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Women WISE3: Where’s the promised CHANGE?

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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.  #

 

On HTI Factory fire: Women WISE3 urges thorough, independent and independent investigation

 

“Noong makalabas na ako sa building, nakita ko ang ibang mga manggagawa, karamihan ay babae, na tumatalon mula sa bintana ng 2nd at 3rd floor. Mayroon pa ngang buntis.”(When I was already out of the building, I saw workers, mostly women, including a pregnant woman jumping out of the window from the 2nd and 3rd floor.), a survivor recounted.

Women WISE3 expresses strong concern over these accounts, the company and the authorities seem indifferent about those allegations. A week after the huge fire that gutted the House Technology Industries in Rosario Cavite, a credible probe has not been conducted and doubts over no fatalities except those two male workers who died in the hospital linger. Gov. Remulla reiterated several times that only 126 were injured, accounts say otherwise.

Last February 4-5, 2017, a multisectoral National Fact-Finding Mission (NFFM) led by the Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR) and Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research (EILER) was conducted to investigate the incident. Initial NFMM report raised concerns over a number of workers, witnesses and survivors who were hesitant, often evasive to answer inquiries related to the tragedy. The report also notes that two important things contradictory to the official (local government) reports given to the media: (1) Accounts underscored that were workers more women who were trapped inside the building during the panic, (2) there were exits which were locked, and workers from the 2nd and 3rd floors of the building resorted to breaking windows to get out.

The findings also indicated that the contractual or agency-hired workers were not included in the head count conducted contrary to the company claims that “all workers were accounted for”. Testimonies from survivors also suggest that more women workers may have been trapped in the 3rd floor of the building, as there are more women working in the Quality Control department. The list of those injured and eventually treated and confined at the hospital contains only 25 women out of 126 total injuries. While Women WISE3 would not desire negative impact for women, the allegations that more women jumped out of the window belie the official claim.

HTI, the biggest and acclaimed as“best” company in the Cavite Export Processing Zone (CEPZ) or in Cavite as a whole was issued by PEZA a compliance certification. PEZA however did not say, what does it require to be certified as compliant. Most probably, PEZA does not cover the fact that casuals directly hired by HTI have to transferred to six manpower agencies after 3 months to become agency workers for as long as two years. When they passed the evaluation that it was only then that workers could be rehired by HTI. There are about 13,000 plus workers at HTI, of whom 5,000 more are contractuals. Contractual or agency-hired are overworked and are deprived of same benefits that regular workers receive.

In 2013, fire also hit the company but as the same, the company, PEZA and LGU kept mum over the incident.

Industrial fires, like in Kentex Manufacturing Corp in 2015 and the HTI fire, are never just accidents. But until and unless, inspection and compliance are voluntary on the part of the company, workers occupational safety and health will be compromised. OSH standards have to be legally enforced.

On February 10, Women WISE3 joined its fellow workers and workers’ rights advocates in a protest action at the Welcome Rotondain Quezon City to call for justice for the victims of the fire in the House Technology Industries. Women WISE3 also supports the demand for an immediate, thorough, transparent and independent investigation on the HTI fire, and to hold accountable those who are responsible for this tragedy.#

Pen and Notebook Campaign 2016

 

One of the difficulties faced by parents every school year is providing for the school supplies, uniform and other expenses of their children. Meager wages, unstable jobs and increasing prices of commodities make it really hard for families to send their children to school. Even if their children attend public schools where there is no tuition fee, their schooling would still require other expenses – uniform, fare, food, school supplies, books, projects, etc.

It is especially hard for workers in precarious jobs, with low wages and those who are suffering different forms of human rights violations to provide for all the needs of their children in school. Knowing this difficulty, CTUHR has launched Pen & Notebook Campaign since 2004 to provide support to children of labor leaders and organizers, urban poor and families of victims of extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and other human rights violations. Last June 4, 2016, CTUHR gathered support from the Filipino community in Oyama, Japan for the Pen and Notebook Campaign. A total of 180 children of labor leaders, Women WISE3 members in Caloocan City, and striking workers in Laguna were given school bags with basic school supplies (notebooks, pad papers, pencils, pens) necessary for their studies.

