“They are using the crisis to worsen the workers’ condition and exploit them, knowing that they have nowhere else to turn to.”
By JUSTIN UMALI
SANTA ROSA, Laguna – Workers who availed the lodging offered by food manufacturer Century Pacific Food, Inc. were dismayed to see that their “quarters” amounted to little more than a room with carton boxes laid out as makeshift beds.
According to labor group Pagkakaisa ng Manggagawa sa Timog Katagalugan (Pamantik-KMU), the anonymous complaints came in as Century Pacific Food stepped up its mass hiring efforts without “asking for other requirements apart from a barangay clearance and biodata.”
As a result of the ongoing Luzon-wide lockdown, companies like Century Pacific Food, Inc. have offered lodging to workers who cannot travel to the workplace. Under the enhanced community quarantine, all means of public transportation have been stopped.
But despite the offer, the actual lodging had “no sanitation measures” in place and are “frankly insulting for any worker.”
“They are using the crisis to worsen the workers’ condition and exploit them, knowing that they have nowhere else to turn to,” the group said in a statement. “They are exploiting the situation to create bigger profit.”
Pamantik-KMU also noted that no safety measures were being put in place to account for the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. “There are already two confirmed cases in Biñan. How can we be sure that the people Century Pacific Food is hiring aren’t [Persons Under Investigation] or [Persons Under Monitoring]?” the group asked.
Pamantik-KMU also noted that Century Pacific Food, Inc. has neither given any medical or financial assistance to its workers, nor is it paying hazard pay for the workforce it currently has on employ.
Under the enhanced community quarantine guidelines, only private establishments providing basic necessities such as manufacturing and processing plants of food products shall be kept open, but must adopt of a strict skeletal workforce and social distancing measures.
Century Pacific Food, Inc. workers have also yet to receive the P5,000-peso financial aid the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) has promised to provide to all workers affected by the Luzon lockdown, according to Pamantik-KMU.
“Capitalist exploitation of the working class is unjustifiable especially if it’s done with the connivance of the state and the local government units,” said Pamantik-KMU in a statement. “Companies must give the necessary aid to the workers during the time that they are staying in company premises and while the nation is under crisis.”
The Institute for Occupational Safety and Development (IOHSAD) Philippines also called for an investigation. “Workers’ health and safety should be prioritized and ensured at all times,” IOHSAD Philippines said in a statement. “They should be given proper and quality PPEs [personal protective equipment], provided clean and safe sleeping and resting quarters. Hazard pay and compensation should also be given to the workers who report to work despite the risk of infection.”
Century Pacific Food, Inc. is the manufacturer of products such as Century Tuna, Argentina Corned Beef, and 555 Sardines. It also exports tuna, and through its subsidiary Century Pacific Agricultural Ventures, coconut. The company is owned by Ricardo Po, who also has a majority share in the pizza chain Shakey’s.