12 January 2014
12 January 2014
With only a year into its implementation
Thousands of workers bear the brunt of sin tax
SLIGHTLY over a year since Republic Act No. 10351, otherwise known as the “Sin Tax Reform Law of 2012”, was signed into law, workers in a major tobacco company are complaining that they are already suffering heavily on the first year alone of its implementation.
The legislation’s intent was to restructure the excise tax collections of the government on alcohol and tobacco products. Presently at the second year of its gradual increment, low-priced cigarette brands are now charged a P17 excise tax from P12 last year. Meanwhile, high-priced brands bear a P27 excise tax from P25 last year. By 2017, a P30 unitary tax shall be imposed on all machine-prepared tobacco products and will increase 4 percent annually after that.
The workers’ union of Philip Morris Fortune Tobacco Corporation (PMFTC) claims that they are the ones bearing the full weight of what they called a “fundamentally unjust law”, because according to them “is a pass-on imposition and it jeopardizes jobs, livelihoods and ultimately, the entire local tobacco industry”.
“The Aquino administration is in seventh heaven for accomplishing beyond their tax revenue targets and the capitalists are also elated for their sustained takings despite of the excise tax increase, as the ordinary wage-earners are diligently bearing the cross are the ones neglected to the extent being sacrificed in the altar of profit,” said Rodelito Atienza, president of the PMFTC labor union.
Tensions grew between the company and its labor union in the last week of 2013 after plant management delayed the release of its production plan for 2014. This made workers worry that the management was planning to shut down operations after it informed the union a week earlier that the company’s market share has plunged significantly.
The management of the tobacco giant initially wanted a five-month shutdown of its operations from January up to May 2014 after the company failed to hit its expected sales in the last quarter of 2013. The union refused by citing provisions in their collective bargaining agreement, pushing the company to adjust their plans. But still, the workers claim the management’s final offer was still a “heavy price to pay for simply being diligent and productive”.
“When the company implemented a stock build up scheme, forcing us to go beyond the 8-hour a day work load for several months, we cooperated, toiled hard and yet, in the end, we are the ones suffering the brunt for the company’s dismal production schemes and far-out projections. We are the last to benefit and yet the first to sacrifice,” a flustered Atienza conveyed.
The union says that it will continue urging the company to soften the impacts to their already stressed budget since of the company has commenced the lessening of work days till the month of May.
Meanwhile, the Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP), the militant group which singlehandedly campaigned against the sin tax legislation in 2012 said that, “Despite of the distressing events at the PMFTC, we proudly claim that we have been vindicated. We were right all along when we said that the passing of sin tax law is collusion between the government and sin industry to squeeze more revenues at the expense of the ordinary wage-earner, tobacco farmer and takatak vendor”.
Their leader, Gie Relova likewise expressed alarm saying that, “Within only a year, the government’s tax scheme has already managed to terrorize the workers in the industry’s largest market share holder for five painful months. How much more will the government make the workers endure in the succeeding years of its implementation”. He also warned that, “An economic apocalypse will most likely occur even before it reaches the unitary rate in 2017”.
“We are indeed saddened by the turn of events, but it has only emboldened us to continue marching forward until the Aquino government’s anti-worker tax imposition is repealed, he added.
Relova also called out to fellow workers in the tobacco and alcohol industry to lock arms with the PMFTC labor union “before it is too late” and claimed that, “For as long as the unjust law is imposed, we shall struggle for we have nothing to lose but our chains”.
The PMFTC labor union has been an affiliate of BMP since its founding in 1993.###