Dock workers led by Samahan ng Manggagawa sa Harbour Centre trooped to the Social Security System’s (SSS) main office in Quezon City on March 2 to file a formal complaint against manpower agency Grasials Port and Services and Stevedoring Corporation operating at Manila Harbour Centre for failing to regularly remit its workers’ contributions for their SSS premium.
“Nandito kami ngayon sa SSS dahil nais naming i-reklamo ang ginagawang panloloko sa aming mga manggagawa. Halos isang dekada na kami sa agency na ito pero hindi kumpleto o kulang ang mga hulog namin sa SSS kahit na kinakaltas ito sa sahod namin kada buwan. Nasaan na ang kinaltas sa sahod namin? Nasaan na ang mga pinaghirapan namin? (We are here in SSS because we want to complain how we workers have been deceived. We worked with this agency for almost a decade now but they have not remitted contributions they have deducted from our wages monthly. Where did the deductions for SSS contributions go? Where did our hard work go?” said Samahang Manggagawa sa Harbour Centre President Eldefonso Bello during the picket protest.
According to Bello, their salaries are deducted for their SSS premium but they just recently found out that the agency do not regularly remit their premium disqualifying the workers to apply for medical assistance and loan.
“Buwanan sila magpasahod kaya napipilitan kaming ibenta ang aming sahod sa bumbay (They give our wages once a month and we are forced to sell our wages to loan sharks),” said Bello.
Bello added that the agency only pay them P670 a day for a 12-hour work but the loan sharks deduct from their wage receive only P580.
“Kulang ang kinikita namin para sa pangangailangan ng aming pamilya (What we earn is not enough for the needs of the family),” lamented Bello.
There are around 300 workers hired by the stevedoring manpower agency who are all contractual workers. Workers at Manila Harbour Centre work for 12 to 16 hours a day without breaks to fast-track unloading of cargo from ships. However, they work for only three days in a week.
Bello lamented that their work unloading heavy cargo is dangerous and prone to accident but they do not receive any medical benefits. In addition, they do not have safety protective gears.
Ragas Prado, a stevedore at Manila Harbour Centre who has been working with Grasials since 2007, met an accident in November 2016. His foot was crushed by a heavy steel bar? which made his feet swell for two weeks making him unable to work. The manpower agency did not give him any medical assistance. Instead, he was told to apply for sickness benefits at SSS.
When Prado applied for the benefits, he found out that there are months that Grasials did not remit his contributions making it difficult for his claim to get approved.
Juan Muleta, another stevedore for 7 years with Grasials, also suffered the same fate on October 2016. He narrated that he was only given P1,000 by the agency’s personnel and ordered him to return the change. He was also unable to work for two weeks.
When Muleta showed his information sheet from SSS, the document revealed that the agency only remitted his contributions twice in 2016 and 2012 while no remittance was made from 2013 to 2015.
Filing of complaint
During the filing of complaint, workers were met by SSS Media Affairs personnel and accepted the letter. The workers were encouraged to fill-up the individual affidavit of complaints form against their agency.
“Maling-mali ang ginagawa ng employer,” said Lilibeth Suralvo from the SSS Media Affairs Office referring to the non-remittance of Grasials’ workers’ contribution.
However, Suralvo said that they have to go through the process where they will refer the complaints to the nearest SSS office of the employer’s address, investigate the complaint and write an assessment, write to the employer on the findings and bill them. If the employer will ignore the letters from the SSS, they will send them several demand letters and if the employer will continue to ignore the SSS within 90 days, they will file criminal charges in the local courts.
Suralvo said that if proven guilty, Grasials might face criminal estafa with 10 to 15 years of imprisonment, aside from the millions that the agency will pay for the non-remittance of contributions.
However, Gerry Serue, Secretary General of labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno-National Capital Region (KMU-NCR), said that it is also the SSS’s duty to monitor and charge employers who are delinquent in remitting its employees’ contributions.
“Dapat ding maging mapagmatiyag ang mga manggagawa sa posibleng maniobra ng kumpanya para makalusot sa kanilang pananagutan sa mga manggagawa (The workers should also be vigilant for possible ploys of the company to get away from their responsibility to the workers),” said Serue.
Call against contractualization
Bello said that their situation as contractual workers in Harbour Centre is not a far cry from the situation of other contractual workers in other parts of the country.
“Maaaring may iba pang mga agency na hindi hinuhulugan ang contribution sa SSS, Philhealth at Pag-ibig na hindi agad nalalaman ng mga manggagawa kasi wala silang malinaw na kontrata o payslip. Ibig sabihin, araw-araw ay maraming mga manggagawa ang niloloko ng sistema ng kontraktwalisasyon na malaganap sa bansa (There may be other agencies that do not remit the SSS, Philhealth and Pag-ibig contributions of their workers that the workers do not find out right away because because they do not have a clear contract or payslip. That means, everyday, a lot of workers are being deceived by the system of contractualization in the country),” Bello added.
The Harbour Centre workers challenged the Duterte administration to stay true to its promise to end contractualization.
“Walang mabuting idinulot ang kontraktwalisasyon sa mga manggagawa. Dapat na niyang tuparin ang kanyang pangako. Dapat nang tuldukan ang napakatagal nang pagdurusa ng mga manggagawa (Contractualization is a bane. He should deliver on his promise. The prolonged suffering of the workers must be ended),” Bello concluded.