Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Bleak Christmas for Workers in CL Economic Enclaves

This Christmas season, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo paints a rosy picture for workers especially in so-called “industrial enclaves” such as the Clark Special Economic Zone (CSEZ) in Pampanga and the Subic Bay Free Port Economic Zone (SBFEZ). But the realities workers have to contend with in these industrial enclaves are low wages, harsh working conditions and curtailment of their right to unionize and bargain for better working conditions.

Gitnang Luson News Service
Posted by Bulatlat

OLONGAPO CITY – This Christmas season, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo paints a rosy picture for workers especially in so-called “industrial enclaves” such as the Clark Special Economic Zone (CSEZ) in Pampanga and the Subic Bay Free Port Economic Zone (SBFEZ). But the realities workers have to contend with in these industrial enclaves are low wages, harsh working conditions and curtailment of their right to unionize and bargain for better working conditions.

Joaquin Arcega, 42, married with three children and Johnny Batislaong, 46, married with four kids, work as cutters at the Citigloves Garment factory inside CSEZ producing cold weather leather gloves for export. The company is owned by a local businessman and employs some 50 workers.

Arcega has worked for Citigloves for 10 years. He earns P250 ($5.06 an exchange rate of $1=P49.365) a day if he completes a quota of 30 pairs of gloves. Batislaong gets P243 ($4.92) a day for the same quota. If they don’t meet the quota, they are paid only P8 ($0.16) a pair. They are entitled to a P45 ($0.91) emergency cost of living allowance (ECOLA) per day, but not on days they are unable to work. The number of days of absence is also deducted from their 13th month pay.

Eight months work

“We work for only eight months a year at the most,” Arcega told GLNS in an interview. Production starts in February, peaks from May to July and tapers off from August to October. From November to January of the next year, including the Christmas season, there’s no more work and the company expects them to find work elsewhere.

Whenever they could, they try to complete three quotas to increase their daily earnings. From 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. they work for a double quota and work two hours more for a third. The company requires them to punch out their time cards at 4 p.m. even if the workers are still at work hours later to evade overtime pay. They are asked to complete just one quota a day as the season tapers off.

“The management is friendly as the season starts then toss us like garbage as soon as production requirements are met,” Batislaong said.

They are allowed a 15-minute break in the morning and lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. But management closes the women’s comfort rooms at a quarter before the 4 p.m. official closing time to ensure that they work their butts out to the last tick of the working shift.


“The management is prompt in deducting from our pay the member’s share in the fees for Social Security Service (SSS), Pag-ibig, among others. But we don’t know if the company remitted these or if they paid the employer’s share. Anybody who dared to inquire was bullied,” Batislaong said.

Workers suspect that the SSS fees collected from them are not remitted on time and are being pooled by the management and loaned to workers. The management collects a 20-percent interest for loans.

Arcega found out that he was deducted an excess of P1,000 ($20.257) for the contributions at least once. The management was forced to admit mistakes in computation when he demanded an explanation. He has yet to receive a refund despite the management’s word to do so.

Bastislaong’s production summary from March 11-25, 2006 showed that he was able to cut 972 pairs of gloves or roughly 33 quotas (at 30 per quota), or an average 2.5 quotas a day. He hopes to average two quotas a day, even during the low production period.

Piteous wages

His pay slip for April 10, 2006 showed a take-home pay of P7,558.06 ($153.10) after the usual deductions or an estimated total income of P37,790.30 ($765.528) from February to October granting all factors were constant. Thus a worker of his status earns P3,150 ($63.81) per month or a piteous P105 ($2.127) daily.

“A pair of low quality cold weather gloves is sold by the company at about P500 ($10.128), thus, management can pay the equivalent of my two production quotas – 60 pairs – on the sale of a pair of gloves alone,” Arcega said.

“During the lean season of 2001 the company was unable to pay us for months. We had to rely on cash advances to buy our families a kilo or two of rice, a few dried fish and noodles. We ended up more indebted than usual both to the company and the stores where we get our food,” the two recounted.

No union

The workers believe that only through a union can they hope to fight for better wages and working conditions. But when they first attempted to form a union in 2004 management moved swiftly to preempt them.

Batislaong, who volunteered to do the initial organizing work, was pinned down as the leader and was immediately summoned and reprimanded.

He was not allowed to work for sometime and is still being closely monitored and harassed to this day.

The exploitation and repression of workers at the CSEZ reflects the conditions elsewhere in the enclave and at the Subic Bay economic zone in Olongapo City.

Legenda workers

Greg Fundacion, 45, is one of the officers of the Kilusang Manggagawa sa Legenda (KML or Workers’ Movement in Legenda) the union of workers of the Legenda Hotel/Casino in Subic owned by the Chan family, Malaysians of Chinese descent.

KLM has about 800 active members in more than eight departments in the casino – administrative, finance, human resources, food and beverage, house keeping and laundry, transportation, internal security, engineering, motor pool, and croupiers.

