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Philippines: Labor Day 2010

Workers of the world celebrated International Labor Day on May 1. In the Philippines, thousands of workers marched on the streets to demand higher wages and better working conditions as the government held job fairs and moved the official labor day holiday to May 3. Filipino bloggers comment on labor-related issues online.

Manila and Beyond blogs about what made this year's Labor Day observance distinct from the previous ones.

1. This is the last Labour Day celebration of the present president of the republic.

2. This celebration was marked by the unveiling of the bas-relief of the late Crispin Beltran. Mr. Beltran, leader of the left-wing workers organization called Kilusang Mayo Uno who passed away last 2008 due to head injuries which he sustained from a fall, is regarded as the icon of the Philippine labour movement. [GVO published a blog on the death of the prominent Filipino labor leader Crispin Beltran in 2008.]

3. This year's Labour Day precedes the National (Presidential) elections which will be held on May 10.

Kapirasong Kritika laments the lack of mainstream media coverage of labor issues, such as contractualization, union-busting, and the persecution of militant union leaders.

Ngayong malapit na ang Mayo Uno, nasa midya na sila uli, hanggang matapos na naman ang taun-taong ritwal na ito at babalik na naman sila sa ibang pagkatao nila sa mata ng midya – kriminal, biktima, karaniwang tao sa kalsada, pero hindi manggagawa. “Hindi naganap ang gera sa Iraq,” pamosong sabi ng pilosopong Pranses na si Jean Baudrillard noong maagang bahagi ng dekada ’90 – hindi para itangging naganap ang agresyong militar, tulad ng sabi ng mga kritiko niya, kundi para idiing hindi tradisyunal na “gera” ang natunghayan. Walang manggagawa sa midya, dahil hindi na tradisyunal na manggagawa ang nagtatrabaho rito. Inaalerto ang publiko sa bagong itsura ng paggawa: kontraktwal na ang mga bagong manggagawa.

Now that May 1 is nearing, they [the workers] are in the media again, but only until the end of this yearly ritual, after which they will be seen by the media through their other identities – criminals, victims, ordinary people in the street, but never as workers . “The Gulf War did not take place,” goes the famous saying of French philosopher Jean Baudrillard during the early half of the '90s decade – not to deny the occurrence of military aggression, as his critics said, but to emphasize that what took place was not a traditional “war.” There are no workers in the media because they are no longer traditional workers. The public is alerted to the new face of labor: the new worker is contractual.

Rose Anne Quirante gives a brief background to the labor day celebrations in the Philippines.

[T]he first Labor Day in the Philippines was held under the UODF (the Union Obrero Democratica de Filipinas) on May 1st of 1903, during the rule of the Americans. There were hundreds of thousands of workers who marched from Tondo’s Plaza Mariones to the Malacañang Palace, the former seat of the country’s governor-general, and demanded better working conditions, as well as complete independence.

Upon noticing the march, the American colonial government was alarmed. In fact, the Philippine Constabulary, which consisted of Filipinos and Americans, raided the UODF printing press and arrested their president, Dominador Gomez, for sedition and illegal assembly.

Chantal's Doodles blogs on the hard life of dock workers in the Central Philippine city of Tacloban.

For them, the hardest times are when there’s no cargo ship docked at the pier since work is only available whenever cargo ships arrive. Some of the workers look for alternative source of income when there’s no ship like working at the warehouses as “hornal”, offer their services in farms, and catch fish or dive for shells at the nearby bay just to be able to sustain their family’s need. It’s also hard for them during summer because the “paglalara” work for their wives has less work to do because there are less customers at the barbecue stands during the summer.

Of Transitions and Distractions compares the Philippine government's handling of labor issues to a popular ice cream ad.

Similar to the manner by which Selecta tries to market Cornetto on air, Arroyo attempts to hard-sell her gimmick to the uninformed. Instead of giving her commitment to meaningful undertakings such as endorsing a significant wage increase as soon as possible, she opts to have local broadcasting networks air deceptive, self-laudatory television ads that allege improved livelihood under her administration.

The Impulsive Blabber blogs on the sorry state of employment in the country.

After years of studying, these students will then graduate. But what will welcome them to the world of employment? It’s a survival of the fittest, or better yet survival of the “who-has-the-highest-acquaintance-in-the-company”. They would all fight for slots in job occupancies. There aren’t enough jobs offered for fresh graduates, moreso to the addition of the graduates the year it succeeded. In short, there just aren’t enough jobs.

What about those who weren’t able to finish college? Or even high school? Or worse, those who weren’t able to attend school? They lose their chances from the start. They are the least of priorities to be given jobs.

Araphoenix challenges Philippine presidential aspirant Noynoy Aquino to address the labor and land reform issues besetting Hacienda Luisita, the estate owned by his family.

He should face the issue as part of the Cojuangco Family and as running president. This is the first real test of personality of presidential buoyant, whose family has owned the land since 1958.

The Hacienda Luisita haunts Noynoy’s future, it began long ago when government lenders asked the Cojuangcos to give out the land to the little farmers last 1967 and up to now the struggles doesn’t end yet. And it has gotten worst when the Hacienda Luisita Massacre happened last March 2004.

Lastly, The Observer Protocol suggests the renaming of Labor Day to Passion Day.

By foregoing the attitude of labor, instead utilizing a mindset of passion, people would understand the necessity of pursuing things out of excellence, because passion means ardent desire or any strong emotional feeling towards something… Without passion, nothing has real intrinsic value. And that you might one day get tired of labor, but you will never lose that passion in you shows the importance of celebrating a day for people’s passion. Great minds were able to achieve gargantuan tasks because of their passionate dreams.

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