DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Progressive labour groups in the Davao region poured into the streets on August 27 to join colleagues nationwide to demand accountability of the Duterte administration over what they said were unfulfilled promises to labor, notably in protecting the rights of workers and better working condition.
A group called Samahan ng mga Manggagawa laban sa Kontraktwalisasyon (SAMA AKO), formed among non-unionized and contractual workers, said there was no significant change in the workers situation despite President Rodrigo Duterte’s pronouncement to end contractualization.
Sama Ako spokesperson Sustines Bantayan said majoritory of the establishments and big companies in the region continued to adapt the contractual scheme and slammed the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) for allegedly failing to act on complaints. Most of these companies Bantayan said were big companies who hire their employees through service providers.
The Nagkahiusang Mamumuo sa Suyafa Farms (NAMASUFA) reported that three service agencies were providing workers for the Japanese banana company,Sumifru in Composela Valley. These service providers were the Montevista Banana Service Coopertaive (MOBASCO), Bagongon Packing Plant Workers Cooperative (BAPAPWOCO), and North Skilled Workers Cooperative (NSCO).
They provide seventy percent of the contractual workers of the more than 4,000 workers of the company assigned as field workers, harvesters and packers, the NAMASUFA said.
The workers group in the Coca-Cola Femsa Inc. plant in Davao City said the softdrinks company also tap service providers to get workers.
Ricardo Sales of the Kilusang Manggagawa ng Coca-Cola (KIMACO) said the company has four existing service providers for their contract workers: Work Expert, Eagle Star, Red System Company and Bemerk that provided the seventy percent contractual manpower for the bottling company.
“Most of these contractual workers have worked for more than eight years yet they remained contractuals because they were agency-hired workers” said Sales.
Bantayan said these companies and many more others have been named in numerous complaints filed at the DOLE office but he said none of them complied.
In an interview with Ranil Guillermo of Sama Ako in Sta. Cruz Davao de Sur, he said that the service providers of the coconut desiccating firm, Franklin Baker, were deducting from the workers salary the use of their Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
“We pay for our own protective gears, and it is directly deducted to our salary” said Guillermo.
Poor working condition
Workers at the ceramic tile manufacturing firm, Nakayama Technology Corporation, were also complaining of poor working environment leading to illnesses. Edmira Ferolin, who is a member of Workers Oppressed by Nakayama (WON), said a batch of employees was diagnosed with respiratory problem blamed on exposure to fine granules and dust.
She said a worker died in 2014 while performing his job due to a machine malfunction.
In 2015 the company sacked 157 workers for reportedly refusing to sign job contracts that would make them agency-hired. The company hired about 2,000 workers to manufacture brick and granite wall panels and roofing systems in its Digos factory for export to Japan and other countries.
Bantayan said some operations in some companies like Sumifru and Coca-cola have exposed their workers without protective clothing.
Bantayan that in Coca-cola alone, the company uses a chemical called caustic soda to treat the bacteria inside the bottles. This chemical is being stored in one place and manually cleaned by workers who he said “do not uses protective gears”.
“This chemical is so hazardous that the workers tend to file leave of absence during their schedule for them to avoid the chemical exposure” said Bantayan.
The Namasufa in the Sumifru plantation in Compostela Valley said that in the packing section of the company’s banana plantation, they uses a chemical called Bangkit 25 which Elizar Diayon said;”it has no smell but most workers experienced dizziness and respiratory problems.
Diayon said that before the company used Bangkit 25 for banana treatment, it also used chemicals called Omega and Serenade that have the same effect.
“ Many of our co-workers were brought to the hospital and suffered illnesses because of chemical exposure” said Diayon.
Attacking labor rights
Sama Ako noted that many companies in the region have discouraged or prevented their workers from forming or joining a union.
“Though this is our right and it is in the constitution, our companies has all the reason in this world to prevent us from forming a union because they know that we have legitimate demands ” said Bantayan.
In Sumifru, Melodina Gumanoy said members of Namasufa were subjected to tight monitoring and harassment.
“This kind of attack is being experience by workers. They were tagged as supporters or members of the New Peoples Army for being a member of union affiliated to Kilunsang Mayo Uno “ said Gumanoy.
Aside from the experience of workers in Sumifru, Bantayan said 13 members of Kimaco were also arrested including himself by authorities in a protest this year after the Coca-Cola dismissed 57 contractual workers with 6-8 years service.
While Ferolin also said that instead of regularizing the sacked 157 workers who have been for more than five, the Nakayama company declared redundancy of direct hired workers to hire another batch of contractuals under the service provider scheme.
Under the company-service provider scheme, Bantayan said the workers has no security of tenure. He said that the company does not have any direct responsibility of its work force while service providers gained double.
On Monday, a nationwide protest action calls for the approval of national minimum wage of P750 per day in all private companies backed by Anakpawis Partylist in congress.
Kmu-Smr spokesperson Carlo Olalo said the proposed P750 increase will be beneficial for the working sector especially that Filipinos have been suffering with high taxes due to the Tax Reform Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Law.
“All companies can easily give P750 minimum wage to our working sector without the fear of loosing their business.In fact workers are the main reason why they have huge profit” said Olalo.
The group said that in the region alone minimum salary of workers is only P340 per day. This minimum salary of workers cannot sustain the needs of a family five members who needs to eat three times a day, pay the house rent and bills such as electricity and water, as well as save for emergency needs.
The group now challenge the current administration to support the call to for increase of national minimum wage.
“This is to alleviate the worsening situation of our people and provide them a somehow good living condition” said Olalo.
The government has been conducting series of dialogue to different workers group in the country in the past two years. In his past pronouncements, the president personally promised the working sector hear all their concerns and exert their best efforts.
But they said all of these promised ‘were never felt nor experienced’.(davaotoday.com)