Zusimo Borja, 48, was the union president of the workers of Mehitabil, Inc., a furniture company based in Cebu City, which primarily exports its products to the United States. On February 14 of this year, he was terminated by his company, with 379 other regular employees, seven of whom are ranking union officers. Borja has been working for the company for 20 years.
“Wala gyud mi giklaro ug istorya sa management. Ang pagpanaktak nila namo illegal, pero sa among kahiubos, maskin ang DOLE wala’y mahimo nga tabang sa amo nga mga gagmay’ng mamumu-o (The management did not talk to us. We were illegally relieved, and yet, to our disappointment, DoLE could not help us, marginalized workers),” Borja said.
Borja related that when he heard that his co-workers were being told by the personnel manager not to return to work the next day, they tried to seek a dialogue with management to no avail. They then went to the DoLE for assistance, but were told that the department could not help them because the company is experiencing the effects of the global economic crisis and that cutting down on labor is the company’s prerogative.
“Apan ang kompanya dili losing. Wala lang man gyud tan-awa sa DOLE ang sitwasyon sa kompanya. Sila naman nu-an ang mirason alang sa kompanya (But the company was not losing money. The DoLE did not even bother to look into the situation of the company, instead they were quick to justify the company’s actions),” he lamented. “Dako kaayo ang among kahiubos (We were deeply disappointed with the DoLE).”
Today, Borja goes around the city at night selling balot (boiled duck egg) in order to support his family of seven. “Ang akong asawa naningkamot ug pinangita ug kwarta alang maka-kaon ang among anak, kay ang akong pamaligya ug balot dili man gani makabuhi nako nga ako ra gani usa (My wife is trying hard to help look for money so that she would be able to feed our children. I could not even support myself with my income),” he said.
“Sa tinu-od, kami nagduda nga kini gibuhat sa management para maluya ang unyon kay karong umalabot nga Agosto dapat magrenew mi sa among Collective Bargaining Agreement (We believe that the management is doing this to weaken our union because come August we will be renewing our CBA),” he said.
This sentiment was echoed by Paglinawan when he said that there is a systematic attack on organized workers by businessmen. He said that the retrenchment of workers is a way for management to indirectly break the union in the company.
“We propose for DoLE to review the flexible labor arrangement and the retrenchment of workers. DoLE is starting to tolerate the wage violations and depressing labor standards of companies for the reason that these companies are supposedly losing money because of the crisis. They would reason out that workers should be thankful to have a job,” Paglinawan said.
Paglinawan suggested that in order for the country to recover from the crisis, workers should be given a wage increase. He said that House Bill 1722, which provides for a P125 across-the-b0oard wage increase for workers in private companies, should be given priority.
“Kung motaas ang sweldo sa mga mamumuo, mo taas ang ilang purchasing power (If the wages of workers is increased then their purchasing power would be improved, as well). With purchasing power they could buy the products of small and medium enterprises. Pero kung ang mamumuo wala’y capacity nga makapalit tungod kay mawad-an sila ug trabaho, ang atong mga negosyante wala’y halin. Mas mosamot ang crisis (But if our workers would no longer have any job then they would not be capable of buying anything. The businesses would not have any sales),” he explained. “So, dili na tinuod nga kung mangayo ta ug increase sa suholan susama lang sa pagpangayo ug termination paper (So, it is not true that asking for a salary increase is like asking for a termination paper).”
Paglinawan also said that instead of pushing for the stimulus package, government should start looking into giving incentives to small and medium enterprises. “Karon ang naay daghang incentive ang mga dagkong kompanya ug mga transnational companies. Ang mga SME na nuan wala’y incentive, dagko pa ug interes ang loan (Today, transnational companies have more incentives. SME’s on the other hand have no incentives and the loan interests are very high),” he said justifying that with proper incentives, SME’s would be able to grow and generate more jobs.(Bulatlat.com)