All Workers’ Unity wants ban on contractualization

by Demie Dangla

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Marking the second month of the Kentex fire tragedy that killed at least 69 of its contractual workers, several workers from various firms trooped to Mendiola, Manila on Monday (June 13) to condemn the wide-scale contractualization in the country.

The program was attended by workers’ organizations, such as Talents Association of GMA (TAG), Justice for Kentex Workers AllianceAlliance of Health Workers, Confederation for Unity Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (COURAGE), BPO Industry Employees Network (BIEN), among others; labor unions, including Tanggulang Ugnayang Daluyang Lakas ng Anakpawis sa Tanduay Distillers, Inc. (TUDLA), Golden Fortune Construction-National Federation of Workers Union, Unified Employees of Alorica (call center), St. Luke’s Medical Center Employees Association, All U.P. Workers Union, among others; and other support groups.

Together they tore pieces of paper with words “ENDO,” short for “End of Contract,” and “Kontraktwalisasyon” written on them.

Contractualization violates workers’ and employees’ rights to a living wage, to job security, to the free exercise of trade-union rights, and even to safety in the workplace and should therefore be banned completely, said the broad campaign network All Workers’ Unity in a statement.

They said the Kentex fire tragedy only shows that “contractualization kills, either slowly or immediately.”

Declared regular employees

Labor groups also called for media giant GMA-7 and rhum-maker Tanduay Distillers, Inc. to respect the decisions of the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) and Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Region IV, respectively, and declare their employees regular.

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TAG president Christian Cabaluna

On June 25, TAG won its initial victory against the media giant after 107 of its members were declared regular employees by the NLRC.

Despite this, TAG president Christian Cabaluna said several harassments are still being experienced by contractual or project-based workers which the network called as ‘talents’. This July, GMA-7 sacked 11 key TAG members, including Cabaluna. Some of whom worked in the network for more than a decade.

“Our call is simple, respect the decision of the NLRC. Respect, bring back those terminated and to regularize the talents who filed the case,” Cabaluna said.

GMA-7 submitted its appeal before the NLRC on July 6 arguing that TAG members should not be recognized as regular employees.

Cabaluna said that as of now 51 talents were already terminated by the network, including the 40 last year. He said they will file illegal dismissal cases against the media giant.

Despite the harassments, Cabaluna said that the decision of the NLRC gave them hope that what they are fighting for is truly just.

“The arbiter further proved the legality of what we believed in. Now that there is already a decision, it only proved that what we are fighting for is just and it will lead into something,” added Cabaluna.

 

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Aside from GMA-7 talents, contractual workers of Tanduay Distillers, Inc. were also declared regular by DOLE Region IV. Despite this, workers remain contractual.

“Until now, they still don’t give attention to the decision of the Department of Labor that we should be recognized as regular employees of Tanduay. We will not leave our picket line until we are regularized,” said Anse Are, president of TUDLA. He said they have been at their picket line for 55 days now.

Are worked in Tanduay as a contractual worker for six years as an operator and in the materials issuance department. He earned P327 for 8 hours per day, seven times a week.

He said only 103 out of 397 workers were declared regular, which he believed to be a tactical scheme to divide their unity as a union. Are said they will not stop fighting until all of them are regularized.

Tanduay is owned by one of the richest man in the country, Lucio Tan.

Widespread unfair labor practice

On the other hand, contractual workers of the construction company Golden Fortune remain to stay at their picket line since it was built December last year, as they continue to fight for their rights.

“We don’t get our rightful benefits. There are discrepancies in our Social Security System (SSS) even though we contribute on a regular basis. We experience illegal deduction. They deduct seminar and uniform fees from our salary, whereas they should be free,” said Rogelio Justiniane, president of Golden Fortune Construction-National Federation of Workers Union-KMU. Justiniane worked in Golden Fortune for more than three decades.

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Justiniane said 98 workers were already sacked since last year, because of their choice to join their union and fight and protect their rights as workers.

Meanwhile, the first ever duly registered BPO workers union in the Philippines was established May this year. Unified Employees of Alorica President Sarah Preztoza said even though she enjoys her regular employee status, they still unite with the calls of many contractual employees in the country, as they still experience labor malpractice.

She said that when the company learns they are part of a union, they would be threatened and, worse, terminated.

Two months after the tragedy

Today also marks the second month of the Kentex fire factory that killed at least 69 of its contractual workers.

The contractual workers earned less than the minimum wage which is P481 in Metro Manila, and received minimum health benefits and safety despite their hazardous workplace in the slipper factory.

Families and survivors of the Kentex fire tragedy said that respectable support from Kentex factory owner Beato Ang remains elusive.

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Kin of Kentex fire victims joined the rally

“They offered P10,000 for those who worked [in Kentex] for less than a year and P20,000 for those who worked for four years. Others gave in but most workers did not. For those like me who worked for nine years, they offered nothing yet,” said survivor Lea Bersabal said, who worked in Kentex factory for nine years.

Bersabal said they “will continue to fight to end labor issues and to win the criminal cases against the factory owner.”

Progressive labor group Kilusang Mayo Uno Secretary General Roger Soluta said they aim to end the contractualization in the county.

“We want to completely put an end to contractualization and establish a law that would make it a crime for capitalists to not follow and respect the rights of workers,” Soluta said.

“Contractualization in the Philippines became widespread because of foreign regulations and neoliberalization. The capitalists sacrifice the interest of workers in the altar of profit by making them contractual workers,” he added.

Labor groups will be joining the big mobilization of various sectors on July 27 for the last State of the Nation Address of President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino, to reiterate their rights as workers and to fight for a more livable wage and working condition.

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Photos by Erika Alcantara

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