Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts
Volume 3, Number 23 July 13 - 19, 2003 Quezon City, Philippines
Job Layoffs Widespread in the Visayas
companies in the Visayas, central Philippines, are shutting down or are claiming
financial losses as a pretext for introducing new labor arrangements under the
system of contractualization later. But among those rehired and newly-hired, the
labor scheme is creating false hopes given the lack of job security and other
reasons. Meanwhile, job lay-offs are creating a different wave: many of those
terminated join the underground revolutionary movement, both labor and military
Karl G. Ombion
CITY - The practice of hiring workers on contractual basis - or hiring the
worker’s labor only for a small price - has deprived workers of their right to
job security, benefits, right to organization and grievance.
growing practice of contractualization of workers in the country can no longer
be ignored or concealed. Estimates from Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE)
offices in the Visayas reveal that the number of contractual workers between
1992 and 2001 soared to 80-85 percent. Alarmed by this trend, progressive
legislators have asked the House committee on labor to look into the issue.
by the Center for Women’s Resources (CWR) also reveal that one of the worst
practitioners of contractualization in the country is the Henry Sy-owned
ShoeMart whose 15 malls nationwide employ around 20,000 contractual employees
and only around 4,000 regular workers. CWR said that the SM management has been
hiring and firing contractual workers, with employment contracts lasting for
three to five months only.
Negros and Cebu, contractualization is just as rampant and worse as in other
Negros, Bulatlat.com research found that one in every three medium- and big-
companies, and one in every five small commercial establishments with less than
20 workers, engage in contractualization and other labor flexibility schemes.
There are about 105 big companies and 8,860 medium and small companies in Negros,
mostly retailers, according to government sources.
case in point is the Victorias Milling Company (VMC), the biggest sugar refinery
in Asia. Some of its active and retrenched workers have confirmed to
Bulatlat.com that only 1,606 of the company’s more than 4,000 workers are
regular, while more than 3,000 are contractual spread in almost all of the 20
departments of VMC and its subsidiary companies like the Victorias Food
Processing Corp. and Victorias Quality Packaging Corp. In big departments and
subsidiary companies, the ratio of contractual workers to regular workers is
one or two contracting agencies now lurk in every department of VMC and
claim of irreversible financial loss in 1996 did not result in the company’s
shutdown but the “re-energization” of the company, noted Guillermo Barreta,
a former VMC worker and a leader of VMC Industrial Workers Association (VIWA).
The big retrenchment that followed the declaration gave birth to new employment
schemes characterized by massive contractualization, he added.
Dolorosa, a former worker at the company’s mill and broiler department and now
chair of VMC Integrated Retrenched and Terminated Workers Association (VIRTWA),
an association of laid-off VMC workers, said that the management had effectively
used financial losses as a scapegoat to carry out massive retrenchments, enforce
new labor arrangements, and sabotage the workers union.
said that the claim about company losses is a myth saying that while there had
been some cases of graft and corruption in the previous management of VMC, the
company remains in active business and continues to reap superprofits. Aside
from the sugar mills and business from sugar by-products, the VMC has big swine
dispersal projects, cutflower farms, ranches, commercial fertilizer production,
and company-owned haciendas all over Negros island, he added.
said that as a result of labor flexibility schemes, the workers union in VMC has
been rendered weak and ineffective in defending the workers rights and
negotiating for CBA. He admitted that more workers now are hard to organize for
reason of being contractual and for simple fear of management reprisal.
dela Puesta, another terminated skilled worker said that when he joined the
company years ago, he was promised a good future as the company is a profitable
international company and a leader in sugar industry. But now he felt so bad and
betrayed, for while he dedicated so much for the company, he virtually lives
today a hand-to-mouth existence.
both media and military reports have revealed that several retrenched VMC
workers have joined the revolutionary underground movement. The reports appear
as not surprising at all as the revolutionary movement is said to be strong in
the district of VMC.
case of rampant contractualization is that of Metro Pacific-owned Negros
Navigation Company (NN), one of the Philippines’ oldest shipping companies.
terminated ship crew and workers belonging to the Iloilo-Negros Employees Labor
Union of Negros Navigation have said that that they were victims of massive
retrenchment and contractualization schemes.
an interview with Bulatlat.com, they said that the all the ships’ canteens,
maintenance, janitorial work, cabin
attendants, including some licensed deck and engine crew
have been contracted to private businesses based in Bacolod and Manila,
with foreign stocks. Leading contractors for the NN are the Negros Galleon Inc.
