A study conducted by Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR) together with students from University of the Philippines-Manila among 120 worker respondents in Valenzuela revealed that a huge majority of workers experience long hours of work and receive wages way below minimum rates.

Data from a survey conducted between the 2nd to 3rd week of June of 2016 reveals that 5 out of every 6 workers are contractual employees and two out of every three workers in Valenzuela work 12 hours a day and still earn below the prescribed P481 per eight hours of daily minimum wage rates. Of the 120 respondents, 85 percent said they are contractuals, 64 percent work 12 hours daily. The study also revealed that roughly 40 percent of the respondents work seven days a week meaning they do not enjoy day-offs or holidays. To work or not to work overtime is not an option. Rather, overtime has become mandatory as 12-hour work becomes a “normal” shift.

Surveyed workers are employed in various factories in Valenzuela, most of which are owned by Filipinos or Filipino-Chinese businessmen. These factories manufacture food products, papers, diapers, wrappers or tin cans. Valenzuela City is found in Northern Metro Manila where there remains a significant number of the enterprises engaged in manufacturing out of 15,000 business enterprises in the city.

Meanwhile, 67 percent of respondents said they receive below minimum wages. And in order to receive wage rates that approximate the minimum wage, workers have to render 12 hours of work. This means that the four-hour overtime work is unpaid. Sixty-nine percent reported they enjoy mandatory social insurance such as PhilHealth, SSS and PAGIBIG.  However, 36 percent also reported that a cash bond is deducted from their wages by manpower agencies.

CTUHR underscored that the result of the survey only affirms earlier observations by labor groups that hard-won rights like the 8-hour workday are now taken back unabashedly. “It is alarming to see that below minimum working standards proliferate in the very heart of the metropolis where economic growth and development is supposedly most palpable,” Daisy Arago, CTUHR Executive Director said.

About 43 percent of the respondents also expressed doubts about their safety as they are exposed to occupational hazards reportedly due to poor state of machines and lack of personal protective equipments (PPEs). Common injuries reported include hand wounds or cut fingers. Workers also complain of over-fatigue, allergies due to chemicals, and respiratory ailments.

Like most of workers in the entire country, majority of workers in Valenzuela are not organized into labor unions. Seventy eight percent said there are no unions in their companies and some 28 percent report being barred by their management from organizing unions. This leaves the workers without avenue for redress of their grievances.

The study also showed that younger workers tend to have less knowledge of their rights and are less likely to express dissatisfaction and dissent over their working conditions.

“While company practices in their workplaces can easily fuel protests, the workers’ desperation for employment compounded by absence of trade unions or workers associations feeds on this slave-like conditions at work. Companies become even bolder in violating basic human and labor rights.  Until and unless the government, being the primary responsible for ensuring that companies comply with what is in the law, check and decisively address this condition, such slave-like situations will continue, Arago added.

The group also said that the result of the study only reminds the Duterte administration that change in the working conditions, the urgent need for secure jobs, better wages and freedom to organize for workers had not come. “The current government, with all its promises and power can and should act quickly to lift the working population out of exploitative and oppressive conditions,” Arago averred.###