Women WISE3: Where’s the promised CHANGE?


Strong promises of genuine change by the new administration, especially the pledge to end contractualization is rapidly slipping from government priorities.  Filipino workers continue suffer with the dire working conditions in the country – long working hours, low wages, unstable jobs, unsafe working conditions while businesses are given so much leeway, so as not to antagonize them with the workers’ demand for the government to deliver its promises.

Even in the eve of the celebration of International Working Women Day, the government chose to keep businesses happier at the expense of workers.  To protest such inaction and reclaim the gains of women movement worldwide, Women Workers in Struggle for Employment, Empowerment and Emancipation (Women WISE3) in solidarity with all women in the world marched together with women workers, peasants and other sectors for jobs, land, justice and peace.

The relentless violent pursuit of small criminal offenders, alleged drug addicts and pushes resulting to 7,000 deaths, did not make a dent on reducing poverty and uplifting the poor.  A recent survey of the Social Weather Stations (SWS) in fact reveals that the number of jobless Filipinos rose to 11.2 million (25.1%) in December 2016 from 8.2 million (18.4%) in September 2016, 3 million more unemployed in just 3 months.

Women workers remain more vulnerable to these conditions, as they continue to have lesser access to employment. The recent government data in fact, affirms that 29.2% of women or 9.5 million women are economically inactive and not included in the labor force.

Household or family duties while foundation to family survival and existence, remain unrecognized, as they are unpaid and not even considered work.  So, it is hardly surprising that the number of unpaid family workers rose to 4.2 million, 60% of which are women.

Those women who are economically active or employed on the other hand,  are in unstable and low-paying jobs.  Women workers are concentrated in three sectors: manufacturing, service and agri-corporations. These are the industries where contractualization and other unfair labor practices are most rampant.

Apart from repeated short term contracts, some factories and plantations, exploit women by hiring them under the “pakyawan” system – workers are paid per piece or according to completed task per acre instead of 8-hour work.  This is probably the worst kind of flexible work, often experienced by women workers.  In W.L. Foods in Valenzuela city, for example, a female dominated workplace, most women are assigned as repackers and paid under the “pakyawan” system. They work for 12 hours, 6-7 days a week and receive a measly P200-P400 pesos/daily, still way below the P491 mandated wage for 8-hour work per day.

Despite successive workplace accidents resulting to deaths, unsafe and precarious working conditions persist in the workplaces.  The victims of the Kentex factory fire that took place on May 13,2015 are still struggling for justice. Last Februrary 1, House Technology Industries (HTI) in Cavite Export Processing Zone was gutted by fire, with hundreds of workers mostly contractual are yet to be accounted for, yet information is continually withheld by the company in cahoots with the local government authorities.   The independent Fact-Finding Mission led by the Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR) also revealed that HTI has in fact violated several safety standards including prescribed passageway, exits etc. Survivors noted that most of those trapped were women, working at the Quality Control.

Outside the workplace,  different forms of violence and rights violations continue to beset women.  Last January 31, 2017, Eleonor Gonzales, a call center agent in Mandaluyong was robbed and killed. Similar conditions befell another call center agent in Bacolod last March 1, 2017. A former BPO worker also reported incidents of sexual harassment in the industry particularly against short term contract workers.

Yet, from home to overseas, attacks on women’s rights continue. Last January 25, 2017, Jakatia Pawa, a domestic worker in Kuwait was accused of killing her employer and hanged to death. Until her last breath, Pawa maintained her innocence but absence of support for her case, led to her death.  Pawa was not alone. In fact, more than a hundred overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) are in the death row and more than 9,000 are continually detained in different countries.

Women WISE3 also condemned in stronger terms the ongoing “war on drugs” that has caused the deaths of 7,000 people. The war on drugs, and Pres. Duterte’s repeated pronouncements or statements about killing the criminals and those involved in drugs has continue to encourage a climate of violence, against the family and the poor but did not deter crimes.  Similarly, Women WISE3 is alarmed about renewed militarization in communities and the military capture of the administration governance policy of `law and order’.

The rise of poverty, inflation, human rights violations, and the impunity are more than enough reasons to warrant the resumption of peace talks, towards signing the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms.  #