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News :: Human Rights : International : Labor : Organizing : Social Welfare
Filipino Workers hold March to protest against the GFMD
by Alliance of Progressive of Labor (APL)
30 Oct 2008
As the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) opened today in Manila, at least 5000 workers from the Philippines and other countries in every region of the world came together in one of the broadest labor mobilizations ever organized in the entire history of the global trade union movement.
Foreign leaders of global unions around the world joined the Workers March in solidarity with the Solidarity Action of Labor against GFMD (SALAG), the first national labor formation created to respond to issues on migration and development. SALAG which led the rally includes the Labor Alliance for Better Order and Reform (LABOR), the different national public sector unions that are members of the Public Services International (PSI) in the Philippines, and the Solidarity of Union and Labor Organization for New Government (SULONG).
The Workers March started off at the Liwasang Bonifacio and later on advanced towards the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC)—the venue of the GFMD.
“We workers marched today to collectively express our indignation over the GFMD and the agenda it represents—an agenda that seeks to promote the export of labor and the sidestepping of workers rights. We march for the workers and migrants who have been excluded in the process that claims to speak for them!” said Josua Mata, one of the spokespersons of SALAG.
“For us the GFMD has lost any legitimacy and meaning when it slammed its doors to the migrant workers,” Mata said.
The GFMD is an annual consultative, non-binding and government-led process which will be attended by representatives from governments in around 150 countries. It has become the venue to discuss issues related to migration and development. The first GFMD took place in Brussels, Belgium in 2007.
This year the Philippines is host to the 2nd GFMD which will be held on Oct 27-30.
The workers held the march to condemn the GFMD for failing to ensure protection and promotion of migrant workers rights in the migration and development discourse. The streets to PICC turned into a sea of black with 5000 workers marching together in black shirts carrying the slogan “Movement of Workers, Unions without Borders.”
SALAG attacked the GFMD for merely focusing on remittances, temporary movement of workers, and securing bilateral agreements for exchange of labor between countries. Further, SALAG pointed out how the GFMD has become “a space for governments to construct an unsafe and unjust environment for migrant workers.”
“The GFMD is about creating borders to keep the ‘odd workers’ out,” said Mata. “These are the “undocumented workers or those workers that governments and recruiters would like to dispose off as soon as they have outlived their use. All in all the GFMD really is a hypocritical process to promote the agenda of worker-hungry private employers and recruiters who treat migrant workers as commodities and virtual slaves,” said Mata.
SALAG also slammed the state for marketing the Philippines as a model country in terms of managing labor migration in the 2nd GFMD.
“The Philippines is not the model country in labor migration. We are instead the living testimony to the failure that is the remittance-driven development strategy,” claimed Annie Enriquez-Geron, spokesperson of the public sector unions under SALAG.
“In fact, they shouldn’t even be talking about migrant workers’ remittances. They dont have the right to talk about migrant workers’ money!” she added.
The GFMD is held at a time when countries all over the world are anguishing from the global financial crisis.
In response to the global economic slowdown, the Philippine government has just recently set up an emergency program worth P 1 Billion to help migrant workers who will be affected by the crisis. However, SALAG believes this is just a manoeuvre to cover up the real agenda of the government.
“It is absolutely wrong to think that the government with its P 1 Billion emergency program will bail out our OFWs,” Enriquez-Geron said.
“In fact, it would be the other way around. It will be the workers who will bail out the government out of the financial crisis as the state will surely push more of its workers out of the country to save its fragile economy that relies mainly on remittances sent by migrant workers.”
“No wonder then that the government is more than happy to announce that the deployment of OFWs has increased and even breached the one million mark in just the first nine (9) months of this year despite the global economic slump,” explained Enriquez-Geron.
SALAG believes that at its current state, the GFMD is just an expensive but pointless exercise.
“Come to think of it we don’t really need the GFMD when the only thing that the governments really have to do is implement the already existing ILO and UN Conventions on human rights and workers rights,” said Renato Magtubo, spokesperson of SALAG.
“We believe GFMD is merely a forum to advance the export of labor. It is a forum meant to legitimize a remittance-driven development strategy. And we workers do not believe in such a strategy. Workers are not commodities that are to be traded but human beings with fundamental rights,” Magtubo said.
