One of Duterte’s campaign promises was to put an end to contractualization. Unsurprisingly, he hasn’t delivered (this is the man who said he’d end crime in six months, after all). The biggest thing he’s done was sign an executive order stating that illegal contractualization was illegal, basically reiterating the Department of Labor and Employment’s (DOLE) pre-existing policy, and accomplishing…pretty much nothing.
So far, DOLE hasn’t really done much either, mostly contenting itself with issuing regularization orders that end up getting seenzoned by companies. Here’s a closer look at what’s going on with the biggest companies in the contractualization conversation.
As if this contractualization debacle couldn’t get any worse, another strike happened amidst the hubbub of the holidays. Last December, workers of Sumifru, a Japanese company that exports fruits, travelled from Compostela Valley to Manila to demonstrate in the capital and attract DOLE’s attention.
Over 300 workers protested against unfair pay and Sumifru’s failure to recognize their labor rights. Earlier in the year, the company did not include all its workers in a collective bargaining agreement, which is supposed to set terms around wages and working hours.
When the workers protested Sumifru back home, the police arrived and violently dispersed them. Days later, the workers’ union marshal, a plantation worker named Danny “Boy” Bautista, was killed by an unidentified gunman.
Human rights activist Ryan Amper is convinced that the killing is part of Duterte’s counterinsurgency program, Oplan Kapayapaan, carried out by the Armed Forces of the Philippines to silence activists.
Last Dec. 22, Sumifru workers camped out in front of the Manila Central Post Office in Intramuros, holding a poignant and symbolic Christmas tree lighting ceremony. Though a hearing was supposed to be held before the end of 2018, it was moved to this year after Sumifru’s management didn’t show up at its scheduled meeting with DOLE in Manila.
Jollibee Foods Corporation (JFC) and its contractors were ordered by DOLE to refund millions of pesos worth of payments (remember that labor-only contractualized workers aren’t provided the basic funds they need to do their jobs) to its contractualized workers.
Jollibee stated that it would comply with DOLE’s demands and regularize a measly 3000 workers annually. DOLE pointed out how small this number was, and told them to regularize more. In June, JFC chairman Tony Tan Caktiong issued a bizarre statement saying contractualization had been purged from the whole Philippines. As of December 2018 though, thousands of workers still await regularization.
NutriAsia is the company that manufactures popular products like Mang Tomas, UFC, and Datu Puti. It’s also another company DOLE found guilty of labor-only contracting. Even though some of these laborers had been working for NutriAsia for several years, they were never regularized or even given raises.
When some workers formed a union, they were laid off by NutriAsia. This eventually led to a worker strike. In July, the police arrived at one of their demonstrations and violently dispersed the rally. As rocks were hurled in the air, an elderly woman was left injured and bloody. The police ended up arresting 20 people. The charges? Possession of firearms and illegal drugs. Go figure.
Last October, workers at Pacific Plaza went on strike after the company terminated its contract with Polystar agency, thereby dismissing 17 contracted workers without notice. After this, both contracted and regular workers joined hands to stage a protest.
Polystar was engaging in labor-only contracting, with their workers getting their orders and equipment straight from Pacific Plaza. Workers employed for several years were found to never have been issued a signed service agreement.
There’s also the unfair treatment these workers have to endure. They used to have a union, but after management offered them raises in return for dissolving it, the workers obeyed, only to never get those raises. The Pacific Plaza strike is still ongoing, with many workers surviving only on water.
Though these reports can be upsetting, there’s always something you can do. If you’re looking to help, and have a way with words, there’s an organization called Mayday Multimedia that’s looking for writers to help in their labor rights advocacy. You can find them on Facebook here.