After a string of pickets and protests against contractual employment in the economic zones in Laguna, more than 70 laborers followed suit and barricaded the gates of their company’s establishment in Batangas province yesterday night.
The barricade stemmed from the removal of the local labor leader Ismael Dimaano. Dimaano was the president of the Samahan ng mga Kargador sa Soro-Soro Ibaba Development Cooperative (SK-SIDC-LIGA), an association of contractual workers in the locality that is also affiliated with regional contractual workers’ center Liga ng Manggagawa para sa Regular na Hanapbuhay (LIGA).
SIDC is the leading maker of pig and poultry feeds in the province, and the second largest in the country, with net sales of PHP 95 million last year.
They suspect that the sacking is caused by intensified efforts in establishing and strengthening the aforementioned association. According to them, Dimaano was informed of his dismissal by agency president Macario Macalalad, through telling him to not come to work the day after as he was fired.
Marked as a case of harassment as no other reasons were given, the workers called for the reinstatement of Dimaano; garnering the ire of Macalalad, which forced them back to work.
The porters, in protest, carried on with the picket.
The workers were also protesting against the prevalence of unlawful labor practices in the cooperative.
According to their published statement, they were first employed as direct-hired contractuals of SIDC, but were sent to DCMM Agency by 2009. The agency served as a supply base for SIDC’s workers, which was disputed, as the laborers did “necessary and desirable” activities in the SIDC’s premises. With no actual ownership of the means of production that the workers use, the workers considered the agency as a labor-only contractor.
The porters carried thousands of sacks in animal feeds per day. They also slammed the poor working conditions they faced, mentioning a co-contractual worker that is now paralyzed after 26 years carrying sacks of feeds. Aside from the payment for safety shoes and uniforms, the porters are also deprived of leave benefits. They also mentioned working more than the prescribed labor hours, with no overtime pay.
LIGA spokesperson Antonette Amorado said that this practice is very unjust, and would only justify their actions today, saying that the workers “have took up arms against the very abusive practice of contractualization in the region and in the country”.
Amorado also hit the opposition of the World Bank in ending contractualization.
“The very abuse the World Bank seeks to avoid in contractual arrangements are inevitably irrevocable; contractualization enables employers and businessmen to have their way in constantly exploiting workers,” she said.
As of press time, the workers have ceased to return to work until their demands have been met, which were: regularization of the contractual workers, recognition of their association, payment of unpaid wages and benefits, availment of the benefits through the SSS, Pag-ibig, and Philhealth, and return of those dismissed. # # #