Solidarity Action of Labor Against GFMD (SALAG)
SALAG is the first broad and independent national labor formation in the Philippines created to respond to issues on migration and development. SALAG includes the Labor Alliance for Better Order and Reform (LABOR), the different public sector federations affiliated with the Public Services International, and the Solidarity of Union and Labor Organization for New Government (SULONG).
SALAG represents the voice of Filipino workers—whether they are here in the country or working abroad. It is a platform that will strive to protect and defend the rights of our OFWs—their right to decent work and pay, their right to organize into unions and associations, and their right to bargain and negotiate for better working conditions and pay. SALAG also serves as the platform that will resist any attempts to curtail these rights in a bid to promote a development paradigm solely motivated by profit or so-called remittances. Consequently, SALAG is a direct action of labor against the biggest fraud by governments against migrant workers rights that is the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD).
Global unions are international trade union organizations working together with a shared commitment to the organize workers, defend human and workers rights, and promote promote trade unionism. There are eleven established global unions organized along industry / sector lines. These are the following: Building and Woodworkers International (BWI), Education International (EI), International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers’ Union (ICEM), International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), International Metalworkers’ Federation (IMF), International Trasnport Workers’ Federation (ITF), International Textile, Garment and Leather Workers Federation (ITGLWF), International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations (IUF), Public Services International (PSI), Union Network International (UNI), International Arts and Entertainment Allianc (IAEA).
Workers Set to Rock The GFMD With Protest Action
Workers are set to pour out into the streets of Manila tomorrow, October 27, to denounce the biggest fraud being concocted by governments against migrant workers rights – the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD).
At least 10,000 workers, including 200 representatives of Global Unions from around the world, are expected to march from Liwasan Bonifacio to the PICC where they intend to deliver the labor movements’ position on migration, development and human rights.
The Solidarity Action of Labor against GFMD or SALAG will lead the rally.
Leaders of SALAG questioned the existence of the GFMD process. Apart from developing international instruments enforceable by the labor movement, the workers believe that all that is needed is for governments to ratify and implement the ILO core conventions and the UN conventions on human rights and development.
The GFMD has no right to talk about migration, development and human rights when migrant workers themselves are not present in this forum.
According to SALAG leaders, the GFMD is a forum meant to legitimize a remittance-driven development strategy. This is a flawed strategy has not redounded to national development and instead has resulted in grave social costs and has led to massive “brain drain” and even “brain waste”. As a means of job generation, it has become a sorry excuse for government to abandon the goals of full employment and local industrialization.
With the clear and present danger of the financial meltdown and economic recession in the US going global, the weakness of labor export strategy is further exposed as the rights and welfare of the migrant workers of the world are imperiled once more.
SALAG reiterates that workers are not commodities that are to be traded but human beings with fundamental rights! Thus instead of labor export policy, governments should promote full employment through sustainable development.
The rally organizers promised that tomorrow’s march will be festive.
SALAG is a broad labor formation in the Philippines created to respond to issues on migration and development. SALAG includes the Labor Alliance for Better Order and Reform (LABOR), the different Philippine public sector unions affiliated with the Public Services International, and the Solidarity of Union and Labor Organization for New Government (SULONG).
Member Organizations of SALAG
= Labor Alliance for Better Order and Reform (LABOR)
· Partido ng Manggagawa
· National Union of Bank Employees (NUBE)
= Public Services International Affiliates in the Philippines
· Alliance of Filipino Workers (AFW)
· Alliance of Government Workers in the Water Sector (AGWWAS)
· Confederation of Independent Unions in the Public Sector (CIU)
· Manila Water Employees’ Union (MWEU)
· Maynilad Water Supervisors’ Association (MWSA)
· NAPOCOR Employees Consolidated Union (NECU)
· Philippine Government Employees Association (PGEA)
· Public Services Labor Independent Confederation (PSLINK)
= Solidarity of Union and Labor Organization for New Government (SULONG)
· Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL)
· Association of Genuine Labor Organizations (AGLO)
· Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP)
· Kongreso ng Pagkakaisa ng Manggagawa sa Pilipinas (KPMP)
· Liga ng Manggagawa
· Manggagawa para sa Kalayaan ng Bayan (MAKABAYAN)
This work is in the public domain