On Labor Day, Filipinos demand better wages and an end to contractual labor

Protests marked Labor Day in the Philippines

The scorching summer heat did not stop more than a hundred thousand Filipinos from taking part in the Labor Day nationwide protests to demand from the government better wages, job security, and a genuine delivery of basic social services.

In the country’s capital Manila, an estimated 35,000 people from the labor sector, urban poor, women groups, farmer organizations, health workers, government and private employees joined forces with Kilusang Mayo Uno (May 1 Movement), an independent labor center promoting militant unionism, in marching through the streets of Manila to collectively denounce the persistence of contractualization of labor despite President Duterte’s campaign promise to stop the said labor policy, and demand to implement a national minimum wage of P750 (13.8 euro) per day for the private sector and a P16, 000 (294.6 euro) minimum monthly salary for government employees.

The current daily minimum wage in Metro Manila is P481 (8.86 euro); in the provinces, the minimum wage ranges from P235 to P335 (4.33 euro to 6.17 euro). These wages are way below the P1, 119 (20.6 euro) wage suggested by research group Ibon Foundation for a family to live a relatively decent life.

Ibon data shows that as of 2016, 63% or 24.4 million Filipinos are non-regular, agency-hired, informal sector or unpaid family workers who are in low-paying and insecure work with poor or no benefits. There are still a considerable 11.5 million who are without work or still looking for more work because of the poor quality jobs.

Neoliberal policies

The protesters blamed neoliberal policies for the prevalence of low wages and contractualization as corporations constantly attempt to increase their profits by cutting employment and reducing wage costs and benefits of workers while the government continues to reduce public expenditure for social services, such as health and education.

The protesters called on the government to carry out more comprehensive economic reforms to end not only contractualization but also the country’s labor-export policy as well as the cheap labor and anti-union policy to attract foreign investors at the expense of the workers.


GABRIELA, together with Kilusan ng mga Manggagawang Kababaihan (Women Workers Movement), a member organization of the  federation, formed a thousand-strong contingent of women workers, urban poor and middle-class employees who joined the protests. Besides the call to end contractual labor and for a P750 national minimum wage, Gabriela is also calling for more strategic reforms like the creation of national industries that will create and ensure more regular jobs. It is also calling for an independent economy that will ensure food security and food sovereignty rather than depend on international agreements.

Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights) lamented the continuing cases of political killings and human rights violations as it recorded 55 victims of political killings under the Duterte administration. This is at the top of the more than 8,000 drug-related killings. Among the 55 victims, the majority are community and labor organizers, peasant leaders and activists while urban poor communities have primarily borne the brunt of the drug war.

The Council for Health and Development challenged the government to heed their call for a salary increase and safe working conditions for health workers as it pointed out that majority of the health workers suffer long working hours, receive a low salary, with many without the security of tenure.

Other Philippine partners of the TWHA, Solidagro and Kiyo consortium took part in the event as they showed solidarity with the workers and joined them in the call for wage increase and an end to contractual labor in the country. Some 80,000 people joined the progressive social movement –led rallies in other parts of the country.