Sugar is still sweet, workers' lives more sour

Sugar is still sweet, workers' lives more sour

It’s been some time since I have written factual and feature stories about the sad plight of our workers - service, mill, and sugar workers.

Recently my sentiment for the workers was in a frenzy, struggling to explode.

Despite the howls and curses of big planters, millers, and traders against illegal trade, continuing sugar importation, and market manipulation of sugar prices, the sugar business remains viable and profitable, maintaining their usual extravagant and showy lifestyle.

I find it ironic sometimes hypocritical that when they cry against sugar importation, the sugar crisis, among others, it is as if they are already on the edge of destitution. Nobody among them has turned their life awry or has gone hungry.

No, not them, but most sugar workers are, whose life is more miserable than ever.

Not only do they continue to suffer low wages, lack of benefits, slave-like working conditions, discrimination, and abuse, especially for women and child laborers, but the employment system now has worsened due to rampant practice of piece-rate system and other labor-only contracting through the entry of private contracting agency in many sugar farms.

Sources from the Department of Labor likewise confirmed the continuing attacks on the rights of sugar workers, especially on the security of tenure, land tilling rights, and suppression of the right to unionize and assembly.

In several sugar mills, mill workers' conditions have not gone any better on the matters of wages, benefits, security of tenure, and rights protection.

Many companies have reportedly been contemptuous and at times violent against independent and progressive unions, and work only with pro-management unions or associations.

I have also been receiving data and facts about the condition of workers in the service sector, especially public service utilities, power, water, transportation, and telecommunication. They face similar problems not only in their class interests but in resisting the bigger social problem of privatization or the takeover of these vital and service-oriented public utilities by big business corporations.

They often have to put their own economic interests and rights into secondary and give way to public interest issues which they know would bring greater good to many, or if lost, would bring more public suffering.

Indeed, our working class, the foundation and strong arm of our society, the creator of public wealth, is in dire strait.

But so sad and bad that nobody seems to care for our workers. Big business capitalists and big landed elites are busy enriching themselves. The government, and local government units, are hooked up in their own expedient political and economic interests, and worse squabbling over public resources to advance the interests of their political dynasty and clans.

Who else can the workers seek for help? Well, the workers themselves must realize and harness their power. The defenders of workers’ rights and social justice, like lawyers, churches, civil society organizations, and corporations with a sincere commitment to their social responsibility - must likewise give more time to the workers' problem, because of their vital role in the development and advancement of our civilizations.

For me, today, I join those who can no longer accept the things they cannot change, and change the things they cannot accept.*


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