The current deep recession that is expected to lead into a severe depression has began to kick into high gear in the Philippines in the first few weeks of the new year, portending worse things to come for the country’s 36-million strong labor force. Despite the government’s claims at “safeguarding” the workers “amidst the global storm”, the people and the ordinary workers will evidently be made to bear the heaviest blows of the crisis. From bad to worse disparities between the nominal and family living wages continue to widen. In the NCR alone where the family living wage is at P904 and the nominal wage including the cost of living allowances is at P382 last year, the wage gap is already pegged at P522 or a staggering 42.3% difference. This difference entails a lowering of living standards through belt tightening measures. In fact, the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) said that poor Filipino families spent less on food as high prices of food eats up more than 60 percent of their budget.
The crisis definitely exacerbates the chronic poverty afflicting most sections of the population. Hunger incidence reached a new record high according to the fourth quarter of 2008 report on hunger by the Social Weather Stations (SWS) placing the estimated number of hungry families to 4.3 million. Not “business as usual” In 2008, official government statistics pronounced slowdown in employment to 1.8% from 2.8% growth rate in 2007. Sectors of industry that which suffered the most were manufacturing, commodity and service exports. Overall industry sector employment fell by 1.5%, with the manufacturing sub-sector taking a heavy battering with an employment drop of 135,000 due to slowdown in exports. “It is not business as usual”, observed the labor secretary with the mounting layoffs.
The National Wages and Productivity Commission (NWPC) said the crisis will have great impact on these sectors – information technology (IT), electronics and semiconductors, mining and even fruits and vegetables producers. Texas Instruments, one of the world’s biggest semiconductor manufacturers, has laid off 400 workers in December from its factory in the Baguio Economic Zone Authority (BEZA) due to the crisis. In the mining sector, 600 employees and contractors at the Berong nickel project in Palawan of the Toledo Mining Corp. (TMC) were laid off “on the presumption of an extended period of low demand and low nickel prices” due to the anticipation of prolonged recession. Furniture exporters also have cut back on labor due to weakened demand in the US. In Mactan Economic Zone, Maithland Smith Ltd., a furniture company, and Taiyo Yuden Philippines, Inc. which produces cellular phones, also laid off workers. Slowdowns and closures in garments factory in the Cavite Export Processing Zone were reported by the Solidarity of Cavite Workers (SCW). Lafarge Cement Services and Cemex Philippines also laid off hundreds of workers, while Holcim Philippines Inc. in Misamis Oriental – another cement production firm – has reallocated its workers following the closure of a kiln due to the slowdown in the demand of the product. Business process outsourcing (BPO) companies are also facing profit loss due to declining demand for subcontracted work. Advanced Contact Solutions (ACS), an Australian-based company was reported to have slashed 900 workers last year after losing a major US client. Amkor Technology laid off all of its 3,000 contractual women workers in September 2008. Integrated Microelectronics Inc. (IMI), which previously employed 17,000 workers, also retrenched 3,000 contractual workers last December. IMI also implemented forced leaves to more than 1,000 regular workers in December 2008.
The Bureau of Labor and Employment Statistics pegged the unemployment rate for last year at 7.4% or 2.716 million. But IBON Foundation estimated that there were 4.1 million unemployed last year. With this underemployment figure, joblessness has worsened at 10.7 million. Silent but ruthless repression. The Department of Labor and Employment dubbed 2008 as a historic milestone as it posted only 5 strikes – the lowest rate in seven years. Last year was boasted as a year of industrial peace but the reality underneath such “still waters” is very alarming. The Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR) recorded 211 new cases of trade union and human rights violations nationwide from January to November 2008. This is 23.7% higher than the 161 cases recorded in 2007. Almost half of these or 105 cases are violations to civil-political rights of workers including harassments, grave threats and killings of workers and labor advocates. On the other hand, more than half or 106 cases are violation to economic, social and cultural rights of workers. Workers experienced ruthless attacks on their picket lines and peaceful collective actions. A patent Martial Law tactic used by the Marcos dictatorship to quell labor unrest was recently revived. These trade union and human rights violations are meant to cripple the independent workers’ movement. Its chilling effect certainly has contributed to the weakening of trade unionism in the Philippines, with the organized private sector now being only at 10.54% of the total workforce. More storms ahead. This year, more layoffs are expected in the electronics, garments and other export sectors.
