“Noong bata pa ako, palipat lipat ng trabaho ang tatay ko dito sa Valenzuela at sa iba pang lugar, Kontraktwal siyang manggagawa. Madalas, wala siyang trabaho. Nakita ko kung gaano kahirap ang buhay niya at ang buhay namin. Maliit lang ang kinikita niya. Ngayon, mahigit 20 na ang edad ko, kontraktwal din akong manggagawa at nararanasan ko ang mga naranasan ng tatay ko noon. Nag-iisip ako, kung magkakaanak ako, ganito rin ba ang magiging buhay niya, tulad sa buhay ng tatay ko at sa buhay ko. Kailangan na itong mabago at di na magpatuloy,” said Adolfo Balonzo in a forum organized by CTUHR and Young Christian Workers.

(When I was young, my father worked as a contractual worker in various factories here in Valenzuela and other places. Many times, he did not have work. I saw how difficult it was and how our life was also very difficult. Today, I am more than 20 years old, and I am suffering the same situation that my father and our family endured many years ago. I am now wondering, will my future children experience the same fate as my father and I have? This cycle has to stop.)

Unfulfilled promises

Even with much hyped statements that DOLE will be implementing stricter regulations on contractualization, without eliminating it, CTUHR avers that long-term contractualization in companies especially in export-processing zones remains rampant.

DO 174 simply legalized and formalized what the workers often respond when asked in Filipino “Regular ka ba? Oo, regular sa agency, hindi sa kumpanya” (Are you regular worker? Yes, regular in agency, not in the company). This is even worse that the laws and regulations preceding it.

DOLE claims victories in its “anti-endo campaign.” Aside from the new department order, it claims that the government’s anti-endo campaign has benefitted more than 45,000 workers from July 2016 to March 2017. Labor groups have long been asking for more details about this claim. “Are they considered regular employees under their principal employer? Or are they part of those who are regular employees under the agencies?” CTUHR Executive Director Daisy Arago asked. The Center noted that this information is important to weigh this claimed victories because there is a huge difference between regular employment status under the principal employer and that of under the agency. This might just be part of the ploy to make workers believe that there is indeed change happening, while in reality, their conditions are worsening.

As per the documentation and monitoring of CTUHR, it has recorded several big companies that still implement the contractualization scheme. PEPSI Cola which employs 1,168 Contractual workers continue to operate under 8 manpower agencies; Coca-Cola Philippines has more than 2,000 contractual workers under an in-house agency; NEXPERIA Semiconductor (NXP) with 1,000 long-term contractuals; and House Technology Industries (HTI) which employs 8,610 contractual and casual employees. Electronics and semiconductors industry concentrated in various special economic zones in the country continue to grow and rake profits from employing contractual workers that comprise 75% of its workforce.

“Contractualization is here to stay, despite the DO 174. As long as the government refuses to take bold measures to end this scheme that violates the workers’ right to security of tenure, workers will continue to suffer various violations of their rights,” Arago said.

Slave-like conditions

Another glaring case of workers’ rights violations is the slave-like conditions of sacadas in Hacienda Luisita. In December 2016, the Unyon ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) exposed the trafficking of 800 sugar workers from different parts of Mindanao to Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac, after they rescued some sacadas who escaped. They also revealed the slave-like conditions of the sacadas in Tarlac. Despite promises of their recruiter that they will be paid above the minimum wage and that all of their expenses will be covered, they were paid measly wages averaging at P100/day and they were made to pay for all their expenses including food, accomodation and other provisions.

Workers in sweatshops also suffer slave-like working conditions. They are overworked and underpaid. Boyet is one of these overworked and underpaid workers. He has been working in one of the factories in Valenzuela for almost 5 years. He is one of the 16M who voted for President Duterte, with high hopes that he will soon be granted his much deserved regular employment status, as Duterte promised to end contractualization. 10 months after, he is much disappointed that nothing has changed with his situation, like millions of other workers like him. They work for 12 hours, 7 days a week, without the necessary protective equipment and with wages that are below the prescribed minimum wage. Boyet appealed to the President, “Wala pa ring nagbago. Hindi pa rin nakakabuhay ng pamilya ang sinasahod namin at wala pa rin kaming kasiguruhan sa trabaho. Ngayon, endo na nga ako, binigyan lang akong 3 linggong extension. Sana tuparin mo, Pangulong Duterte ang mga ipinangako mo, lalo na ang tanggalin na ang endo, taasan ang sahod at ibigay ang mga benepisyo para sa mga manggagawa.” (Nothing has changed. Our salary is still barely enough for our family and we still have no security in our job. My 5-month contract has ended, the company just gave me 3-week extension. I hope that President Duterte fulfills his promises especially to end contractualization, raise the salary of workers and give us the benefits due to us.)

Industrial Unrest

As the promises remain unfulfilled and rights continue to be violated and repressed, workers’ unity grow stronger to clamor for change.

In the 10 months of the Duterte administration, 9 workers’ strikes have already erupted, exposing further the continuing violations of the rights of workers. 4 of these strikes occured a few weeks before the first Labor Day under the Duterte administration and they erupted in the President’s bulwark, in Mindanao. This only proves that the situation of the workers has yet to improve.###