August 10, 2000
PRIVATIZATION IS THE ROOT CAUSE
"THE truth is finally out! Reports of at least 3 new interested buyers of the Light Rail Transit (LRT) confirmed what the public and the workers have long suspected the workers were terminated not because they went on strike but because the government is hell bent on privatizing the LRT". This was the reaction made by COURAGE, the biggest government employees confederation, on the new buyers disclosed by the Department of Transportation & Communications (DOTC). In a statement sent to the media, COURAGE said that this also affirmed the legitimacy of the workers strike. It added that the issue is not just their demand for a salary increase to be included in their Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) but especially their insistence on a "no privatization" provision that will ensure the workers security of tenure.
"This vicious pattern of terminating the workers in preparation for the eventual sale of public utilities and enterprises is also used among government agencies that were privatized such as the Metropolitan Waterworks & Sewerage System (MWSS) and the Philippine National Bank (PNB). A restructuring program meant to cut-down personnel was undertaken prior to privatization. This is meant to make the sale more attractive to buyers less cost on workers means more profits. In the case of the LRT, the workers knew this and opted to register their opposition through the only weapon available to them, that is strike. The government retaliated and laid-off the employees en masse." Ferdie Gaite, COURAGE president said.
He also scored the Light Rail Transit Authority (LRTA) and the DOTC for compromising the safety of the riding public by operating the LRT trains with unskilled and limited personnel. Just this week, news reports of at least two trains collided and damaged the windshield and headlights of the trains and another one that went off the tracks. "Should we wait for a tragedy to happen before they realize that their hard-headedness are endangering the lives of the riding public? Maybe the government is even using these incidents as an excuse to further justify privatization. But they cannot fool the public who for years have trusted and patronized the LRT under the maintenance and operations of the striking workers".
This, according to Gaite, is the same reason why they are supporting the workers under the union PIGLAS-NFWU-KMU or the Pinag-isang Lakas ng Manggagawa sa Metro Inc. "We believe that all the workers should be reinstated and that the LRT as a mass transportation should not be privatized. For the sake and interest of the hundreds of thousand public riding the LRT, the LRT should not be placed in the hands of private business that would make it more unaffordable and inaccessible". COURAGE leaders and members are set to stage a support rally for the LRT workers. #