On this year’s International Working Women’s Day, women workers under the banner of the network, Women WISE3 or the Women Workers in Struggle for Employment, Empowerment and Emancipation, shall join the protest march to push for decent jobs, national minimum wage, an end on violence against women, repression of human rights, access to social protection including adequate and affordable housing.
Male and female workers alike, suffer the dire working conditions in the country. Women remain more vulnerable as they have less access to employment. Recent data from the Gender Labor Statistics for instance a huge gap in the participation of women (50.7%) from that of men (78%) in the labor force.
The number of female workers rendering unpaid jobs rose to 4.2 million. More Filipino women endure low-paying and unstable jobs. In W.L. Foods Corporation in Valenzuela city for, where majority of estimated 2,000-3,000contractual workers are women, workers are paid Php 381-Php475 daily (still below prescribed minimum wage) for 12 hours work.
In 2015, the government approved a measly increase in wages of P15, just enough to buy 2 packs of instant noodles or 3 small size eggs that this government wants the poor to eat for daily meals. When it comes to workers and the poor, the government and capitalists never care about health ahd nutrition. The minimum wage, P481 in NCR (highest) and P250 in ARMM (lowest) is still very far from the daily cost of living of a family of 6 which is pegged at P1,088 per day. The women’s average daily wage is even lower at P379.34 per day, 21% lower than the minimum wage.
Not only wages are taken from women’s labour and participation in production and services. In Aquino’s six years, almost a hundred women workers died due to unsafe and inhuman workplaces. The worst is the Kentex Factory fire in 2015 which took the lives of 74 workers, mostly women. Eight (8) workers were also killed in the Asia Micro Tech fire in Pasay in 2014, 17 women workers burned to death in a fire in Novo Department store and warehouse in Butuan city on May 2012. Until today, they have not given justice.
In banana plantations, women workers who are constantly exposed to hazardous chemicals are only paid a measly Php100-Php 200 daily. In some sugar plantations in Negros Occidental, women and children working in the fields only get P2.00 for 30 pieces of sugar cane they harvest from the fields to the cargo trucks. Even with this kind of jobs, they face constant threat of getting dismissed. There were no benefits.
The Aquino government, even in its remaining months in office continues to fail in easing the working conditions and provid adequate benefits for women workers. Just recently, Aquino vetoed the P2000 SSS pension hike bill which could have brought an immediate relief to many families especially the Senior Citizen pensioners. In 2011, it has repealed the “night work Prohibition Law” allegedley for discriminatory nature on women. However, the move did not consider the protection of women from health hazards that night work brings such as excessive exposure on flourescent light which studies noted negatively affect women’s reproductive system.. The government also failed to pass the Expanded Maternity Leave for women workers. Mothers are only allowed 60-78 days of maternity leave which is way behind the prescribed standard by the International Labor Organization of 98 days.
The Conditional Cash Transfer or Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), that this government takes so much pride and which presidential candidates want to continue if elected, seems not just graft laden but divisive and deceptive. Cleofe (not her real name) from Caloocan city, a recipient of 4Ps, with 3 students (1 college and 2 high schools) was in shock when disbursement officer simply shrugged off her question on why was she only receiving P600 for almost a year now? According to CTUHR, beneficiaries it met in Luzon and Mindanao also shared complaints and questions on where do the money go, if they are not given to them because they missed attending meetings or they became critical of the system?
The Pabahay Program, which figured in the administrations’s so-called accomplishment and in a campaign advertisement feels like a cruel joke stabbling the relocatees. In Caloocan city, where housing was built a private developer Megawide Constuction corp for National Housing Authority, (a Publi-Private Partnership or PPP) residents removed from danger zones along waterways, and promised decent dwellings are now battling the layers of fees that they are being asked to pay, higher rental, electricty, water, maintenance and other charges. If calculated, the cost of each unit in a medium-rise building that is now starting to have leaks only after a year will amount to about Php500,00 For an urban poor families uprooted from their jobs and source of livelihood, the though to the amount is scarier than the rampaging floods from Tullahan river.
The higher unemployment and precarious job nature that women can access made them more vulnerable and pushed to look for employment overseas. Thus it more and more Filipino women go abroad and more become victims of different kinds of abuses and exploitation. The number of OFWs leaving the country has increased greatly from 2,500 per day in 2009 to 6,092 per day in 2014 (Ibon). 6 out of 10 OFWs are women.
As the 6-year term of the Aquino administration nears its end, Women Wise3 reiterates that urban poor and working women’s condition worsened under Daang Matuwid . There was no relief in their dire conditions despite the Philippines so-called annual average of growth rate of 6.3% (2010-2014). Women Wise3 also criticizes the K-12 program, other human rights violations inflicted by Oplan Bayanihan, the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement which it says will make the Philippines a huge base for American soldiers in Asia and will expose more women to exploitation and abuses like in past when US bases were still here.
As the 2016 National Elections approaches, talks about change are everywhere. All the candidates claim to be “for the poor and the masses.” But they are more campaign propaganda. Women Wise3 urges women workers to remain vigilant and demand for genuine change. Women Wise3 calls on women workers to intensify the fight for workers’ rights.
Women Wise3 challenges the aspirants of the 2016 elections, especially the Presidential candidates, to genuinely address the plight of the Filipino workers. “To ensure women empowerment, higher participation and integration in the labor force is not enough. What male and female workers alike, need are secure jobs,decent living wages, humane working conditions, respect for the right to organize freely and access to adequate social services for the majority not for the few.”###