CEBU City, Sept. 13, 2011— A Catholic bishop has suggested the establishment of labor desks in dioceses, amid the growing challenges that workers are facing.
According to Jaro Archbishop Angel Lagdameo, present labor issues entail the urgent need for a workable system in the Church that would attend to the concerns of the workers.
“It will be good that our social action centers start to think about putting up a labor desk so that our workers will have a group to address their concerns,” Lagdameo said during a press conference Tuesday.
Lagdameo, a former president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, was a guest speaker of the Church-People Workers Solidarity National Conference in Cebu City which is set to end on Friday.
Jaro Auxiliary Bishop Gerardo Alminaza, for his part, said the purpose of the conference is to generate responses from the labor sector about the pressing labor issues like the problem on contractualization and low wages.
The gathering involves talks on labor issues and workshops. Whether the conference would end with a call for the creation of labor desks, Alminaza said it would be up to the participants.
“We don’t want to preempt the workshop process but definitely as we continue to discuss the present situation, we will try to come out with an action plan,” said Alminaza, the “prime mover” of the CPWS conference.
“It will also be submitted to the CBCP and the different dioceses for consideration,” he said.
As the CPWS starts its official plenary session today, participants coming from the workers and other marginalized groups expressed their hope to gain concrete support from the Church on pertinent national and local issues confronting them.
Cebu-based union president Arley Tigle of the CENAPRO Employees Union hopes the Church will influence CENAPRO owner in order to prevent the termination of 19 union officers and members who recently received a notice of termination.
Tigle said the union earned the ire of CENAPRO management after they conducted series of protest when the management refused to grant health benefits to an ailing union member who later died of cancer.
He added that 13 other workers have died due to cancer and cardiac arrest which the union attributes to the workers’ exposure to chemical processed in the factory. CENAPRO is producing activated carbon.
President of Visayas Electric Company Employees Union Casmero Mahilum who was “illegally terminated” said he hopes the Church will continuously support their union.
Mahilum was allegedly terminated in a move of VECEU management to crush the union. He was also charged with libel. He claimed the management also “violated” the terms and conditions of the collective bargaining agreement between the VECEU and the union.
Workers of palm oil plantation in Mindanao, meanwhile, wail of unjust wages. Eleazar Abaja, CWS convenor and president of Palm Oil Plantation Workers Union in Agusan said “I hope that the Church will help us in our struggle for just wages.”
According to Abaja, palm oil workers only receive an average of P90 a day for harvesting 30 pieces of fruit bunch. When sold by management, it earns a gross income of P7,200 for the 30 pieces of fruit bunch.
Steve Ranjo, convenor of the CWS and National President of PISTON, said that he hopes that the conference will make resolutions that will concretely address the problem of unabated oil price hikes.
“Oil companies enjoy more profit with the unabated oil price hikes while workers, drivers, and our families suffer from higher cost of gas, transportation and basic commodities,” Ranjo said.
“It is a symptom of the deepening crisis of globalization; with the policies of deregulation and privatization, capitalists are able to extract more profit from the poor. And I hope that in these more difficult times for the marginalized in our society, the Church will make itself relevant by taking ‘concrete’ steps that will advance the interest of the workers,” he said. [CBCPNews]