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Bacolod City, Philippines Friday, May 1, 2009
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Workers to stage
3 labor day rallies
BY CARLA GOMEZ

About 8,500 farmers and other workers affiliated with militant groups will converge in Bacolod Cityforthree Labor Day protests today.

Felipe Gelle Jr., BAYAN-Negros secretary general, said the estimated 2,500 participants of the Lakbayan from some cities and towns in Negros Occidental will converge at the Bacolod public plaza, at 9 a.m.

The group under BAYAN and Kilusang Mayo Uno will reiterate their demand for a legislated wage increase among private and government employees, Gelle said.

About 3,000 Members of the DALO, meanwhile, will march through the major streets of Bacolod from Rizal Elementary School and will culminate their protest near the City Hall at about 1 p.m., the group’s chairperson, Alan Gozon said.

The group will demand for the release of P16.7 million in supposed bonus for them under the Social Amelioration Fund.

The Partido ng Manggagawa-Negros will also stage a protest, with some 3,000 members marching from the old Department of Labor and Employment building at Alunan Street, in the city, at 1 p.m. towards the welcome rotunda near the plaza.

PM and its affiliate groups will demand for security of tenure for workers, chairperson Teofilo Agravante said.

Like KMU, DALO is against the release of the SAF to sugar planters’ associations for socio-economic programs and instead want them to be given in cash directly to workers.

Crispin Dannug, DOLE Region 6 assistant director, explained that the funds, which have been forfeited and have been forwarded to the DOLE national office in Manila, can no longer be released in the form of bonuses.

Instead, Dannug said, as what had been decided by the Sugar Tripartite Council, the budget will be coursed through  accredited planters’ groups like the Sugar Industry Foundation Inc., the National Federation of Sugarcane Planters, and the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines, among others.

The supposed unclaimed benefits came from the Social Amelioration Fund under the Social Amelioration Act of 1991 that imposed a lien of P1 per Lkg of sugar.

The SAF provides for bonuses and benefits, including, among others, assistance for maternity and death.

Dannug said that it was the responsibility of the respective planter-members of the associations to distribute the bonuses to their workers, which comprises 80 percent of the SAF.

When these funds were not given to the workers after a specified time frame, Dannug said they were forfeited and can only be released through socio-economic programs and not in cash.

The conflict, Dannug said, is that the workers are still pushing for the release of the direct release of funds to them despite the existing regulations.

The militant groups have maintained that they do not trust planters to handle their money.*PP

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