Mayo Uno: Chained labor woes

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Sunday, April 27, 2014


SHOVELING the earth under the scorching heat of the sun, sweat streamed on Rully Plazos’ face. He then filled each sack and carried each to the construction site. He would saw the wood board by board, hammer the nails to connect the wooden beams and dig the ground to lay the foundation of one’s house.

This, the 21-year-old Rully has to repeatedly do in a day to earn P200. “Kapuy gyud kaayo basta labor tapos gamay ra ang suweldo (It is so tiring to do labor especially with this low pay),” he told Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro in an interview.

Rully started his construction work since he was 19 after his father went missing during the typhoon Sendong in 2011 that ravaged more than a thousand lives and damaged properties among riverbank residents in the city.

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With his father missing, the family’s survival compelled Rully to takeover his father’s responsibilities.

Rully taught his cousin, John Rey Plazos, 17, the ropes of construction labor. John also lost his mother during Sendong. Both of them are now residents of Calaanan relocation site. They used to live in Balulang before Sendong struck.

John is a minor yet he has to work to help his family. “Ani gyud ni karun, lisud kaayo ang kinabuhi, kinahanglan mulihok gyud ta (This is it. Life is difficult and we need to do something),” he said while thrusting his shovel in the soil.

Labor only contracting

Beth, a saleslady at one of the grocery stores in Cogon market, works eight hours a day, seven days a week. And yet she has remained under the contractual scheme. Her employer renews her contract every six months.

For her to become a regular employee is uncertain. Fortunately, she is single and receives P306 per day, the minimum wage in the region. The pay, she said, is enough for her everyday living. Monthly contributions for PhilHealth, SSS and Pag-Ibig and other benefits are slashed from her pay.

She had been hearing rumors of wage increases, but until today it hasn’t been reflected on her pay slip, thus losing hope for it to ever happen.

“Kay mao na lagi ingon sila ‘mag-increase, mag-increase’ pero mao lang man giyapun kay nagataas pud ang palitunon (They said there is an increase, but there is none yet. Instead, the prices of commodities have been spiking),” she said.

Beth pities on the situation of her co-workers who have families. “Ingon sila dili daw gyud maigo ang sweldo na P306 a day. Naa sila’y boarding house, nagbayad sila’g kuryente nga karun misaka sab ang presyo… ang every day pa nga panginahanglan. Ang pagkaon nila. Makaingon gyud sila na kulang gyud daw (They [her co-workers] said the P306 a day isn’t enough. They pay their boarding houses plus the electricity which rate has gone up… their daily needs. Their food. They really said it isn’t enough),” Beth shared.

Shiela,19, works at a small grocery in Cogon market. She comes from Bukidnon and came to the city to work as a grocery helper for the six days a week taking in only Sunday afternoons for rest.

“Kapoy,” she said referring to her work.

However, she is contented with P200 a day salary that could contribute to raise her seven other siblings.

To go abroad

By July, Beth’s contract will expire but she is thinking of not renewing it anymore. “Kay naa pa man gud ko’y plano. Mag-aplay ko sa laing country… for a change (I have a plan. I will apply work abroad…) ,” she said.

While halving the metal hinges to build a gate, Richard Waminal, 36, a welder since he was 18, said, “wala may lisud, basta tun-an.”

They are 12 in the family. Three of them are boys who are all welders.

His father, Doro Waminal owned their residential welding shop, which was passed on to Richard when his father died. Their father taught them all that they know about welding.

He is planning to go abroad because “menos man gud ang pangwarta diri (income is difficult to come by here).” He is now working to comply with the requirements abroad.

Family living wage

According to the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), for a family of six in the region to live within the poverty threshold, it has to earn P860 a day while in the National Capital Region it is pegged at P1,016 a day.

Neda calls it the “family living wage.”

For Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) secretary-general Richard Colao, the government failed to provide its people’s needs especially on the wage issue.

In Northern Mindanao, 40 percent are agri-workers rendering labor at banana, pineapple and other plantations in Bukidnon. “Wala niabot sa minimum wage ang sweldo sa mga mamumuong pang-uma (The wage of the agri-workers didn’t even reach the minimum),” he said.

These plantations, Colao said, only pay around P120-150 per day.

