Insecure job tenure perpetuates poverty and exploitation.
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – Duterte has promised to end contractualization and ‘ENDO,’ but they are still studying how to do these up to now.
This in summary is the response of the Labor department to the latest trooping to their office of groups of workers demanding the realization of that campaign promise. This week, it is the Mindanao Lakbayanis (Mindanao people on protest caravan) who visited the Department of Labor and Employment for a dialogue with Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III. It is now nearly a month since the start of the Duterte administration.
June Nery Antiga, national chairperson of Ugyon UMA from Bukidnon, presented to the Labor Chief and to Labor Undersecretary Joel Maglungsod the issues of contractualization and ENDO (end of contract) in the vast plantations in Mindanao. Antiga himself is a contractual worker in STANFILCO, a division of Dole Philippines Inc., a mutinational agro-industrial company and a subsidiary of US-based Dole Food Company. They plant and export fruits such as bananas and pineapples.
From Antiga’s account, being a contractual not only affects them in terms of lower wages – lower even than the minimum wages set in their region. They also get little to nothing to depend on in times of drought. He said that since January and the onset of drought, they were either taken off work or their workdays were reduced from six days in a week to just three days in a week. This has further reduced their already low income.
Antiga shared with Labor Secretary Bello the issues of sugar cane workers who, he said, experience “extreme exploitation under the pakyawan system.”
Under this mode of employment, workers are frequently forced to work overtime yet remain underpaid at the end of the day.
Insecure job tenure perpetuates poverty and exploitation, said Antiga. In Visayan, he said in a statement that “the workers’ sector work very hard but receive wages much lower than those set in the region.”
Antiga added that lack of tenure on the job also results to lack of benefits. As an example, he cited the case of farm workers in Northern Mindanao Region where around 10,000 farmers, agricultural workers and Lumad have camped out at the Department of Social Welfare and Development Regional Office in Cagayan De Oro City. They are demanding the immediate release of aid needed by the victims of the drought. He pointed out that the drought has persisted for half a year now.
After listening to the workers, Labor Secretary Bello reiterated: “Malinaw po ang mandato ng ahensiya, wala ng endo wala ng kontraktwalisasyon. Pero ang usapin po ng pagtatapos ng ENDO ay mahabang usapan, kaya po ay kailangan namin ang inyong tulong.” (The agency’s mandate is clear – no more ENDO, no more contractualization. But the issue of ending ENDO entails a lengthy discussion, and so we need your help.”) He said the same thing to workers from the regional chapter of KMU in Southern Tagalog when they brought their “ripe” cases for implementation of labor resolution on the second week of the Duterte administration.
Labor Secretary Bello also reportedly vowed to help Mindanao workers in battling the issue of contractualization, endo, and even the pakyawan system.
Meanwhile, Labor Undersecretary Joel Maglungsod who hailed from the progressive labor movement, a longtime labor leader from Kilusang mayo Uno before he became Anakpawis Partylist Representative in Congress, promised in their language in Mindanao that immediately, he will call on the labor department’s Regional Director to ask him to investigate the real conditions of workers in plantations.
Maglungsod said that by first week of August, he hoped to conduct an assessment of plantation companies to probe violations of workers’ rights and General Labor Standards and also to examine what assistance the government should be giving the victims of drought.