Port workers hit jobless New Year

Contributed to The Pamalakaya Times

Manila, Philippines- Facing a ‘jobless new year’ ahead of them, thousands of port workers and vendors in North Harbor in Manila staged a rally this morning in Mendiola to demand immediate government action on the looming wide-scale retrenchment as private firms take over the port.

The big rally led by the Alliance of Port/Transport Workers and Porters in North Harbor (APTWP-NH) demanded a clear-cut Terms of Reference which will ensure zero job cut and recognition of existing unions as Metro Pacific Investment Corp. and Harbor Centre Inc. take control of the port’s operations on Jan. 1, 2010.

“We urge the Arroyo regime to take immediate action on the looming massacre of jobs in the port area. And the best action that it can take is to spare workers from a ‘jobless New Year’ by pushing for the workers’ job security,” said Jake Azores, APTWP-NH president.

At least 7,000 port workers and vendors risk losing their livelihood, while hundreds of families living in the port area fear demolition of their homes due to the port’s privatization.

Azores said it is still unclear who will pay for the back wages of workers in the event layoff of workers is undertaken with less a month before the takeover, sowing discomfort among port workers in the midst of the yuletide season.

“If the winning bidders do not heed our demands for a clear-cut Terms of Reference, we would be facing the loneliest New Year in recent years as joblessness awaits us. The way big capitalists want port workers to start the year is simply unjust, even as we have been receiving the same depressed wages year after year,” said Azores.

“But like in previous mobilizations, we will prove that our collective strength is important in deciding on the course that privatization will take. The holiday season will not put our call for job security and union recognition to rest.

“We have worked in the port area for many years now. That is why we will not just give up on this, even if our struggle drags on,” he added.

Kilusang Mayo Uno chairperson Elmer “Bong” Labog expressed full support to the port workers’ legitimate struggle, saying “they have every right to assert protection from the looming layoff.”

“If the Arroyo government is really sincere in promoting labor rights and welfare, it should not sit silently in the face of retrenchment of thousands of North Harbor workers. Its record, however, speaks of its brazen complicity with big capitalists in implementing mass layoffs,” said Labog.

“But the government and private corporations should be warned: port workers can shut down the port if their demands remain unheeded,” Labog added. #

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