ON the day this column is released, 397 contractual Tanduay workers will have been on strike for 18 days, demanding that they be regularized as employees after five to eleven years in service.
That’s 90% of Tanduay’s Cabuyao Laguna workforce on strike.
That kind of number should be enough to paralyze Lucio Tan’s Laguna factory operations. It should be enough to knock some sense into any employer’s head, if not to shame a company into admitting that they’ve committed a mistake and are going to make amends, do right by its workers.
It should be enough to get government to step in, given a company that has only responded with violence against its own workers, as if the workers have not suffered enough.
Alas, not on this matuwid na daan.
The current advertising campaign of Tanduay has Derek Ramsey, in all his macho glory, offering us all a glass of rum. It says: “Tibay Ng Loob, Tibay Tanduay.”
But the only thing I think of when I hear “tibay Tanduay” is the gall, the temerity, of a company to treat employees this way. Kapal ng mukha. Tibay ng mukha.
The Labor Law is clear about the rules with regards the right of workers to be regularized, and it is not just premised on the number of months – more than six – that an employee has been working as a contractual. It is also based on the kind of work that a worker does within a company or business.
Article 280 of the Labor Code of the Philippines states that: “The provisions of written agreement to the contrary notwithstanding and regardless of the oral agreement of the parties, an employment shall be deemed to be regular where the employee has been engaged to perform activities which are usually necessary or desirable in the usual business or trade of the employer.”
The 397 contractual workers of Tanduay are all machine operators. They are the ones who facilitate the productivity of the Cabuyao distillery, and certainly they are performing activities that are “necessary and desirable in the business of the employer.”
But where the law is clear about contractual employment and the conditions within which a worker must be regularized, so are capitalists like Tanduay given the opportunity to get around these laws – the better to profit from workers’ cheap labor.
DOLE takes its time
The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) in Laguna did a compliance visit of the distillery plant on April 28, and has since released its Notices of Results (NRs) addressed to the Tanduay plant manager and the service contractors HD Manpower Service Cooperative and the GlobalPro Workers Cooperative.
The DOLE’s NRs state that both Tanduay Distillers Inc. and the two service contractors were in violation of DOLE Order 18-A that prohibits Labor-Only Contracting (LOC). This is because the workers are in fact employed by the two “cooperatives,” and it is through these two agencies that Tanduay is hiring workers for LOC. (Bulatlat.com, 29 May)
This is obviously one of many ways in which Tanduay Distillers has been able to circumvent the law on regularization. After all, if your employees are technically not your employees, then why would you ever need to regularize them?
How would they ever get out of the vicious cycle that is no benefits, no safe working conditions, no union, and wage pegged at minimum?
The answer is they don’t. And this is why it is in instances like this one that we expect government to step in and take a stand for the workers. DOLE-Laguna has done exactly that, when it did a compliance visit and proved what the workers were saying to be true. Their NR stated that workers were in fact “directly reporting to the supervisor of the Tanduay Distillery Inc.” They were also doing work “necessary to the production of the Principal’s <Tanduay’s> business.” (Inquirer.net, 1 June)
And yet, on the 18th day of the workers’ strike, we have yet to hear DOLE Secretary Baldoz speaking on this case. We have yet to hear anyone in government take a stand for these workers. What, it isn’t an important enough issue for the 2016 elections?
Tibay ng loob
If there’s anything that Tanduay’s current advertising tagline reminds us, it’s that its “tibay,” its strength and staying power, is one that it has achieved because of its workers.
These workers, 90% of whom are on strike, have in fact suffered in silence for far too long. Five years is a long time when one considers that under the law anyone only needs to serve a company for six months in order to become a regular employee. Imagine how long it’s been for those who have served Tanduay for eleven years.
“Tibay ang sukatan, lakas ng loob ang puhunan. Para saan lahat ng pagsisikap mo, tropa?” asks Tanduay’s advertising campaign.
For the 397 contractual Tanduay workers on strike who have finally found the courage to come together and demand for regularization, who have found the “lakas ng loob” to sacrifice the little that they earn, the “pagsisikap” is now for justice. It is now for their basic right to regularization, just wage, and a safe working environment.
And on day 18 of this strike, one waits for government’s move, and wonders when they will decisively intervene, and take a stand for these workers who have already suffered enough.
We wait for the matuwid na daan to get to Cabuyao Laguna. We should not need to wait any longer.
Data from the Tanggulan Ugnayan Daluyong ng Lakas-Anakpawis ng Tanduay Distillers Inc. (Tudla).