October 28 marks the National Women’s Day, a time to reflect on the struggles of Filipino women to uphold the rights they are entitled to as much as the men are. We celebrate the triumph of the fight for the rights to suffrage, to education, and to jobs, among other opportunities that have allowed them to make indispensable contributions to the society.
Today, however, we are also reminded that the struggle for women’s liberation continues. For us here at Women WISE3, in particular, we remember that in workplaces all over the country, millions of women still suffer from the various forms and degrees of discrimination.
Women workers are the most vulnerable when it comes to different cases of trade union rights violations, such as inadequate pay, illegal dismissal, and lack of benefits and security of tenure. In Philbess Inc. of Valenzuela, a company that deals with printing labels on sacks, the rates for male workers adhere to the minimum wage law, while those for the female workers are determined by the ‘pakyawan system.’ And while most companies only require 8 hours for a regular workday, Philbess demands 12 to 13 hours of work because of a very high set quota, but does not provide overtime pay. The company also does not offer medical benefits for employees, especially for the pregnant ones.
In factories in Novaliches, including JVC, Rebisco and Nutri, women workers are required to endure weekly change in their shift (the company has day and night shifts). This exposes workers to various health risks as a result of being constantly sleep-deprived, and for women, the dangers of commuting at night. For instance, some report suffering frequent headaches and having low blood pressure.
Many women workers have also faced violence because of their affiliation with the trade unions, especially those that are currently on strike. For instance, the picket at Philbess was demolished last October 15, and women, some with their children in tow, were hurt. The same is true for the protest strike at LCE in Pasig, where the picketline has been dismantled time and again.
These cases, which are but a few of the thousands that remain unresolved to this day, are a painful reminder of how much work there is left to do. At the same time, for us at Women WISE3, these cases serve as an inspiration to continue the fight for the rights of women workers, they who also toil so that several mouths back home can eat, they who carry half of the sky.#