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Elusive Fairness

Kelvene Requiroso

Posted on August 7, 2018 20:22

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The protesters only sought fairness — a wage increase to keep up with the soaring prices of consumer products, safe working environment and job regularization. But fairness has eluded them with the help of the government.

We know that if given the opportunity to a work worth doing, a person gains confidence and realizes self-worth. But what if that chance is bereft of fairness in the workplace and in society enforced by unjust laws? It would be for the government to ensure everybody a fair chance by providing the workers with a social safety net and a safe working environment.

Recent data from the Philippine government put the unemployment rate at 5.5 percent and the underemployment rate at 18 percent. But what’s largely ignored is the fact that of the 2.4 million government employees, 27 percent are contractual workers. It means they work for a contract of six months of which they could end up jobless again after the contract expires. Once laid off, a new batch of workers would come in, and the old would either return as regulars or look for another job.

This is happening not only in the government but also in the private sector where most manufacturing and retail industries practice the contractualization of labor. Such practice creates a lull in between jobs for most workers, a period of unemployment and underemployment. And to ordinary Filipino workers, this has become a cycle.

Imagine a family of five with the head having no work for one to two months, or even a year, while in search of a new job. Resources are depleted and savings used up to keep heads above water and pay the monthly bills. This is too much a burden for the working class who struggle to live a decent life — put food on the table, keep the roof above their head and send their kids to school.

A want of a dignified life is the reason why the workers of NutriAsia, in Meycauyan, Bulacan, about 20 km north of Manila, were on a peaceful strike to protest contractualization and the unsafe working condition in the factory that manufactures condiments such as soy sauce, vinegar and ketchup.

Instead of coming up with a compromise to the workers, the company has sought police help to disperse the protesters which turned into a violent, bloody confrontation leaving an elderly woman hospitalized and dozens of others in jail. The level of violence the police employed was an inappropriate response to the peaceful actions of the protesters.

Rodrigo Duterte promised to end contractualization in the first three months of his presidency. The working class, which comprised much of his voting base, held on that promise. And to be fair with Duterte, he did issue an executive order directing the big companies to end ‘illegal’ contractualization but not the ‘legal’ one made into law in the 1990s. It’s something of a band-aid solution to the decades-old problem. Congress must pass a law to end contractualization.

The protesters only sought fairness — a wage increase to keep up with the soaring prices of consumer products, safe working environment and job regularization. But fairness has eluded them with the help of the government.

Kelvene Requiroso

Posted on August 7, 2018 20:22

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Source: Asia Times

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