The BPO will continue to have jitters with regards to job retention. Accenture Manila was reported to have dropped hundreds of workers this month. Intel Corp., a California-based and the first semiconductor firm established in the country, will shutter its Cavite factory, laying off 1,800 workers. This number will put the number of retrenched workers in the semiconductor industry due to the economic downturn to 5,000 workers. About 40,000 workers in Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon) stand to lose their jobs by the first half of the year, mostly from the electronics and car manufacturing industries in the export processing zone. Amkor Technology Inc. will lay off 2,000 regular workforces by February. Workers of Samsung, Yazaki, F-Tech, Fujitsu, NEC, TDK, and Matsushita will also face layoff in the first quarter. In Calabarzon, car manufacturing companies affected by the global financial crisis implemented compressed work week and other schemes that would likely lead to retrenchments. Starting January, Toyota Motor Philippines implemented a Monday-no-production day and will “temporarily” get rid of its 500 contractuals and on-the-job trainees (OJT) by March. Nissan retrenched 40 regulars in December 2008. The company will retrench 70 more workers in February. Keihin-Philippines plans to implement a four-day work month this February. Ford now maintains only 18 employees out of the previously 400 workforce. Isuzu-Philippines will soon follow the footsteps of its mother company, which displaced 30,000 Japanese employees.
Ford RP unit is open to lay-off options if the “industry continues its decline”. Flexible work such as compressed work-week, contractualization and other flexible measures will be employed. The labor department approximates that at least 19, 000 workers are now covered by various cost-cutting measures such as reduced work-weeks, work hours or operations. More taxes will be imposed by the government and the poor will definitely be forced to carry the burden. No wage hike will be given to the workers so that their families can weather out the current crisis in a reasonably humane way. There is doubt that the government can meet its target creation of three million jobs this year. Even the seemingly rock-solid option of relying on labor export will be squeezed as OFWs continue to lose jobs abroad. Some 60,000 OFWs face the prospect of job loss by the first quarter of 2009. The way forward despite the government’s claims at “safeguarding” the workers “amidst the global storm”, the people and the ordinary workers will evidently be made to bear the brunt of the crisis. But, safeguarding workers’ welfare amid the crisis should be concrete – such as through wage hikes and price controls – which could soften the shock on dwindling incomes and falling living standards. A serious evaluation of the job generation scheme of the government should also be made to refocus the country to national industrialization, which would push economic capacity and accelerate jobs creation.
Safeguarding workers’ welfare is also being consciously advanced by the workers themselves. In a landmark victory in 2008, women workers of Bleustar Manufacturing and Marketing Corporation (BMMC), maker of Advan shoes, have struggled against sexual harassment in the workplace and for better working conditions through building their union. Through a strike, they have asserted their rights. Workers of the Kowloon Restaurant along West Avenue in Quezon City were able to secure an initial victory after four months of strike. The National Labor Relations Commission, in its decision dated December 22 ordered the reinstatement of all dismissed workers with full back wages.
Amidst the rising storm of a global economic depression unprecedented since the 1930s, only the workers’ own concerted actions to better their lot offer any glimmer of hope. The following years will certainly be a landmark of sorts in the history of workers’ struggles not only in the Philippines, but also in other parts of the globe.
Results from the January 2009 Labor Force Survey (LFS)
January 2009 1/
January 2008
Total 15 years old and over (in ‘000)
Labor Force Participation Rate (%)
Employment Rate (%)
Unemployment Rate (%)
Underemployment Rate (%)
Notes: 1/ Estimates for January 2009 are preliminary and may change.
Population 15 years and over is from the 2000 Census-based population projections.
The number of employed persons in January 2009 was estimated at 34.3 million. This placed the employment rate at 92.3 percent, which is not significantly different from the estimate reported last year at 92.6 percent. The National Capital Region (NCR) posted the lowest employment rate at 86.0 percent. Aside from NCR, CALABARZON (89.1%), Central Luzon (90.3%), Ilocos Region (91.5%), and Central Visayas (92.2%) had employment rates lower than the national employment rate. Out of the estimated 58.7 million population 15 years old and over in January 2009, about 37.1 million persons were reported to be in the labor force, placing the labor force participation rate at 63.3 percent. The labor force participation rate registered last year was 63.4 percent. Among the regions, MIMAROPA registered the highest labor force participation rate at 69.4 percent and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) posted the lowest at 55.9 percent.
Of the estimated 34.3 million employed persons in January 2009, more than one-half (51.2%) worked in the services sector, with those employed in wholesale and retail trade, repair of motor vehicles, motorcycles and personal and household goods sub-sector comprising the largest sub-sector (19.4% of the total employed). Workers in the agriculture sector accounted for 34.6 percent of the total employed, with those engaged in the agriculture, hunting and forestry sub-sector making up the largest sub-sector (30.5% of the total employed). Only 14.2 percent of the total employed were in the industry sector, with the manufacturing sub-sector making up the largest percentage (8.3% of the total employed). Among the various occupation groups, laborers and unskilled workers registered the largest group at 31.9 percent of the total employed persons in January 2009. Farmers, forestry workers and fishermen were the second largest group, accounting for 17.3 percent of the total employed.
