Gov’t, business urged to uphold workers’ rights

May 2, 201410:54 am323 views
Gov’t, business urged to uphold workers’ rights
Gov’t, business urged to uphold workers’ rights

SECURITY of tenure and the right of employees to form unions were just some of the issues raised by workers as they met the country’s Labor Day celebration with a protest action in Cagayan de Oro Thursday.

In Northern Mindanao, workers are subjected to abuses and exploitations, and many of them are not allowed to organize their unions preventing them from voicing out their demands to their employers, said Fr. Christopher Ablon, secretary general of Karapatan in the region.

Another is the deprivation of contractual employees from attaining the regular worker status, thus having a relatively lower salary or no security of tenure in their work, Ablon said.

Most workers are also deprived of their rights, he added.

Wage increase also remains an unresolved issue as workers have continued to demand for it.

For Teresita Hadman, Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) regional coordinator, the worker’s clamor should be addressed by the government especially the P125 across-the-board salary increase that KMU has been demanding since 2005.

“A family of six needs at least P1,030 a day, but the minimum wage today is only at P206 a day,” said Hadman. “How are they supposed to make a living out of that?”

The workers are still pressing the contractualization issue that has been hounding workers in the country where they are deprived of benefits and security of tenure despite the number of years they have spent at work.

‘Abuses not prevalent’

But the business sector in the city, on the other hand, thinks that abuse of workers by their employers is not that widespread here.

“Nowadays, we don’t hear so much of cases of employer abuses against their employees except perhaps for occasional cases of maltreatment or physical abuse of certain employers of their household helps,” said Efren Uy, Cagayan de Oro Chamber of Commerce and Industry Foundation Inc. president, in an interview by Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro Thursday through email.

“This is not to say exploitation of employees by their employers does not happen in our country or city at all but certainly, this is not the norm. Oro Chamber today has 391 member companies and I am proud to say that all our members are law-abiding enterprise operators. They follow what is required of them by law—from paying the right wages, workplace safety, grant of incentives, bonuses and others,” Uy added.

The Philippines has the highest unemployment rate in Asia with 7 percent, and the blame should be on the presence of so many multi-national companies in the country.

“Kay wala ta’y kaugalingong industria. For example, atong mga lansang kay made in China gyapon. Atong mga tanod, dagom, dili made in the Philippines. Kung naa ta’y kaugalingon na industria, daghan ang trabaho (Because we don’t have our own industries. For example, our nails are made in China. Our threads, needles are not made in the Philippines. If we only have our own industries, there could be a lot of work),” he said.

“Pero as long as wala ta’y kaugalingong industria, bisan pa mo-graduate ta, maglisod ta mangita ug trabaho. Unsa na lang kaha ang wala mo-graduate (But as long as we remain without our own industries even if one is a graduate, it would still be difficult to find jobs. What more if one isn’t a graduate)?” Uy furthered.

The cost of living allowance for each Filipino is about P500, however, the minimum wage for workers is 306 per day. Some companies would not even meet this minimum salary.

“Of course, employees expect increases in their regular pay every year, given the rising costs of living. But rather than an automatic and mandated increase each time, we, in business, would want to do it in a more practical and productive way by assessing the respective performance of our employees. The pay increase shall be given to those who are performing well and for those who are not, they have to double time or work harder in order to get to the salary level that they are aspiring for,” said Uy.

While there is a need for businesses to earn profits to sustain their operations, Uy said business owners must not neglect the workers’ demand for wage increase.

“While admittedly, increases in cost of living allowance (Cola) and wage hikes are sensitive issues especially to employers and business owners like myself, we all realize there is a need to balance business profitability and workers’ salary, given the economic situation and the need of workers to survive and feed their families,” he added.

Delicate balance

“Any government mandated wage or COLA increases, however, should follow proper procedures. It should not be that every time we celebrate Labor Day the raise in the pay or benefits of workers will follow. The elements of consultation, dialogue and hearing should be observed so all sectors can air their views. To the extent possible, every decision should be a win-win choice for everyone,” Uy said.

Uy said giving the workers the needed salary increase should be given much thought as both parties must engage in a two-way conversation.

“We cannot just increase the pay at the expense of the employers for what will happen to our economy if only a few businesses will be able to operate due to exorbitant employees’ salary? Everyone should be involved in the dialogue, this is what I would like to stress. And if ensuing events would really warrant upward adjustments in the COLA and/or wages, by all means we should all implement the same but if otherwise, then the employees sector should also support the employers in the latter’s aspiration to sustain the business to continue to generate the needed jobs,” he added.

“I would like to think that the management of most companies has now realized that their employees are among their most valuable assets, without whom they cannot operate properly and their businesses will not grow or even survive for long. So they treat their employees generally well and fairly,” stated Uy.

“At the same time, however, most companies prefer productivity-based promotions and pay hike. As mentioned earlier, every employee should be evaluated based on actual contribution to the growth of the company and not by favoritism (palakasan) or acquaintance basis,” he added.

Uy encourages the workers to continue the good things they are doing, learn for the better and enhance their value to their workplace.

He highlighted that with the upcoming Asean economic integration the labor sector should be competitive.

“Labor and Management should work hand in hand to expand and sustain the businesses so as to stir economic activities for the good of our region and country,” Uy furthered.

Workers’ struggle

Meanwhile, the members of the Workers Union of Pacific Activated Carbon Co. Inc. (WUPACC) marched with the other groups as they demanded for their yet-to-be-paid 17-month pay two years ago by the Pacific Activated Carbon Company (PACO) on Labor Day Thursday.

Candido Supat, 55, a widower, used to work for PACO for 30 years. He was receiving the minimum wage before he and his colleagues were fired by PACO.

He has remained jobless at present. Some of them are now trisikad drivers, and some went to Davao and some other places to find employment.

“WUPACC is dismayed on how PACO and other government agencies are treating their demands,” Supat said.

“They are not true to their words and that went on until now so we participate in this protest gathering,” he added.

About two years ago, WUPACC held a workers’ strike hoping the company will hear them.

In response, the PACO management sat down for a negotiation with the strikers and an agreement was reached wherein the workers would be paid through the proceeds from the sale of the company’s raw materials. However, that did not materialize.

The group elevated their case to the Branch 18 of the Supreme Court which issued a settlement between parties. However, the workers haven’t received their payment.

He added their SSS and Pag-ibig remittances are said to be gone.

“We have no money at all. We do not know where to go,” he said.

On Thursday, around 1,800 protesters gathered on Thursday as they cried for labor reforms.

Most them are workers from manufacturing industries in Misamis Oriental who are receiving salaries which they claimed to be unjust.

Some protesters represent the farmer’s groups who want to end the widespread capitalism in their communities.

Students’ participation

Students have also joined the protest action. “I am here because we need to inform people not to rely on mainstream media. They say that the economy was improving but the improvements can’t be felt by the average Filipino like us,” said Yasser Nasser Galvez, Civil Engineering student from Mindanao State University (MSU), who came all the way from Marawi, Lanao del Sur under the banner of the Kabataan Partylist and League of Filipino Students (LFS).

The LFS, Galvez said, is with the workers’ group in asking the government for national industrialization as a means to improve the workers’ condition and the country’s economy.

“We need to own our national industry and not rely so much on imports. They even have the power to decide what to do with our own resources. We should make it [resources] public or at least owned by the government,” he said. (With Jan Michelle Dumlao-MUST Intern)



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