Disgruntled workers in Region 4 went on strike yesterday, paralyzing production in two separate factories in Batangas and Laguna.
Workers from the Soro-Soro Ibaba Development Cooperative (SIDC) and Renaissance Foods Corporation (RFC) lament the very low pay and the ongoing contractualization scheme being implemented by their respective employers. Both groups also complain of unfair working conditions.
The SIDC strike in Batangas City, which was launched on 5 A.M. of July 11, marks the first worker’s strike under the Duterte administration. RFC workers in Canlubang meanwhile held a protest camp on the same day.
SIDC mainly creates pig and chicken feed. Over 80 of their carriers and operators receive wages of P350 a day–less than the minimum–and have no benefits such as sick leave.
Meanwhile, RFC produces wafers and biscuits that are distributed in various outlets all over Luzon. More than 150 RFC workers work usually for more than eight hours for six days a week, yet they receive a meagre amount of P340 to P380 a day.
Now on their second day of strike, SIDC workers are calling for the regularization of contractual workers, the rehiring of those illegally fired, the return of their Php 500 water and electricity allowance, and the firm’s contribution to their benefits.
They’re also pushing for the management’s recognition of their organization, Samahan ng mga Manggagawa sa SIDC-LIGA (SAMA-SIDC-LIGA).
All salary deductions, zero benefits
Both the SIDC and RFC workers’ basic wages are far below the estimated family living wage of P1,093 per day. Most of their wages are still less than the daily minimum wage of P362 set by the Regional Wage Board in Calabarzon.
The trade union center Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) is proposing a P750 daily national minimum wage.
In addition to wage increases, the SIDC and RFC workers also called for better working conditions, regularization and more benefits.
In SIDC, workers bewailed the company’s lack of protection and medical care when they have to carry 300 to 400 90-kilo sacks a day. Yet SIDC workers do not enjoy sick leave. They shoulder the cost of their Personal Protective Equipment, according to the SAMA-SIDC-LIGA.
In addition, their contractor agency deducts P500 weekly from each worker’s salary as payment for their water and electric bills. Despite all these salary deductions however, the SIDC continuously neglects its duties in the SSS, Philhealth and Pag-Ibig contributions of its employees, the workers further said.
In RFC, workers are still forced to work overtime despite six days of work. The company also engages in labor flexibilization, a cost-cutting scheme wherein workers are forced to do jobs unrelated to their field of work.
According to Pamantik-KMU, the company does not shoulder medical costs in case of work-related injuries, as on the case of one worker who accidentally chopped his finger during production.
The workers also accused the RFC management of engaging in union-busting activities. According to the workers, when the management learned that they were they were planning to organize a trade union, they were offered an “early retirement package” early this July.
Immediate response urged
Both the workers’ group urged the current administration to fulfill its promise of ending the contractualization scheme which had only aggravated the plight of Filipino workers since its legalization under the Herrera Law of 1989.
“Alam naming maririnig ni Pangulong Duterte ang aming panawagan laban sa kontraktwalisasyon at mapanganib na kalagayan sa paggawa, at sana ay mahandugan niya ng agarang aksyon at tugon ang aming mga hinaing. (We know that President Duterte will heed our calls against contractualization and harsh work conditions, and we pray for his immediate response and action),” according to Marvin Ramos, head of SAMA-SIDC-LIGA.
Contractualization has freed employers of obligations to their workers particularly on health and retirement benefits, allowances and other bonuses. It is also the gravest threat to the Filipino workers’ job security, with most contractual workers bound to job contracts as short as 3 to 6 months.
Along with across-the-board wage increase and the scrapping of Herrera Law, progressive labor groups also called for the abolition of Regional Wage Boards, which institutionalize low wages especially outside of Metro Manila.