Modern-day slavery

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By Arnold Van Vugt

The Living Spirit

Wednesday, February 5, 2014


POPE Francis has called the attention of the Church to the evil of human trafficking in the world of today. He calls this modern-day slavery. Human trafficking shows itself in many different forms. The most obvious is the trafficking of women and children for prostitution and abuse.

With the abolition of slavery through international law, slavery is not that apparent anymore but so-called slave labor practices still exist in many parts of the world. Also in the Philippines slave labor is a fact in the form of slavery-like working conditions.

One of the reasons is that the social doctrine of the Church which was again re-emphasized during the Second Vatican Council has not been followed by Christian employers and entrepreneurs in the Philippines. The evil of slave labor began during the 1970s when Marcos declared martial law in the Philippines. The Department of Labor was told to abolish the rights of the workers, the right to unionize themselves and to have a collective bargaining agreement with the employer, the right to go on strike in case of a violation of that agreement.

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Instead, the practice of contractual labor through placement agencies was introduced. This is clearly a violation of the rights of the workers and this has led to an exploitation of the workers. Salesgirls in shopping centers are being exploited: they cannot protest against long working hours and low wages. They can be terminated any time, they have no job security.

Also the phenomenon of OFWs is a big misnomer. The OFWs are exploited in many different ways. They cannot make a direct contract with an employer abroad that has to go through a placement or recruitment agency. Clearly, this is slave labor. Another anomaly in our society is that our citizens feel forced to go abroad because there is a great lack of job opportunities here at home.

In many instances this phenomenon leads to broken families, married couples have to live apart for a longer time and the children lack the presence of a father or a mother in the family. The government should make one of its priorities to create more job opportunities. Unemployment is a great defect in our society. Man has a basic right to work. He needs work for his own proper self- development. As long as the proper legislation has not yet been put in place in our judicial system it is the conscience of the Christian employer or entrepreneur that must provide more humane working conditions.

Pope Francis has declared 8 February 2014 as a day of prayer for the victims of modern-day slavery. Francis has started the campaign against this slavery. Here in the Philippines it would be good if we can have an organization that people can join by committing themselves to undertake a small set of crucial activities such as seeking a commitment from companies that their supply chains are free from slave labor. The Pope or his nuncio in the Philippines could urge our legislators to pass a comprehensive piece of legislation to promote an anti-slavery strategy.

As per co-incidence, while I was writing this column I came across a report in Sun Star (Jan. 29) from staff reporter Anjo Bacarisaas which at first sight sounded unbelievable. A ‘yema’ (custard candy) making factory in our city, Christian Gil Manufacturing (CGM): 800 people from Cagayan de Oro and almost 300 people from outside the city are working there in a climate of fear with no assurance of getting paid.

The workers have been recruited by company managers on the bases of mere promises of salaries and allowances. The Department of Labor and Employment – region 10 (DOLE-10) has confirmed that the company has a business permit from the Department of Trade and Industry and the city hall. If these reports are true then this is a blatant exploitation of the workers. They are victims in that company of modern-day slavery.

The City Government should look into this anomaly

[Email: nolvanvugt@gmail.com]

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on February 06, 2014.

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