, Stars Disco/La Café, Bascon Corporation, all owned by Negros business groups,
and the Hans Gourmet and Unicol reportedly owned by subsidiaries of Australian
and Dutch companies.
companies supply contract workers as either “regular contractuals” or as
“relievers” to NN ships. These contract workers do not enjoy wages, benefits
and rights that regular workers normally expect to enjoy. Applicants are also
charged for all their pre-employment tests used by contracting agencies.
claimed that several of the remaining 359 regulars, especially those active in
union activities have been placed on floating status, a move they perceived as a
prelude to termination or forced resignation.
company has been claiming all along that it is in the red, yet how come they
continue to acquire new ships, an old-time worker asked. It is clear, he added,
that the company has been using false claims of financial losses in order to
carry out new labor arrangements that would help ensure its superprofits.
reports said that NN has posted a net income of P103 million in 2002, a
significant turnaround from the company’s claim of financial loss the previous
of all, retrenched and active union members said however, is that the schemes
used by the management have led to the cooptation of the union leadership.
“The union is virtually inutile in defending workers rights,” said a worker
currently placed on floating status.
Cebu, the labor situation is just as bad as in Negros.
Paglinawan regional spokersperson of AMA-Sugbu-KMU in Central Visayas confirmed
to Bulatlat.com that contractualization has already taken a great toll on the
Cebuano workers and the workers movement.
Cebu island, contractualization is rampant not only in almost all manufacturing
companies, but in the service sector industries as well. Reports gathered by
Bulatlat.com revealed that in Mactan Export Processing Zone (MEPZ) alone, almost
all of the 108 companies in the zone use various forms of contractualization and
in Cebu, 90 percent of the top 600 big companies are said to be engaged in
contractualization with around 75 percent for some 16,000 medium- and
instance, the Japanese-owned Mitsumi Corporation in Danao City which produces
computer and software peripherals have 2,000 regular workers only out of its
rate of contractualization is still increasing, Jaime added, saying that more
companies are shutting down but are reopening after a while under a new
management and new labor arrangements. Most of these companies immediately hire
new workers under various contractual schemes.
also said that in the shipping industry, considered one of the backbones of
Cebu’s economy, most commercial shipping companies are into various forms of
contractualization. Nick, a local AMA-Sugbu organizer, confirmed that top
shipping companies based in Cebu like the Aboitiz-controlled WG&A, Go’s
Sulpicio Lines and Cebu Ferries, Lorenzo shipping, Sy’s TransAsia lines, and
Cokaliong Lines, practice contractualization schemes.
WG&A Shipping Lines
Photo by Karl Ombion
added that what makes the shipping workers’ condition worse is that they are
under the gangster rule of the traditional labor groups, who usually use
terrorism to tame and cripple the militant workers unions and their organizers.
also learned that in the first quarter of 2003 alone, 430 establishments have
shut down in Central Visayas, resulting in the disemployment of 27,000 workers,
an increase of 85.7 percent from last year’s record. Of the displaced workers,
64 percent were from manufacturing industry, 27 percent from service sector, and
the rest from agricultural sector.
the capitalists’ rampant use of contractualization and labor flexibility
schemes have also caused the disbandment of hundreds of unions.
KMU studies show that only 528,000 or 13.5 percent of the
total organized workers in the country, are covered by collective bargaining
Negros Occidental, only 14 percent of some 750,000 employed workers are
unionized and among them 15 percent are covered by good and questionable CBAs.
In Central Visayas, of only 138,000 unionized, only 22,000 are covered by CBA. Bulatlat.com
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