Duterte under fire for firing labor undersecretary

Former DOLE Usec Joel Maglunsod talks with PLDT strikers. File photo by Katrina Yamzon.

Militant labor group Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) – Metro Manila today said Pres. Duterte’s recent move of firing Labor Undersecretary for Labor Relations Joel Maglunsod “broke the last straw of Filipino workers’ trust that the government can truly address issues of contractualization, low wages, and better and humane working conditions in the country.”

Duterte made public his decision to ax Maglunsod during his speech in Camp Juan Ponce Sumuroy in Catarman, Nothern Samar on Tuesday, saying that Maglunsod failed to stop labor strikes across the nation, which he said “have been affecting the country’s economy.”

KMU Metro Manila slammed Duterte for sacking Maglunsod as they believe that the former labor leader turned labor official “has been their voice inside the bureaucracy despite the rotten system inside the agency.” According to the pro-labor group Defend Job Philippines, Maglunsod has been instrumental in the struggles for regularization and labor recognition of workers of Jollibee Foods Corporation, Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company, NutriAsia, Toyota Motors Philippines, Jolly Plastics, UniPak, Manila Harbour Centre, and Regent Foods Corporation, among many others.

“We believe that he will be a great loss in the agency as he is the only DOLE official in history who has a genuine heart for the Filipino workers. He himself has been and will forever be known as a true labor leader,” said Defend Job Philippines in a statement.

“Now that Maglunsod is out of the agency, DOLE has totally lost its credibility and returned to its nature of being an anti-workers agency and an institution for big businesses and capitalists,” said KMU Metro Manila Chairperson Ed Cubelo.

Cubelo also welcomed Maglunsod back to the labor movement and to the mass movement, which they said is the “true home” of the sacked government official.

More strikes ahead

KMU Metro Manila also lambasted Duterte’s statement blaming the labor group for leading labor strikes across the country which he said “will paralyze the economy”. Duterte also pointed fingers at KMU for the “lack of foreign investors in the country.”

Cubelo said that Duterte has no one and nothing to blame for such strikes to happen but himself. “Such forms of resistance of Filipino workers has been the result of his government’s failure to realize his promises to end contractualization, increase wages and salaries of workers in the private and public sectors, among many others,” Cubelo said.

The labor group reminded the President that organizing labor strikes is enshrined in the Constitution and in the Labor Code. “The Duterte administration must end using strikes as justification for its ‘Red October ouster plot’ paranoia that will only legitimize its attacks against the ranks of Filipino workers and people. It must stop using our strikes to push forward its evil agenda of instilling a dictatorial and tyrannical rule across the country,” Cubelo said.

KMU Metro Manila said that they will not be cowed by the government’s actions but will continue to push for more workers strikes in various factories and workplaces in the days to come.

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