Today the nation honors, appreciates and salutes the millions in the labor force all over the country. We might even consider these workers as also genuine servants of the state. They are the hands and feet, even to some extent the mind and the soul, of production. On them too rest the rise and fall of economy. The condition of labor is probably a key to the question of social progress.
We can gauge the country’s poverty level by looking at the condition of the majority of our labor force. In some real sense, the primary basis for the value of work is the worker himself. As the classic saying goes: “Work is for man, not man for work.” Every human being achieves fulfillment by working for himself and his family and then for the great society whose life he participates in.
This means everyone must be able to derive from his work the means of supporting himself and his family, and of serving the human community. It is necessary that solidarity among workers themselves and with workers on the part of business establishments be promoted for the protection of mutual rights.
While approaching and advocating the ideal situation of solidarity and communion between labor and businessmen, still the “priority of labor over capital” should be accepted as a fundamental and classic principle. This is based on the principle of the “primacy of man over things”—such as, science and technology, the instruments of work, money, profit, which are thought of as capital.
Numbers or statistics might help our reflection on Labor Day. While government claims that 5 million jobs have been generated from 2001 to the present (Philippine Star, April 30, 2007), one study has it that in January 2006 the unemployed individuals have reached 3.9 million and still increasing, while the underemployed were 5.4 million of 31.7 million employed. Overseas work has helped to a great extent the Philippine economy by mitigating the employment problem in the country. As of 2004 the overseas Filipino workers totaled 8 million. It is an accepted fact, their remittances have provided an important source of income for a great number of Filipino families.
During the present campaign period for the May election, the condition of labor must be one of the concerns addressed to our future leaders of government in all levels. We may have many good laws that are “pro workers”, but how many of them are still waiting for implementation? The poverty level of labor could be a sign (one anyway) indicating the genuine level of economy.
We hope that the future leaders of our country—from the bottom up—in solidarity with the business sector, will ensure through implementation of just legislation the workers’ rights as well as the just development of the world of work.
+ANGEL N. LAGDAMEO
Archbishop of Jaro
May 1, 2007