On June 4, CTUHR and Women WISE3 held a program at Ina ng Laging Saklolo Chapel in Franville 2 in Caloocan City and distributed over a hundred school bags with complete school supplies to members of Women WISE3 in Camarin Residences in Caloocan City. Other beneficiaries are children of workers and displaced workers from other parts of the Metro and Southern Luzon. (Watch video of Pen and Notebook Campaign 2016)

Beyond charity, CTUHR recognizes the program as something that support members and strengthen organizations in order to continue pursuing the struggle for their right to decent wages, regular employment and unions. But at the same “we hope there will come a time when urban poor and workers no longer need to seek support and charity for the school needs of their children because they already have capacity to provide their needs.”###

 

Women WISE joins calls for justice for Kidapawan farmers

11 April 2016

“We are one with the farmers, and the Filipino people in calling for justice for the victims in the Kidapawan. There is no justification for the violent dispersal and use of high caliber firearms against the farmers especially because their demand for food is legitimate,” said Kamille Deligente, coordinator of Women Workers in Struggle for Employment Empowerment and Emancipation (Women WISE3) in a candle lighting activity held by the group last April 8, a week after the violent dispersal of protesting farmers in Kidapawan.

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Women WISE3 members gathered to hold a short program on the grounds of Camarin Residence I and lighted candles as sign of grief and call for justice for the farmers and victims in Kidapawan. The group held placards containing popular calls #BigasHindiBala and condemned the violent dispersal and demanded justice for the victims of the violent dispersal.

On April 1, close to 6,000 North Cotabato farmers barricading the national hi-way were violently dispersed by the police resulting in two casualties and 10 fatally injured. The farmers have been on the streets since March 29 demanding the release of rice subsidy as their farmlands were heavily stricken by drought due to El Nino.  On January, the provincial government placed the entire North Cotabato province under the state of calamity.

“We condemn the continuing harassment of the farmers and we demand those detained be immediately released and their case dismissed. We find it desperate that government is accusing the farmers to have been infiltrated by the rebels to justify the dispersal.  Isn’t this the same justification that Arroyo government used in Hacienda Luisita massacre? There can be no justification to shoot the hungry farmers and the poor asking for rice badly stricken by climate change,” Deligente added.

About 79 individuals including senior citizens and women, were arrested and charged with direct  assault upon person in authority. Three out of 28 women now detained in Kidapawan Convention Hall are pregnant.  The court handling the case recently lowered the amount of bail from 12,000 per person to 2,000 per person.

“From one disaster to another, we have seen how the Aquino administration neglected the needs of the poor, yet it placed them in prominence if they serve the election campaign. To the government the much-needed food that farmers were asking was something that can be sidelined and delayed or tempered by pronouncements that the government is prepared for the drought. Such pronouncements only aggravate the pain of rumbling stomachs.”

The group added that they share the anger of many towards the indifference of PNoy and the national government who “has not done anything” to expedite disbursement of the calamity fund to aid the victims of drought. “Is it because the fund was already spent on something else?” Deligente asked.

The group also pointed out that under Aquino, the farmers, workers and the urban poor endured too much poverty and violence. With at least 25 victims of extra-judicial killings of workers and the urban poor and numerous cases of violent dispersal of workers strikes and demolition of urban poor communities, Aquino’s record in human rights is a bloody one.

“We hold the Aquino government, the PNP and the local government of Kidapawan and North Cotabato accountable for what transpired in Kidapawan. Ultimately, we hold the Aquino government accountable for its exemplary record of violence and continuing attacks on the lives of the poor,” Deligente ended.###

IWD 2016: No relief in Daang Matuwid,   intensify our action  for decent work, and access to social services, and human rights!

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.

IWD 2013--002

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.”###

Group of relocatees hails cut in monthly maintenance fee

Members of WISE3 and HOA of Camarin Residences 1 share their plight in the radio program, Ganito Ngayon

Members of WISE3 and HOA of Camarin Residences 1 share their plight in the radio program, Ganito Ngayon

The homeowners’ association (HOA) and Workers in Struggle for Employment Empowerment and Emancipation (WISE3) chapter of Building H in Camarin Residences 1, Caloocan City hailed the outcome of their  dialogue with the National Housing Authority (NHA) last September 4 as the NHA and the local government unit (LGU) caved in their demand to lower the monthly maintenance charges from P425 to P146.

“Because of our persistence and strong demands to the government, the NHA and the Local Government of the City of Caloocan was forced to take actions. The NHA called for a general assembly of all the homeowners in Camarin Residences 1 and promised to lower the monthly maintenance fee by as much as 65 percent,” Eufemia “Mimi” Doringo, officer of the HOA and WISE3 said in an interview in Ganito Ngayon, a weekly radio program in DWSS.

The residents and members of the HOA and WISE3 in Camarin Residences in Caloocan City are relocatees who used to reside in areas deemed as “danger zones” in Valenzuela City and Caloocan City.

