MONDAY, May 18, was not just about the circus in Philippine Congress, where they were shamelessly performing the railroading of the Bangsamoro Basic Law.
It was also about the 397 contractual workers of Tanduay Distiller Inc. in Cabuyao Laguna staging a strike at the gates of the Asia Brewery Compound. Some of these workers had worked five years, others as long as 11 years.
Article 281 of the Labor Code states that “Probationary employment shall not exceed six (6) months from the date the employee started working <…> The services of an employee who has been engaged on a probationary basis may be terminated for a just cause or when he fails to qualify as a regular employee in accordance with reasonable standards made known by the employer to the employee at the time of his engagement. An employee who is allowed to work after a probationary period shall be considered a regular employee.”
Article 280 on Regular and Casual Employment asserts meanwhile that “any employee who has rendered at least one year of service, whether such service is continuous or broken, shall be considered a regular employee with respect to the activity in which he is employed and his employment shall continue while such activity exists.”
The 397 Tanduay workers have obviously waited long enough for regularization and its contingent benefits.
As contractual workers in Tanduay, these employees’ salaries are pegged at P315. With the two-tiered wage system, this goes down as low as P255.
The two-tiered wage system is a policy reform measure that is pursuant to “the President’s 22-point labor and employment agenda <… and it> will lead to improved competitiveness of the Philippines in labor market efficiency,” said Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz. (Gov.PH, 10 June 12)
But it was clear from its inception that this two-tiered wage system would be another way for capitalists and employers to keep their workers’ wages as low as possible. With a fixed floor wage for entry level and low-skilled workers, and flexible wage based on the productivity and performance of workers, it becomes easy for employers to adjudge any employee as low skilled worker, if only to pay him or her less than the minimum wage.
Also, the premise that the flexible wage will be “negotiated between employer and workers” limns over the power structure within the workplace – how would contractual workers who are at risk of being fired at any time, even feel like they are negotiating on equal footing for their wages?
This two-tiered wage system was also a way to shift the DOLE’s role from being a regulating body to one that is more “developmental, to enable it to provide institutional support for productivity growth and competitiveness enhancement.” (10 June 12)
It sure sounds like DOLE refusing to take responsibility for the unjust wage and labor practices that our workers suffer. It sure sounds like we’re giving companies way too much freedom to treat workers the way they want, regardless of justice and fairness. Regardless of the law.
No security, no safety
The contractual workers of Tanduay now on strike have worked for the company for as long as 11 years without relevant benefits that will improve their and their families’ lives.
More often than not, they work without Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and when they want or need to, the cost of the PPE is deducted from their wages – small as that is.
To make matters worse, these workers are victims of labor-only contracting which, according to Section 6 of DOLE’s Department Order 18-A, is prohibited.
When these workers submitted their petition for regularization with the DOLE, the Labor Department’s inspectors fell blind to Tanduay’s practice of labor-only contracting – never mind that the workers themselves were victims and witnesses to the fact of its existence.
On May 16 the workers confirmed that 200 of them would be fired because of their consistent stand against the injustices they have suffered as contractual workers of Tanduay.
In June 2012, Secretary Baldoz said: “We aim for our labor inspection [to]not be primarily used as a regulatory and coercive instrument to enforce compliance with labor standards, but as [a]facilitative and enabling mechanism [geared]toward greater and better labor law compliance that supports productivity and competitiveness improvement efforts at the workplace.”
In 2015, it is revealed how far the DOLE has come to fulfilling this goal. Between the plight of Tanduay workers and the tragedy of Kentex workers burned to death, nowhere close to just wage and labor.
It is despicable that Tanduay’s 397 workers have been treated this way for years.
What is even more revolting is how Tanduay has handled the strike of 90% of its Cabuyao workforce, with utter disrespect for the rights of workers to protest unjust labor conditions and wages. On Monday, they tried to disperse the workers with water cannons; on Tuesday, stones and bottles of Cobra were thrown from within the compound of Asia Brewery towards the picket line.
Tanduay’s treatment of its workers should disgust anyone who consumes its products.
There’s nothing more repulsive than to find that there’s been blood in my rum coke all this time.
All data on the plight of the 397 contractual Tanduay workers via the Tanggulan Ugnayang Daluyang Lakas ng Anakpawis (TUDLA) as posted on social media.