The Regional Tripartite Wage and Productivity Board (RTWPB) said that the wages of the agri-workers should be at P306 pesos a day, but it has failed to implement it, he added.

“Mas naay kita ang agrikultura (Agriculture earns better),” he said.

He furthered that agri-workers and the peasants are harshly treated as reflected on the failure of the government to employ the minimum wage for the agri-workers.

Wildon Barros, spokesperson of Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) in Northern Mindanao, recalled that in 1886, “gibuhusan, gipakamatyan ang protesta para sa 8 hours nga panarbaho instead of 12 hours, 100 ka tao, gi-massacre sa Hay Market Square in Chicago.”

“Kada May 1, dili angay mag celebrate, kun dili, makigbisog para sa desenting trabaho ug ikondena ang ubos nga suweldo ug ang ginabalik nila nga 12 hours nga trabaho (Every May 1, there’s no point of celebrating, let us fight for decent work and condemn the low wage and the 12 hour-work that has been resurfaced),” he said.

“Walay pronouncement nga tagaan ug increase sa sweldo ang mga mamumuo, nagpakita lang siya (President Aquino) sa iyang pagka anti-labor (There is no pronouncement on any increase on wage for the workers, he (President Aquino) only shows his anti-labor stance),” he lamented.

Barros argued that “dako kaayo ug gintang sa family living wage nga 860 pesos versus 306 pesos lamang ang gihatag karun sa RTWPB (There is a big gap between the family living wage of P860 versus the P360 that RTWPB has mandated).”

“Daghan kaayo ang way trabaho karun, nationwide kana siya, hapit na muabot ug five million ang unemployed (There are too many who don’t have work, and that is nationwide. Unemployment has neared five million). ”

Barros said the unemployment has even increased last March as more graduates join the ranks of the unemployed here in the city.

Apart from unemployment, underemployment also exists, he added.

Juanito De los Reyes, 39, is a graduate of Criminology at Cagayan de Oro College (COC). “Bisag dili ka degree-holder o non-degree holder, ang pinakadali nga trabaho kay ang pag gwardya (Even if you are a degree-holder or non-degree holder, the easiest job to find is become a security guard),” Delos Reyes said.

Delos Reyes failed in his application to become a police due to his height, thus left him no option, but apply as a guard.

He earns 306 pesos a day rendering eight hours of service. “Makuha-an pa gyud na (And there will be deductions),” Juanito said.

“Depende na sa mga kapitalista kung mag-increase sila (It is up to the capitalist to increase (the wage),” he argued referring to the wage increase that labor unions are fighting for.

Across-the-board wage hike

“We are contemplating of filing another petition for wage increase, more or less 80-100 pesos, “ Nicandro L. Borja, regional vice president of Northern Mindanao Region Office of Associated Labor Union-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (ALU-TUCP), said.

“We want living wage, not minimum wage,” Borja lamented.

He added, “minimum wage is not enough to support the family of the workers. If there is any increase, it should be across the board. Everybody must enjoy it.

Everybody is affected in the increase of basic commodities (power rates, high tuition fees, high transport fare and others), hence, all workers must be given much to sustain their families.”

Barros told Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro that, “Ang kahimtang karun sa mga mamumuo diri sa northern Mindanao, sama ra gihapon sa kahimtang nasudnong langkob (The situation of the workers here in Northern Mindanao is no different from the national scope).”

Barros said that industry workers have decreased over the years while the service workers have increased considering the mushrooming of service-oriented businesses.

“Nag pamatuod lang kini nga ang Pilipinas, dili pa gyud industriyalisado (This is a proof that the Philippines is not yet industrialized). It has remained import dependent and export oriented,” he added.

“Nagkanipis pud ang atong agri-workers diri kay mao lagi, tig-tanum raman ta ug agricultural products para i-export sa gawas. Para mabulahan ang mga langyaw ug dili ang katawhang Pilipino (Our agri-workers have also diminished since they only plant the agricultural produce for export. It favors the foreigners and not the Filipinos),” he added.

Barros said that KMU reiterates its across-the-board wage increase petition of P125.

He assured that KMU would continue to struggle with the workers in their plight to push for the humane and just wage.

He also encourages every worker to participate the May 1 labor day protest rally in the city. (With Lynyrd Alexsei N. Corrales XU-DevCom Intern)

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on April 27, 2014.

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