Labor Day 2016: OFWs support fight for a National Minimum Wage

NMWMigrante International today marched with the working class and other sectors in support of the call for a legislated, across-the-board, national minimum wage set at P750/day for workers in the private sector and P16,000/month for government employees.

Migrante International also called for an end to contractualization and other neoliberal attacks on workers. Under the Aquino administration, the number of OFWs leaving the country increased from 2,500 daily to more than 6,000 daily. This is the result of massive unemployment, low wages, landlessness and privatization of social services. Meanwhile, contrary to Aquino’s statements of a “reverse migration”, OFWs are coming back home not because they opt to but because of the effects of an ongoing global economic crisis in host countries.

Hundreds of thousands of OFWs are being displaced and retrenched in crisis-stricken Saudi Arabia, even as the Aquino government futilely downplays it. What awaits them back home in the event of their return? Definitely there are not enough domestic jobs available. The government’s reintegration program is a sham. What the Aquino government offers are mere dole-outs and band-aid solutions that are not long-term solutions to unemployment, low wages and lack of social services.

There remains no clear blueprint from the Aquino government on what it plans to do in the event of massive retrenchment and displacement of migrant workers in Saudi Arabia. Like before, the government is downplaying the potentially collosal consequences of the Saudi oil crisis on the lives and welfare of our OFWs, not to mention its negative effects on the domestic economy

The situation of OFWs has undeniably worsened under the Aquino regime. Policy-wise, Aquino had done nothing to curb forced migration and deviate from a policy of labor export. The Philippine economy’s dependence on remittances of OFWs has become unparelleled under the Aquino administration.

Aquino has implemented a more aggressive labor export policy at the expense of the rights and welfare of Filipino workers. The labor export policy is nothing but a big business venture from which giant corporations profit, with OFWs as their milking cows. Through remittances, the government has earned exponentially without having to shell out much capital investment. Even funds for the government’s so-called migration management are sourced from OFWs through various fees. Under the Aquino administration, fees imposed on OFWs have increased, among them the Philhealth premium hike, e-Passport fee increase, mandatory Pag-Ibig contributions and other state exactions.

On the other hand, close to the end of Aquino’s term, OFWs continue to bear witness to how insensitive, insincere and inept the Aquino government is in upholding the protection and welfare of OFWs. The case of Mary Jane Veloso, attempts to increase taxes on balikbayan boxes and the tanim-bala extortion scheme are just some of the most glaring examples of government neglect of OFWs. Trafficking of Filipino workers remain rampant and unresolved. Abusive embassy officials are tolerated and condoned. The number of OFWs in distress has increased – stranded OFWs who seek shelter and repatriation, OFWs in jail and on death row who receive no legal assistance and returned OFWs who are deprived of benefits and services.

The Aquino administration’s lack of welfare services and assistance to OFWs and the overall economic conditions of OFWs and their families amid widespread corruption and criminal neglect are more than enough reasons for OFWs and their families to balk at the continuation of the so-called “daang matuwid” being espoused by the Liberal Party and its presidental candidate Mar Roxas on the May 9 elections.

To genuinely address the problem of forced migration, economic policies should focus on developing the national economy by advancing local industries, agriculture and basic services. Migrante International fully supports the call and struggle for national industrialization and genuine land reform as the ultimate solution to the problem of forced migration. ###