Today, Labor Day (or Araw ng Manggagawa) in the Philippines is commemorated not only with parades and other forms of celebration, but also with rallies and demonstrations of the labor sector.
The celebration highlights the reality that the country’s workers have proven to be partners of government for economic development and positive social changes, however, government seems to have not given the labor sector the appropriate benefits that would have contributed in improving the living condition of the members of the labor sector and their families, especially these in the countryside.
For over a decade now, militant labor groups in the country have strongly lobbied for the passage of a P125 daily wage increase for workers in the private sector and P3,000 monthly across the board increase on the monthly salaries of government workers. On the other hand, moderate labor groups were simply contented on the wage increase granted by the different Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Boards (RTWPBs) all over the country amidst the rising inflation rate apart from the grant of non-monetary benefits among other possible privileges that could be given workers at the least cost to the employers.
The establishment of the RTWPBs that collectively works together was geared towards cascading to the grassroots level the decision-making on the plight of the labor sector but more often than not most of the representatives, even those coming from the government, seem to take the side of management in the grant of petty increases to the ordinary workers in the private sector.
One of the most pressing problems of labor in our country today is the contractualization of even talented and skilled workers, Multinational companies opt for contractualization or hiring job orders through labor contractors because of the projected lesser obligation in the security of tenure of the workers and their mandatory contributions to the social security and other benefits of the workers which must be given them after completing the 6-month probationary period. The unjust, unfair and abusive contractualization practice of companies in the hiring of their workers have grossly affected the productivity of the employees because they expect that their services will be terminated before they reach the prescribed probationary period for the employers to escape bigger liabilities with the concerned government agencies and the workers themselves. Many employees are questioning the inability of the labor and employment department to effectively and efficiently address such pressing problems in the country’s labor sector. Is it because many of the said companies practicing contractualization are the major campaign contributors of politicians seeking the various elective posts in our country today? Is it that law that should be blamed? Then why do national and local officials refuse to correct such defective provisions of our labor laws in order to prevent our cheap labor from being taken advantage by enterprising and profit-oriented multinational companies.
Aside from the different wage boards coming out with updated age orders giving meager increases to the wages of workers in the private sector, the government also granted a temporary relief to the State workers through the implementation of the initial stages of the Salary Standardization Law (SSL) which was not passed upon by the present Congress.
Today, we again celebrate labor Day with ill feelings against the government because of its virtual failure to effectively and efficiently address the plight of workers both in the private and government sectors. While we need the non-monetary benefits being staggeredly given to us, we really need proactive government action to uplift the plight of the labor sector for better wages and improved working conditions. Let us use the potentials of our labor force to spur the country’s economic growth. Let us not allow them to be pirated by companies in other countries that could give them the right benefits and privileges and take advantage of their potentials in being productive.
We must continue fighting for our rights for better labor laws and improved working conditions for the benefit of the present and future generations of Filipinos.