Employed persons fall into any of these categories: wage and salary workers, own account workers and unpaid family workers. Wage and salary workers are those who work for private households, private establishments, government or government corporations and those who work with pay in own-family operated farm or business. More than half (52.3%) of the employed persons were wage and salary workers, more than one-third (35.4%) were own-account workers, and 12.3 percent were unpaid family workers. Among the wage and salary workers, those working for private establishments comprised the largest proportion (38.7% of the total employed). Government workers or those working for government corporations comprised only 8.1 percent of the total employed, while 5.2 percent were workers in private households. Meanwhile, among the own-account workers, the self-employed comprised the majority (31.3% of total employed).
Employed persons are classified as either full-time workers or part-time workers. Full-time workers are those who work for 40 hours or more while part-time workers work for less than 40 hours. In January 2009, six in every 10 employed persons were full-time workers, with those working for 40 to 48 hours having the highest proportion (39.3% of the total employed). Part-time workers comprised 36.3 percent of the total employed. Employed persons who express the desire to have additional hours of work in their present job or to have additional job, or to have a new job with longer working hours are considered underemployed. The number of underemployed persons in January 2009 was estimated at 6.2 million or an underemployment rate of 18.2 percent. Around 3.8 million or 60.8 percent of the total underemployed persons were reported as visibly underemployed or working less than 40 hours during the reference week. Those working for 40 hours or more accounted for 36.1 percent. Most of the underemployed were working in the agriculture sector (47.0%) and services sector (37.9%). The underemployed in the industry sector accounted for 15.1 percent.
The unemployment rate in January 2009 was estimated at 7.7 percent compared to 7.4 percent posted in January last year. Among the regions, the highest unemployment rate was recorded in the NCR at 14.0 percent. More males (64.1% of total unemployed) were unemployed than among females (35.9%). By age group, for every 10 unemployed persons, five (49.2%) were in the age group 15 – 24 years while three (30.3%) were in the age group 25 – 34. Across educational groups, the unemployed were comprised mostly of high school graduates (32.7%), college undergraduates at about one-fifth (22.2%), while the college graduates, 18.3 percent.
Lenin said:
“The fact that the working class participates in the political struggle and even in the political revolution does not in itself make its politics a Social-Democratic politics”
The question arises, what should political education to be done? Can it be confined to the propaganda of working class hostility to the ruling elite? It is not enough to explain to the workers that they are politically oppressed. Agitation must be conducted with regard to every concrete example of this oppression. Inasmuch that this oppression affects the most diverse classes of society, inasmuch as it manifests itself in the most varied spheres of life and activity-vocational, civic, personal, family, religious, scientific, etc. The revolutionary party must therefore conduct political exposures. It must lead the struggle of the working class not only for better terms for the sale of the labor-power but for the abolition of the social system that compels the propertyless to sell themselves to the rich. The revolutionary party represents the working class not in its relation to a given group of employers alone but in its relation to all classes of modern society and to the state as an organized political force. The party must not allow the organization of “economic exposures” to become the predominant part of their activities. The party must take up actively the political education of the working class and the development of its political consciousness.
Lenin said:
“A basic condition for the necessary expansion of political agitation is the organization of comprehensive political exposures
Class political consciousness can be brought to the workers only from without, that is, only from outside the economic struggles, from outside the sphere of relations between workers and employers. The sphere from which alone it is possible to obtain this knowledge is the sphere of relationships of all classes and strata to the state and the government, the sphere of the interrelations between all classes” (Lenin, What Is To be Done?)
Political exposures and training in revolutionary activity– in no way except by means of such political exposures can the masses be trained in political consciousness and revolutionary activity. Hence, activity of this kind is one of the most important functions of the revolutionary party. For even political freedom does not in any way eliminate exposures; it merely shifts somewhat their sphere of direction. The working class consciousness cannot be genuinely political consciousness unless the workers are trained to respond to all tyranny, oppression, violence and abuse, no matter what class is affected-unless they are trained, moreover, to respond from a revolutionary point of view and no other, says Lenin.
