Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts

Vol. VI, No. 12      April 30 - May 6, 2006      Quezon City, Philippines











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Contractual Workers: Always Underdogs?

Jane (not her real name) works in a garment factory in San Pedro, Laguna and gets paid well within the minimum range for the Southern Tagalog region. But she earns less than what a good number of her co-workers get for the same work. The difference? She’s a contractual worker.


Jane (not her real name), 38, has been working at a garment factory in San Pedro, Laguna since January. Asked how it has been working for the company thus far, she said they are treated well and they are given health and Social Security System (SSS) benefits.

The factory she’s working for manufactures brassiere and she sews on the hook and eye. She earns P277 ($5.35 based on a $1:P51.78 exchange rate as of April 28) a day, well within the minimum wage range in the Southern Tagalog region.  She says she has no complaints about her pay.

There’s a catch though: she earns less than what a number of her co-workers get for the same kind of work. The difference? She’s a contractual worker and the ones who earn more for the same work are regulars.

“It’s always like that anyway, isn’t it?” she says.

There’s another catch. She’s sure she won’t last a year in her present job.  Her work contract is for three months initially, after which she will undergo evaluation to determine if it will be extended for another two months.

“After five months, that’s it,” she says, “The company no longer hires regular workers. You have to look for another job.”

Jane considers herself lucky to have made it through the first three months this April. She will be working at the company for another two months.

Still, she is not so sure about that. The work contract of a contractual employee can be terminated anytime without the employer having to give any just cause for the termination.

Her present job is the third contractual job she has taken since April last year. She used to be a regular employee at CGC, a garment factory in Muntinlupa City. The factory closed down in April last year.

After that, she worked for European Apparel, a factory also in Muntinlupa City. She didn’t last one month on the job.

The factory, she says, doesn’t give overtime pay. “If you’re on an 8-5 shift, you should be out by 5 p.m. but the factory forces you to continue working until you reach your quota,” she says. “We couldn’t even take bathroom breaks because we were always being forced to reach our quota in the shortest time possible. Even so, it was common for us to be able to get out of the factory only by 7 or 8 p.m. The earliest one could get out of the factory was usually 6 p.m.”

Not only that. The factory, she says, was a sweat shop. “There’s no window and no ventilation in the work area,” she said, “At work you had to wear a face mask and a hair net.”

Contractual workers there had no benefits and were paid less than the minimum wage, she adds.

A few months after resigning from European Apparel, she got a job at Carina Apparel, also located in Muntinlupa City. At Carina Apparel she was paid within the minimum wage range for the National Capital Region (NCR) and had benefits, but her salary was still less than what regulars earn for the same work. Her resignation from the said company was brought about by less-than-good relations among the workers there, she said.

And now Jane is three months into her present job, and has two months more – that is, if she does not get terminated before her contract ends.

Jane has a daughter who is seven years old and will be in second grade next school year. Her husband is a security guard in Antipolo City. There are only three of them now but already, Jane says, she finds it increasingly difficult to make both ends meet.

“These days it’s hard for a family if only one of the parents is working,” she says. “There has to be at least two breadwinners. And even if there are two breadwinners it’s still difficult. Life is really hard these days.”

She will, however, soon be out of a job again. In two months or less she will have to leave the factory she’s working for right now because her contract provides only for a maximum of five months’ employment.

“By June I will be worrying sick again about where to get another job,” she says. Bulatlat



© 2006 Bulatlat  Alipato Publications

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