Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino – BMP (Solidarity of Filipino Workers)
for the 28th Annual Congress
of the Japan Confederation of Railway Workers’ Union (JRU)
of the Japan Confederation of Railway Workers’ Union (JRU)
June 2, 2012
Comrades and friends,
On behalf of the workers of the Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP) – a militant labor group from the Philippines, we extend our warmest solidarity greetings to the members and leadership of the Japan Confederation of Railway Workers’ Union (JRU) on the occasion of your 28th Annual Congress.
We thank you for inviting us to this meaningful event, as we are likewise grateful to JRU for its assistance in the formation of Pagkakaisa ng Manggagawa sa Transportasyon (Unity of Transport Workers), which is now an affiliate of the BMP.
Meanwhile, the BMP also expresses our deepest sympathies to the Japanese people who are still recovering from the Great Eastern Japan earthquake and the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plants last March 2011.
We believe that the Japanese people – especially the working class – would rise from this great tragedy.
Humanity has long faced natural calamities such as earthquakes and floods. But through labor – through human collective and creative action using our tools and intellect – we not only survived but also became the dominant species of the planet.
While humans have no other choice but to adapt to forces of nature, the case is different with regards to “man-made disasters” such as poverty and oppression, the exploitation of the working majority by the elite oligarchs, the slavery of labor by capital. We have a choice and – as workers – we must choose to fight for change.
Too Much Poverty amidst Too Much Progress
The world today faces a great contradiction. There is too much poverty and misery. Yet there is also too much progress!
In the past 60 years, there have been great leaps in the spheres of food production and preservation. We harvest millions of tons of different food types. Yet billions are undernourished.
We have achieved advancement in construction and engineering, making habitable even the harshest environments such as deserts and the Arctic tundra. Yet millions are homeless.
The capitalist advertisers have artificially created different demand for various human wants. Yet millions are deprived the bare necessities in order to live.
On a global scale, the gap between the rich and the poor is ever so widening. The Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) and the owners of global monopoly corporations earn more than a hundred times more than their rank and file workers.
While the few global billionaires worry about their profit margins, billions of working people are living in abject poverty, suffering from low wages, temporary and unsecure employment.
And yet, what is being preached by our governments and their economists? Their slogan is no other than “Free trade”. Rather than liberate the working class, they want liberalized commerce. They want no interference and regulation from the State!
In the nineties, they promised a greater cooperation among nations in a liberalized global economy. But the policies of liberalization, deregulation, privatization and flexibilization of labor did not lead to cooperation but to intensified competition, which only worsened the conditions of the working peoples of the world.
Effects of Privatization in the Philippines
Comrades, it would probably take too much of our time if we discuss each policy of globalization – and its effect on workers. Of course, with the JRU campaign against the privatization of the Japanese railway system, you know all too well its effect on workers’ job security.
So let me just share with you – the most glaring effect of privatization in the Philippines.
Since 2001, a law was passed for the privatization of the entire power industry in my country. The power plants and transmission lines, previously owned by the government through the National Power Corporation (NPC), were sold to capitalists in the private sector.
The government then promised that the cost of electricity would go down. What happened was the complete opposite.
In a survey by the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) on the “cost of doing business” in 31 countries in the Asia-Oceanic region, it was revealed that the highest residential electricity rate is in Metro Manila, in the amount of $0.23/kwh. This is significantly higher than the rates in Tokyo and Singapore ($0.20/kwh), which ranked second place in the survey.
There are no compelling and rightful reasons for electricity costs in the country to be the highest in Asia. The Philippines is a Third World country, where every single centavo increase in power rates would reduce the “food on the table” for working families because even the highest minimum wage (in Manila) is but half of the cost of living – the necessary cost for a working class family to live decently.
The country’s extremely high power rates are also irrational in a country which has just begun the massive extraction of natural gas – a fuel to run power plants, thereby, alleviating the country’s dependence on imported crude oil.
Sadly, capital could only understand one thing: its logic of profit, profit and profit. It is not in the business to give service to the people. Its motive is to accumulate even at the expense of an entire population of a poor Third World country.
Flexibilization of Labor: the Cornerstone of Globalization
However, for the working class, globalization is more than “higher prices” due to privatization and deregulation. Its cornerstone is “flexibilization of labor” – the removal of all labor rights and standards, which has established the price and the conditions of labor-power through centuries of hard-fought working class struggles.
Free trade means free competition. Capitalists fight for their dominance in the market through their “price war”. Previously, governments intervened in capitalist competition by placing tariffs and imposing regulations to prices.
Now, with globalization, corporations have no other recourse but their production expenses. And as trade unionists, we all know that when our bosses speaks of “cost cutting”, they really mean the cutting down of wages and benefits, not on other “costs of production” such as materials, equipment, and machinery.
For the employers, workers could be blackmailed by the threat of hunger and unemployment to force them to accept lower wages. They want to have flexible arrangements to setting wages and working conditions.
In order to survive the stiff competition in the global market, employers invented new schemes to render useless the various labor standards won by the international labor movement. These labor standards include the minimum wage, the 8-hour working day, job security and other benefits. Their new work arrangements are called in different names in various countries: outsourcing, contractualization, subcontracting, temporary employment, flexible work agreements, individual bargaining, casualization, etc., etc.
The objective of “flexibilization of labor” is to create a cheap and submissive workforce, who earn wages that are lower than the existing minimum wages and who are constantly afraid of being terminated due to their unsecure and temporary employment.
The effect of which is to weaken the base of regular workers who enjoy the protection of their union. Hence, our founder – Comrade Popoy Lagman – once described globalization as a “holocaust of unionism” and the “global union busting”.
The twin scourges of “flexibilization of labor” and “privatization” are most felt by public sector employees. Government corporations are being sold to monopoly capitalists, who are intent on smashing the previous regular workforce.
Unfortunately for the displaced state workers, if they are able to find another job, they would be victims of “labor flexibility”, facing lower wages and irregular employment.
The Challenge for the Labor Movement
Comrades, we are in the middle of a capitalist offensive against trade unionism, workers’ rights and labor standards. As always, the key to our victory lies in the unity and struggle of the labor movement. The imperative is for labor to unite, not just in words but in deeds.
But in order for workers to truly unite, the BMP believes that we must transcend the limitations of trade unionism. In order to merge into a single fighting army, labor must start to think “as a class” – not just “as employees” in local or industry unions, not just “as a sector” in a branch of the economy such as the transport sector and not “as a nation” based on the color of our skin or our culture.
Because we are all brothers and sisters in class, because we are all workers, and because we are wage slaves, we must unite and fight for the emancipation of labor from the bondage of capital. We have a world to win. Workers of the world unite! Gambaro! Gambaro! Gambaro! #