Lenin said:
Political exposures are as much a declaration of war against the government as economic exposures are a declaration of war against the factory owners… political exposures in themselves serve as a powerful instrument for disintegrating the system we oppose, as a means for diverting from the enemy his casual or temporary allies, as a means for spreading hostility and distrust among the permanent partners of the autocracy”
The task to conduct political exposures should not only be limited to few places but it must be organized nation-wide. The all-round political agitation will be conducted by a party which unites into one inseparable whole the assault on the government in the name of the entire people, the revolutionary training of the proletariat, and the safeguarding of its political independence, the guidance of the economic struggle of the working class and the utilization of all its spontaneous conflicts with its exploiters which rouse and bring into our camp increasing numbers of the proletariat and this can be carried sustainably by establishing “study circles, propaganda leaflets and other educational forms of activity”.  The consciousness of the working class cannot be genuinely class-consciousness unless the workers learn, from concrete and above all from topical, political facts and events to observe every other social class in all the manifestations of its intellectual, ethical, and political life; unless they learn to apply in practice the materialist analysis and the materialist estimate of all aspects of the life and activity of all classes, strata and groups of population. For this reason said Lenin that the conception of the economic struggle as the most widely means of drawing the masses into the political movement is so extremely harmful and reactionary in its practical significance.
In order to become politically conscious, the worker must have a clear picture in his mind of the economic nature and the social and political features the ruling class, the high state official and the “peasant”, the student and vagabond; he must know their strong and weak points; he must grasp the meaning of all catchwords and sophisms by which each class and each stratum camouflages its selfish strivings and its real “inner working”; he must understand what interests are reflected by certain institutions and certain laws and how they are reflected. But this “clear picture” cannot be obtained from any book. It can be obtained only from living examples and from exposures that follow close upon what is going on about us at a given moment; upon what is being discussed, it whispers perhaps, by each one in his own way; upon what finds expression in such and such events, in such and such statistics, in such and such court sentences, etc. these comprehensive political exposures are an essential and fundamental condition for training the masses in revolutionary activity.
Let us return, however to our thesis. We said that the party must “go among all classes of the population” as theoreticians, as propagandists, as agitators, and as organizers. No one doubts that the theoretical work of the party should aim at studying all the specific features of the social and political condition of the various classes.
Organization of workers and organization of revolutionaries– it is the task of the party to conduct political exposures among workers organizations and develop their consciousness and their activities to become revolutionaries in words and deeds. The organization of the revolutionaries must consist first and foremost of people who make revolutionary activity their profession.
Lenin said:
“Give us an organization of revolutionaries, and we will overturn Russia”
Men must have organized with definite means and act strictly in accordance with their ideology as Marx said that “ideology is essentially incapable of achieving anything if an ideology is to be materialized there must be men using practical forces. In other words, if an ideology to be put into practice, there must be organization, a revolutionary organization with people who make revolutionary activity their profession and performing revolutionary activities. We must have a committee of professional revolutionaries.  Unless and until the working class will elevate their consciousness and organization into revolutionary one, there will be no palpable results in their struggle.
Unless the masses are organized, wrote Lenin. The proletariat is nothing. Organized- it is everything. Organization means unity of action, unity in practical operations. But every action is valuable, of course, only because and insofar as it serves to push things forward and not backward. Organization not based on principle is meaningless, and in practice convert the workers into a miserable appendage of the bourgeoisie in power.
Lenin asserted:
  1. That no revolutionary movement can endure without a stable organization of leaders maintaining continuity
  2. That the broader the popular mass drawn spontaneously into the struggle, which forms the basis of the movement and participates in it, the more urgent the need for such an organization, and the more solid this organization must be
  3. That such an organization must consist chiefly of people professionally engaged in revolutionary activity
  4. That in an autocratic state, the more we confine the membership of such an organization to people who are professionally engaged in revolutionary activity and who have been trained in the art of combating the political police, the more difficult will it to be unearth the organization
  5. That the greater will be the number of people from the working class and from the other social classes who will be able to join the movement and perform active work in it.
The need for revolutionary cadres– the development of revolutionary cadres is not just on the areas of mastering the ABC of I.P.O (ideological, political, and organizational). The building of a contingent of revolutionary cadres must proceed from the political line and task. Cadre policy, if it is be correct, must proceed fully from the revolutionary tasks. The revolution needs a contingent of cadres who are equal to their political tasks, with regard to their number and quality as well to their composition, a contingent of cadre capable of fulfilling to the highest degree the requirements of the political tasks in each period. Complete loyalty to the ideals of socialism, and with full knowledge and grasped of Marxism-Leninism, to the interest of the working class and to the political line of the Party, the severest sense of organization and disciplines; close contacts with the masses, and the ability to fulfill the tasks assigned-these are fundamentals, unvarying requirements in the qualification of cadres, in whatever period. Discipline exists to achieve unity in actions, but if organizational unity is placed above principle, then real discipline disappears. Our tasks are internal consolidation and building of forces. Internal consolidations must focus on the development of cadres, capable of fulfilling their political tasks, completely loyal to the ideals of socialism, to the interest of the working class and to the political line of the Party. Without this, our task of building forces will remain as “pyramid of words”.
