OFW advocacy group Migrante joined today’s Martsa ng Manggagawa led by Kilusang Mayo Uno to demonstrate support for workers’ rights. Labour issues including contractualization and the absence of a national minimum wage were highlighted.

“Throughout the ages, from the abolition of slavery to the recognition of equal treatment of women in workplaces and society, workers have always been at the forefront of advancing people’s rights. Today, we hail these unsung Filipino heroes for their contributions in our struggle for social justice and democratic rights,” said Arman Hernando, Migrante Philippines chairperson.

Despite their inputs to the economy, Filipino workers remain subjected to exploitative labour conditions by being overworked and underpaid. Hernando lambasted Duterte’s stone-deaf treatment towards workers by perpetuating the existence of regional wage boards and the regime’s refusal to introduce a national minimum wage. The group likewise underscored the TRAIN’s excruciating impact to underpaid workers battered by inflation and food shortages.

A 2017-study conducted by Migrante revealed that a 750-peso national minimum wage can significantly reverse the trend of forced migration. Once their income becomes at par with the minimum pay they receive overseas, OFWs receiving a basic salary of US$400-500 per month would prefer to work in the Philippines. Since 2011, up to 200,000 OFWs have been deployed annually to occupations with salaries ranging from US$400 to 500 per month according to POEA data.

The group also decried the continuing repression of trade unions like the violent dispersal of NutriAsia picketers where supporters and even journalists were illegally detained on trumped-up charges. Many labor rights leaders and unionists have been subjected to Duterte’s crackdown like KMU organizers Rafael Baylosis and Maoj Maga who remain in prison. Despite persecution, Hernando asserted that more labor actions will arise like the on-going strike being conducted by Liwayway Workers Union, makers of Oishi products based in Cebu.

“Duterte’s ridiculous swipes made recently against KMU sums up his anti-worker stance and his devilish backing of big corporate interests. OFWs will never be deceived by Duterte’s pro-migrant posturing, flattering OFWs as modern-day heroes when in reality he perpetuates forced migration in the forms of low wages, contractualization and price hikes all for the sake of satisfying the insatiable greed of exploitative capitalists, “ Hernando added.

Migrante bids OFWs and the entire Filipino people to join workers and other progressive people’s organizations as they continue to fight against the Duterte regime’s tyrannical maltreatment of workers and persecution of trade union leaders.

“By drawing strength from one another and standing up together with the workers, we can build a just and better society just as how it was envisioned by our national heroes who fought with all their might against cruel powers and principalities. Let us press on with their heroic struggles,” Hernando concluded.