Last August 21, 2017, the House of Representatives passed House Bill 6152 or the Compressed Work Week Bill. The proposed bill increases the normal workday to more than 8 hours but not to exceed 12 hours for four days, without corresponding overtime premium.

The Senate Committee on Labor also started tackling its counterpart bill, the Senate Bill 1571, which also pushes for the institutionalization of compressed work week and other flexible working schemes.

JpegOn the National Day of Protest for Decent Work, women workers under Women WISE3 calls to junk and oppose the Senate Bill 1571. This proposal is an outright betrayal of the workers’ historical victory, especially women, in fighting for an 8-hour workday not only in the Philippines but internationally. Women workers have played a significant role in that struggle.

The Haymarket Square Affair of 1886 in Chicago Illinois is one of the most significant events in history that led to the victory of the struggle for 8-hour working hours. Tens of thousands of workers protested for their rights especially for the shortening of the working hours. Women workers were part of that significant event. In fact, a woman was one of its leaders – Lucy Parsons. She organized women sewing workers and was one of the valiant leaders of the demonstration. 4 workers died in that protest and many others were arrested to suppress the fight of the workers. Until today, it is being commemorated every May 1 or the International Workers’ Day.

Passing the Compressed Work Week Bill will take away the victory won by women and workers around the world and bring back slave labor.

Majority of workers in electornics and garments are womenWomen workers are still suffering today. They have less access to decent and stable employment, more vulnerable to different forms of discrimination including lesser wage than male, sexual violence at work and exposed to different kinds of accidents and illnesses. The recent PSA Statistics on Decent Work in fact says that more women (20.8% of employed persons) are working excessive hours in their primary jobs.

These proposed bills that legalize the current widespread company practices of forcing workers to work beyond 8 hours, will not be, in any way, beneficial to women workers. In fact, women workers struggling with double burden, taking care for the family and at work will be hardest hit if this will be passed into law. It will expose them more to precarious working conditions, reduced income, and family time. Long working hours have already caused them stress, fatigue, reproductive problems and other illnesses that negatively affect family relationship and childcare.

Women WISE3 asserts that the claims of the proponents of this bill that the compressed work week will give workers a work-life balance and will make them more productive is deceptive. How can they be productive when they will be forced to work long hours while they lose their overtime pay and part of their supposed daily wages.

Instead of pushing for a law that would further exploit the workers, the government should hold accountable abusive companies and employers. Flexible working conditions are not new to women workers. In Valenzuela, 64.2% of the workers are made to work 12 hours per day, 7 days a week. This What’s worse is that there are some who are not even paid overtime pay at all. This early, some companies in Valenzuela are now informing workers about CWW and had changed the wage system, from daily paid to piece rate. A young woman worker said, she ended up receiving only Php80 for 12-hour work. Similarly, workers in companies in special economic zones are subjected to forced overtime work as they are made to work for 12 or more hours per day.

Recently, the government announced a P21 increase in minimum wage in Metro Manila. Women WISE3 looks at this is a lame attempt to tame opposition to the compressed work week particularly in Metro Manila. This is also divisive as workers like those in Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) whose wage is the lowest at Php255 (US$5) has not given an increase in the last two years. The wage increase in Metro Manila is also a cover up on how the government turned its back to the workers and bared its pro-capitalist nature. It passed the deceptive DOLE DO 174, continues the repression of labor unions, failed to end contractualization and implement a national minimum wage. This measly increase is far from what the workers need and demand.

Women WISE3calls on the Senate to junk the SB 1571 and instead, forward legislation that will eliminate abusive labor practices, especially contractualization. The group also calls on women workers to unite defend eight (8) hours work, reclaim the rights taken from them and frustrate attempts to send them back to slavery and forced labor.#