By PRINCESS FRIEL LONTOC
MANILA – Just three months into forming their union, Salve Laynes, a garments sewer in the Cavite Export Processing Zone, said that their company has declared bankruptcy. But she is not buying this.
“They just said that they are closing, due to their losses, bankruptcy, things like that. But we were not given any evidence as to why that happened, and we also asked about their clearance for closure, we didn’t receive anything,” Laynes told Bulatlat in Filipino, adding that they suspect that the company is merely locking them out of their workplace.
Laynes said they sew clothes that are shipped overseas, mostly to Korea. But after the forming of their union, the Samahang Manggagawa sa LSNFG, their company declared bankruptcy. Workers were given a “13-day” offer, which was the product of their length of service in years and the minimum wage rate by 13 days.
As such, Laynes is only set to receive only P36,491 for her seven years of service, including her 13th-month pay amounting to around P30,000. This is what she would take home for her 10–12-hour work shifts every day where she earns P401, Cavite’s minimum daily wage rate.
Laynes is among the women workers who attended the forum “I Vow to Fight VAW: Women in the World of Work” on Nov. 25, 2022 which was organized by women’s group Gabriela, Gabriela Women’s Party and Kilusan ng Manggagawang Kababaihan (KMK) in time for the International Day to Eliminate Violence Against Women.
KMK national spokesperson Lailanie Buena said that the biggest issue confronting women workers is union organizing. “We need to fight for our workers’ right to form unions and the freedom to associate because it is a freedom we should have, it is our right. They know about this, but they are the ones who are violating our right to assemble and unite, and they are the ones hindering gatherings and movements like this.”
“We wish to get our jobs back and that they will not shut their operations. If ever, I hope to be absorbed into their sister companies. That is all we ask,” Laynes said.
For Emely Barrey, vice president of the Nexperia Semiconductors Southern Tagalog Union, establishing a union is important because there is strength in numbers. They proved this in their 40 years as a union, where they became the voice of 2,500 women working at their company.
However, Barrey said that this did not spare them from attacks, including being visited five times by representatives from the government’s anti-insurgency arm National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC). “Their major concern is our affiliation, which is with the National Federation of Labor Unions (NAFLU-KMU). They are asking why we cannot just be an independent union.”
It seems, she added, that their personal information, including their addresses, age, union positions, and duties, were leaked to the NTF-ELCAC. “So, on our end, we try to orient everyone on how to answer because they will not stop, they will visit you in your home several times, to the point that it will become annoying.”
Red-tagging is also rampant among agricultural workers, with peasant organizers being arrested and imprisoned, Zen Soriano of women farmers group Amihan said. “We need to support those who are imprisoned because they are not usually visited by their family, they don’t have any money, especially those in provincial or municipal jails. They don’t have money for their everyday needs, so most of them are treated as slaves by rich prisoners.”
Urban poor women, on the other hand, are being deprived of making a living.
A representative of the Kalipunan ng Mamamayan na Pinagkaisa sa NBP, Inc. (Kampina) said that authorities have been seizing the fruits that they buy wholesale from nearby provinces and even their digital weigh scales, which amount to P2,000 to P3,000.
Some of the central issues discussed at the workshop forum include low salaries, unstable jobs, informalization of work, lack of benefits, and the gender pay gap. To address these work-related issues, a group of workers in the informal sectors discussed forming an alliance.
“It can be discouraging sometimes, the fact that you are dealing with the problems the right way, but we still can’t find any solutions because of corrupt officials in the government,” Carmen Carpio, a health and wellness advocate and part of the informal sector, said during the forum.
Rep. Arlene Brosas of the Gabriela Partylist said that they continue to push for House Bill No. (HBN) 2173 (Pro-Worker Security of Tenure Bill), HBN 4898 (National Minimum Wage Bill), and HBN 407 (Bill Penalizing Union Interference). “We have only a few unions here in the Philippines, what will happen to them if they are discouraged and harassed?”
Together with the International Labor Organization (ILO), Gabriela Partylist also pushes for the ratification of ILO C190 which seeks to end violence and harassment. More than 80 legislators have signed and showed support for the ratification.
Gabriela Partylist’s Deputy Secretary Cora Agovida said that laws can only do so much if the government does not implement them properly. “We have laws just like the Magna Carta for Women and Bill of Rights but they are not implemented properly, thus we cannot benefit from them. Our government’s priority is that if women excel in various fields, repression will be enacted in exchange for it.” (JJE, DAA)