The fact that majority of the present-day leaders of the working class movement lack training- The trade-union secretary who always helps the workers to carry on the economic struggle, helps expose factory abuses, explains the injustices of the laws and of measures that hamper the freedom to strike and to pickets, explains the partiality of arbitrary court judges who belong to the bourgeoisie classes, etc., in other word, he conducts and helps to conduct the economic struggle against the employers and the government does not make him a revolutionary. The true ideal should not be the trade-union secretary but the tribune of the people.
The tasks of the tribune of the people according Lenin:
  1. The one who is able to react to every manifestation of tyranny and oppression, no matter where it appears, no matter what stratum or class of the people it affects
  2. The one who is to generalize all these manifestations and produce a single picture of police violence and capitalist exploitation
  3. The one who is to take advantage of every event, however small, in order to set forth before all his socialist convictions and his democratic demands, in order to clarify for all and everyone the world-historic significance of the struggle for the emancipation of the proletariat.
The trade-union officers- who have now ‘free themselves from direct and actual labor process” must not only focus their time on purely “economic struggle” and must not exclusively think of their own trade union. They must train themselves to give more importance on “political activities” that will raise their political consciousness as well as the membership of their organization and to enlarge their political activities and broaden their alliances with other labor organizations both local and international. They should not consider their “privileges” as if they are now the “little managers,” in fact, the working class expects more from them sense they are now full-time in doing the business of the working class.
A worker-agitator– who is at all gifted and “promising” must not be left to work eight hours a day in a factory. We must arrange that the Party maintain him; that he change the place of his activity from economic struggle to political activities in order to enlarge his experience and widen his outlook.
Why do the workers still manifest little revolutionary activity in response to the crisis? The answer to this question is simply because the “economic struggle” does not promise palpable results, because it produces little that is ‘positive” and because economic struggle is merely trade unionism. What can awaken the working class from slumber is comprehensive political exposure. There is a need therefore for propaganda, agitation, and education.
What is its content and how is to be done? Let us now proceed to the more specific content on how to conduct “political exposures” among the masses.
Lenin elaborated on what Marxists mean by ‘propaganda’ and ‘agitation’:
The socialist activities of Russian Social-Democrats [communists] consist in spreading by propaganda the teachings of scientific socialism, in spreading among the workers a proper understanding of the present social and economic system, its basis and its development, an understanding of the various classes in Russian society, of their interrelations, of the struggle between these classes, of the role of the working class in this struggle, of its attitude towards the declining and the developing classes, towards the past and the future of capitalism, an understanding of the historical task of international Social-Democracy and of the Russian working class. Inseparably connected with propaganda is agitation among the workers, which naturally comes to the forefront in the present political conditions of Russia and at the present level of development of the masses of workers. Agitation among the workers means that the Social-Democrats take part in all the spontaneous manifestations of the working-class struggle, in all the conflicts between the workers and the capitalists over the working day, wages, working conditions, etc., etc. Our task is to merge our activities with the practical, everyday questions of working-class life, to help the workers understand these questions, to draw the workers’ attention to the most important abuses, to help them formulate their demands to the employers more precisely and practically, to develop among the workers consciousness of their solidarity, consciousness of the common interests and common cause of all the Russian workers as a united working class that is part of the international army of the proletariat. To organize study circles among workers, to establish proper and secret connections between them and the central group of Social-Democrats, to publish and distribute working-class literature, to organize the receipt of correspondence from all centers of the working-class movement, to publish agitational leaflets and manifestos and to distribute them, and to train a body of experienced agitators—such, in broad outline, are the manifestations of the socialist activities of Russian Social-Democracy”
The content:
  1. The teaching of scientific socialism
  2. The spreading of proper understanding of the present social and economic   system, its basis and its development, the various classes, their interrelations and the role of the working class
The means of carrying the propaganda work:
  1. To organize study circles among workers
  2. To establish proper and secret connections between them and the Party
  3. To publish and distribute working-class literature
  4. To organize the receipt of correspondence from all manifestos and to distribute them
  5. To train a body of experienced agitators
1) The questions and concerns of the masses are the starting point for effective Marxist agitation and propaganda and connect them to the bigger evil (system).
2) Effective agitation and propaganda are completely impossible if you are not close to the masses, if you are unaware of what problems they face and what their concerns are.
3) Effective agitation and propaganda are therefore next to impossible if you divorce yourself from the struggles of the masses.

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