Two hundred of their members are contractuals particularly those in food and beverage, house keeping and security departments although many have worked for the company for more than 13 years. The country’s labor laws provide that contruactual workers are to

Every worker has to inch through six steps of job items from Level 1 to 6 with rates per day ranging from P224.50 ($4.54) to P300.00 ($6.07).

In December 26, 2003 the KML gathered the signature of 1,500 employees for a certification election as the initial step in the formation of their union.

They engaged management in collective bargaining agreement (CBA) negotiations in April 2004 to demand an economic package that includeD: union leave with pay, 15 days sick leave and 15 days vacation leave per year, 45 days maternity leave for regular pregnancy and 75 days leave for caesarian section, seven days leave for paternity, five days emergency leave and four days bereavement leave.

They also pushed for security of tenure and union security.

Unimplemented CBA

Management refused to recognize the union and implement the CBA.

In August 2004, the workers filed a notice of strike but the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) issued an assumption of jurisdiction order on the dispute. The company later brought the labor dispute to the courts.

To this day, the company stubbornly maintains its position of not recognizing the union even with the CBA concluded, Fundacion said.

For the past two and a half years, the workers experienced” systematic” repression, Fundacion said. He said union leaders are being investigated by the police and military intelligence operatives.

The workers were subjected to surveillance, persuaded and even threatened to refrain from union activities. A high-ranking union leader was demoted and is continuously being harassed.

The workers are still battling management for non-implementation of the CBA particularly the P30.00 ($0.61)-per-day basic pay increase to be given on a staggered basis of P5 ($0.10); P10 ($0.20) and P15 ($0.30) each year for three years.

Also unimplemented are the 25-percent increase on overtime; 20 percent on holidays, 30 percent on non-working holidays; and 30 percent on working day off.

The management refuses to recognize the KML and to implement the CBA plus the P18.50 ($0.37)ECOLA provided for by Wage Order No. 12 despite the National Labor Relations Comission (NLRC)’s recognition of the certification election which was also upheld by DoLE Region III and the Court of Appeals.

Fundacion said management continuously violates the workers’ rights. They are meted 30 to 60 days suspension for the flimsiest of reasons, and charged with administrative sanctions and even illegal dismissal.

Subic Bay Apparel

Terry Calzado, 39, is one of the 500 workers of the Subic Bay Apparel Corporation, a Filipino-Chinese and American owned firm producing coats and tuxedoes for export.

Calzado like many of the firm’s workers have worked for at least 10 years for the company. They started at P95 per day and now get P239.50 ($4.85) a day plus P20 ($0.40) ECOLA (expanded cost-of-living allowance). They get P37 ($0.75) per hour on overtime. They receive their 13th-month pay but no added incentives on holidays.

The company has three departments: cutting, pants, coat and finishing. The cutting department has three shifts a day, while the pants and coat department have but a single daily shift.

A third but a minor unit is the finishing department with no particular shift and where the workers are paid P0.75 ($0.02) a piece.


She works on the 7 a.m.-3 p.m. shift. On peak seasons from September-December she can only complete 700 pairs at most of her quota of 800 pairs on her regular shift, and just 200 pairs on the quota of 500 pairs on the 3-8 p.m. overtime shift.

Calzado’s pay slip for three consecutive pay days from September 16-30; October 1-15 and October 16-31 of 2006 showed net incomes of P1,899.85 ($38.49); P3,062.08 ($62.03) and P3,202.78 ($64.88) respectively after deductions, an average of P2,721.57 ($55.13) every 15th or P181.44 ($3.68) daily take home.

They get a 30-minute lunch break from 11:30-12 p.m. on a regular shift; 15 minutes (3-3:15 p.m.) between 3-6 p.m. and another 10 minutes (6-6:10 p.m.) between 6-8 p.m. on overtimes.

They are issued a comfort room pass and a cooler (water dispenser) pass for every 30 persons. Violations of these policies can result to reprimand of the workers for “wasting of time” or malingering

Workers are entitled to a vacation leave and sick leave of five days each; mothers get a maternity leave of two months for a normal delivery and 78 days for caesarian operations; fathers get seven days paternity leave.

Fight for union registration

“We started our union activities on October 2003 under the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP),” Calzado said. “Our certification election was cancelled as the petition prepared by the TUCP contained next to nothing. They also failed to defend our union’s registration.”

In March 2004, the Philippine Transport Genuine Workers Organization (PTGWO), another TUCP-led group, tried to reorganize the union with the help of management but a timely petition for certification elections by the Workers’ Alliance in Region III (WAR III) led to the registration of the union.

The management in collusion with the TUCP tried to have the union registration revoked, Calzado said. The case is now at the Court of Appeals awaiting decision.

“We had to contend not only with management but with pro-management labor groups,” Calzado said. Gitnang Luson News Service / Posted by Bulatlat


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