Around 110 families have been relocated to one of the 10 mid-rise buildings in the residential realty compound, Camarin Residences, starting 2014. While the local government says that an in-city relocation is “better” than other relocation sites which are farther from the Metro, relocatees have   been complaining about costly monthly charges which are “impossible” for them to afford.

Compared to other relocation sites where monthly amortization is only P200, relocatees in the Camarin residences have to pay between P600 to P1,000 monthy amortization for a studio-type unit with an approximate area of 30 m2. Expenses for utilities like electricity and water are also higher by as much as 300 percent as there is yet to be direct line from utility distributors.

The group said that it is really impossible for them to afford all these expenses especially that most of the relocatees are contractual or informal workers, if not unemployed. A recent survey of their members’ income revealed that majority (63.6 percent) of those employed earn below minimum wage rates. The minimum wage of P481 is only 44 percent of the P1,082 family living wage  based on the estimate by research group, Ibon Foundation.

Doringo further narrated that on September 10, the Congress’ Joint Committee on Housing headed by Sen. JV Ejercito, Cong. Alfred Benitez of Negros Occidental, and Atty. Jopet Sison, head of the said joint committee, held a forum where the different agencies, laid  out the following proposals:

  1. Immediate provision of assistance from the government funds at the time of relocation of families
  2. Government subsidy to water and electricity expenses or provision of solar panels
  3. Creation of livelihood opportunities to increase the community’s income. Livelihood projects should not be limited to skills training but must also come with material and financial support.

The group said they remain hopeful and vigilant that their demands for a more livable community will be achieved through their continuous engagement and collective actions.###

Women workers join calls for a national wage, secure jobs amid worsening poverty

On International Women’s Day, Women Workers in Struggle for Employment, Empowerment and Emancipation or Women WISE3, an organization of women workers and families of victims of trade union and human rights violations, called on the government to adopt a national minimum wage close to living standards, provide access to secure jobs and livelihood amid worsening poverty in the country.

Dylin Lauron, Women WISE3 secretary-general said, “The demand for secure and regular jobs and a national minimum wage that approximate the living standards becomes more justified with the recent report showing increased poverty incidence.”

Last week, the government reported an increase in poverty incidence by 1.2 points from 24.6 25.8 percent in the first half of 2014. Economists point to rising prices and impact of Typhoon Haiyan as main reasons for the surge in poverty incidence.

“Women are worst hit by poverty because they have less access to regular and paying jobs compared to male counterparts. Women also have lower economic participation compared to men. Living wages and regular jobs will definitely allow women and poor families to cope with ever increasing prices of basic commodities and also increase resilience of the poor to natural disasters and typhoons,” Lauron added.

The group noted that the 2013 gender labor statistics of the government reveal worse working conditions for women: Filipino women’s participation in the labor force is only 49.9 percent compared to 78.1 for men; 30 percent more employed women render unpaid family work compared to men; across all major economic sectors and in most major occupation groups, women also have lower average wages compared to men as much as 47 percent (See Tables 1-3).

The group also underscored that a nationalized wage system is much needed as regional wages dragged down real wages especially in regions outside Metro Manila. Citing a report of the Center for Trade Union and Human Rights, the group said that real wages decreased by as much as 21 percent in the Eastern Visayas Region.

On October last year, All Workers Unity, a national alliance of worker groups from both public and public sector launched a campaign calling for P16,000 national minimum wage.

Table 1. Total number of Employed by Class of worker by Sex (2013)

Class of Worker All Men Women
Wage and salary workers 22,247 13,892 8,355
Self-employed 10,668 6,589 4,080
Unpaid family worker 3,930 1,703 2,227

Source: BLES Gender Labor Statistics 2013

Table 2. Ave. Daily Basic Wage by Major Industry Groups by Sex (2013)

Major Industry Group Men Women
Agriculture 175.30 152.20
Industry 337.18 336.88
Services 418.90 388.36

Source: BLES Gender Labor Statistics 2013

Table 3. Wage Gap Ratio in Selected Major Occupation Groups 2013 /a

Occupation group Men Women Wage Gap Ratio/b
Professionals 811.99 740.20 1.09
Technicians and Associate Professionals 532.62 475.10 1.12
Clerks 447.48 444.72 1.05
Service Workers 334.08 219.86 1.52
Farmers Forestry Workers and Fishermen 294.85 200.08 1.47
Trades and related Workers 323.18 244.59 1.32
Plant and Machine Operators and Assemblers 350.07 338.71 1.03
Laborers and Unskilled Workers 213.89 159.18 1.34
Special Occupations 768.10 621.01 1.23

/a Culled from Gender Labor Statistics (BLES) /b is equivalent to men’s wage divided by Women’s wage