Workers from different workplaces, organized and unorganized, across Cavite marched towards the front gate of the Cavite Economic Zone (CEZ) in the town of Rosario to commemorate the International Labor Day on May 1.

About 500-strong workers and sectors supporting the workers cause staged their program at the heat of the afternoon led by the Solidarity of Cavite Workers (SCW), the provincial alliance of workers here in Cavite.

Bannered by the warm participation of independent unions under the alliance, the May 1 program was themed in spurring workers movement united and organized under genuine, militant, and anti-imperialist unionism.

Leaders from different unions took turns to speak before the organized crowd focusing on workers plight and issues at plant level.

Across the nation, workers in public and private enterprises were calling for the revival of a National Minimum Wage at 16,000PhP (347.83 USD where 1USD=46PhP) a month.

A study by think tank Ibon Foundation the daily cost of living for a family to live decently is pegged at 1,088PhP (23.65USD) while the daily minimum wage of workers working in CEZ, the biggest government-operated economic zone in the country, is 315PhP (6.85USD) excluding allowances.

When the Wage Rationalization Act was enacted in 1989, minimum wages of workers in different parts of the country began to vary depending on the classification of a certain town or city set forth by the regional wage boards established under the act.

However, the objective of the said law to ensure a decent standard of living for the workers were defeated after the boards that determine the factors to justify a wage increase in a certain region or decide by how much the wages are raised are more inclined to favor business establishment well-being than workers welfare.

Also among who gave their speech was Christian Salazar.

Tano, as Christian was fondly called by colleagues, recounted that he and his family just like the others were made to believe that he can study and at the same time earn something for himself.

He said that youth like him are being recruited nowadays from far flung places by training institutes authorized under the Technical Education Skills Development Authority (TESDA) which implements the Dual Training System (DTS) Program to work inside the manufacturing plants as trainees.

Though considered as trainees, according to Tano that their workloads inside the plants do not differ from the regular workers and usually, trainees were being assigned to hazardous processes which the workers refuse.

As trainees, they only receive a daily allowance equivalent to 75% of the enforced minimum wage mandated by law. Trainees do not have any other benefits or protection inside the plants because they are considered as students thus, they are not covered by the labor code.

In the recent past before Tano and some of colleagues went to seek the help of the Workers Assistance Center (WAC) through the Hye Sung Workers Union (HSWU) several trainees from Chopil Training Institute (Chopil as it commonly called), the training-vocational institute that ‘recruited’ Tano, already questioned their status inside the manufacturing plants and the role of Chopil as an institute which supposedly trains them.

And the young workers inside the manufacturing plants have been growing as training-vocational institutes grow like mushrooms. And for Tano and company, the situation had become alarming.

The workers also did not shy away from calling for the ouster of President Noynoy Aquino.

For the workers sector, under five (5) years of the Aquino Administration, it has become callous in the calls of the workers to alleviate their situation while very doggishly favoring every desires of big business especially those who contributed well during his presidential bid.

They also called for other workers to join the fight for the workers’ rights and welfare by organizing their ranks into genuine unions.

Nagkakaisang Manggagawa ng Keyrin Electronics  (United Workers of Keyrin Electronics) or NMKE failed to reach the program outside the gate of CEZ because they were barred from marching towards the gate.

A few days before May 1, union members of NMKE informed the organizers of the activity headed by SCW that Keyrin Electronics Philippines, Inc. (KEPI) management swapped their work schedule in May 1 instead of operating on May 2.

Not deterred, NMKE union members decided to still join the program after their shifts marching from their plants towards the gate.

However, uniformed policemen from the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) and private security personnel set up a barricade against the union just more than a hundred meters from the gate.

Union officers spoke to Mr. Allan Datahan, Industrial Relations Division Chief of PEZA who were present at the barricade to let the marching workers pass and open the gate so that they can join the May 1 program.

But, Mr. Datahan did not heed the workers requests and told the workers that they already know that everyone is prohibited to use the gate especially on the said occasion. The workers were told to use the gate at the side of the CEZ, the usual route of workers entering and exiting the zone.

The standoff lasted until the program concluded at around six in the afternoon. By the time the protesters marched towards the town plaza using torches made out bamboo, union members from NMKE joined the mobilization.