They work 12 hours every day, with regular four-hour overtime that often turns into an overnight overtime.
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – A hundred workers are currently holding a strike in a factory in Laguna Technopark Industrial Enclave in Biñan City. Some of the strikers are maintaining a picket outside the factory’s building while some are holding what they call as a sit-down strike inside. They reported for work but since May 10, as a protest against their continuing contractual employment, they just sat at their work stations and stopped putting together oven conveyors, fryers and fry tanks.
The company, called Middleby and led by a certain Victorino Ochoa, is supplying oven conveyors, fryers and fry tanks to the country’s top fast food chains. It has been in businessDepartmentng in customers for at least two decades now.
Of Middleby’s more than 300 workers, 191 are contractuals and only 82 are regular, the union said.
One of the contractuals and a board member of the Middleby workers’ organization, Armel Gulaver, explained that their strike mainly demands their regularization on the job. It has already been ordered by the Labor department, in fact. Gulaver has worked for five years in Middleby. He earns the daily minimum wage of P378 for Sta. Rosa, Laguna. He points to a fellow striker, a worker who has been with Middleby for the past 19 years but who remains a minimum-wage contractual worker to this day. They work 12 hours every day, with regular four-hour overtime that frequently turns into an “overnight overtime.”
To increase their meager take home pay, Gulaver told Bulatlat, many among the workers are driven to work overtime, or overnight, everyday. He admits that it puts their health at risk, especially since they don’t have medical assistance.
“I think I’ve become smaller since I started work here,” he said when asked about his health. Why do the overnight overtime, then? He said his wife is pregnant, he needs to increase his income and thus, he has worked more overtime hours recently.
Before holding a strike, he and hundreds of fellow workers there were working round the clock to keep up with orders.
As of this writing, the strike is ongoing and the workers report threats of being driven out of their picketline. They received reports they might be teargassed to force to leave their picket.
Duterte’s unrealized promise to end ENDO endangering workers
In a statement in support of Middleby strikers, KILOS NA Manggagawa, a national organization of workers in private, government, agricultural and informal sectors, criticized President Rodrigo Duterte saying his failure to end contractualization is what’s prompting the workers to strike.
“After all these dialogues with DOLE (Department of Labor and Employment) and the President, the result is an EO mimicking Department Order (DO) 174 or the existing guidelines on employment, and the bankrupt labor code which legalizes job contracting,” said Jen Pajel, KILOS NA Manggagawa spokesperson.
Last May 1, President Duterte signed EO 51 in Cebu City. Supposedly it will help end contractualization, but the country’s contractuals dismissed it as ‘worthless.’ Pajel said it only forces the workers to take action in their workplaces, like what the enclave workers are doing now in Biñan.
“The President has placed contractual workers in a dangerous situation, because the workers’ efforts to file cases in DOLE are resulting in termination of their contracts,” she added.
The way the contractual workers see it, it is as if the President is encouraging the workers to complain about contractualization, and yet companies continue to do it. “The result is that the workers who complain are most likely the first to lose their jobs,” Pajel said.
Where companies are starting to lay off those who complained to the DOLE and reported illegal contractualization, Pajel said the workers have no other option but hold a strike.
The same threat of termination goaded the Middleby workers into a sit-down strike yesterday, Gulaver told Bulatlat.
Last April 4, the DOLE issued a decision telling Middleby to regularize the said workers. The company announced instead that it will lay off 27 contractual employees including those who are covered by the DOLE’s favorable decision.
Pajel said Duterte should have been taking decisive actions to facilitate the massive regularization of contractual workers. If not, she said, local actions including strikes will likely be ignited by company policies itself.