‘Marami sa amin, pag-dating ng endo basta-basta na lang tatanggalin’

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Pay gap, unjust practices, and low wages continue to persist for many Filipino workers limited by ‘endo.’ Photo by JL JAVIER

Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — Labor Day. The streets of Mendiola are pulsing. As throngs of people move forward towards the Peace Arch, flags bearing the names of unions and labor groups wave up high, and songs of solidarity and impassioned chants blare from the speakers, a huge effigy is pulled forward — it bears the features of a devil; fangs, horns, and forked tongue and all, and a striking resemblance to President Duterte.

“‘Yung forked na tongue sinisimbolo ‘yung mga broken promises, especially ngayon dahil Labor Day. ‘Yung malaking pangako niya noong eleksyon ‘yung pagtatapos ng contractualization,” says Renan Ortiz, one of the artists responsible for the effigy, and member of Tambisan sa Sining, the cultural wing of Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), one of the many groups present at the rally.

During his presidential campaign, President Duterte promised to end ‘endo,’ or ‘end of contract’ within a week of his term. Between controversial proposals and an announcement to leave the issue to Congress, two years later, as labor groups take to the streets to call for an end to endo, President Duterte signs an Executive Order banning unlawful contracting. It appears to be a fulfilment of his promises. Yet the chants grow louder, angrier — “EO pinirmahan kontra manggagawa, walang silbi, walang silbi,” the crowd roars.

Photo-49.jpg “‘Yung forked na tongue sinisimbolo ‘yung mga broken promises, especially ngayon dahil Labor Day,” says Renan Ortiz, one of the artists responsible for the effigy. “‘Yung malaking pangako niya noong eleksyon ‘yung pagtatapos ng contractualization.” Photo by JL JAVIER

 

The groups say it is a mere reiteration of current laws in place. A Department Order banning labor-only contracting had already been signed by Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Secretary Bello in 2017. “What the workers demanded is total prohibition of contractualization by virtue of direct hiring,” says Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao.

According to Labor law expert Ed Chico, the EO does not address the problem of ‘endo,’ or the practice of terminating employees on their fifth month to avoid regularization and giving the benefits accorded to regular workers. Under existing labor laws, many unjust practices by employers also slip by.

And so, the protesters continue, hoping their calls against unjust practices will be answered, their voices heard.

“Ako, mag-aanim na taon na ako bilang contractual. Tapos nung nagka-imbestigasyon na ‘yung DOLE, ginawa kaming regular doon sa mismong agency para masabi lang na hindi sila nagpapa-endo.” — John, a contractual worker

The victims of broken promises

One of those workers is Gina Petes, a 49-year-old machine operator working at a plastic company, and member of women’s group, Women Wise. She is at the rally to fight for the injustices committed to the women workers in her town in Valenzuela.

“Marami sa amin, mga kamag-anak, mga kasama din namin, na pagdating ng endo o ‘finish contract’ basta-basta na lang tatanggalin,” Petes says. “Tulad po sa amin, after 18 years sa company, basta-basta na lang po kaming tinanggal ng walang kadahilanan. Gawa [ito] ng hindi na daw namin kaya [magtrabaho ng maayos] kasi may-edad na po kami, papalitan daw kami ng mga batang empleyado.”

Photo-31.jpg Gina Petes, a 49-year-old machine operator working at a plastic company, is at the rally to fight for the injustices committed to the women workers in her town in Valenzuela. Photo by JL JAVIER

Photo-33.jpg Malou Bustamante of the Women Wise group also points out the pay gap between men and women. “‘Yung sahod ng kababaihan, wala na nga siya sa minimum wage, ₱491, dose oras pa. Tapos ang mga kalalakihan, otso oras, ₱491, wala din sa minimum wage.” Photo by JL JAVIER

Another issue particular to women’s groups is the gender pay gap. Malou Bustamante of Women Wise points out the disparity between the pay received by male and female workers based on the amount of work hours they put in, which, according to them, often go beyond the eight-hour work day as prescribed by the Labor Code.

“Iba ‘yung sahod ng mga kababaihan dun sa kalalakihan. Halimbawa, ‘yung sahod ng kababaihan, wala na nga siya sa minimum wage, ₱491, dose oras pa. Tapos ang mga kalalakihan, otso oras, ₱491, wala din sa minimum wage,” says Bustamante.

“Napakatagal na ang pasahod ng mga manggagawa ay nakapako sa napakababang antas, hindi lang dito sa Metro Manila, lalong lalo na sa [iba't-ibang parte ng Pilipinas]. Napakababa ng pasahod na talagang hindi nakabubuhay sa isang pamilya,” says Ka Boy, who has been working as a stevedore since 1981 and has experienced contractual work all his life.

“[Naranasan ko rin] ‘yung mga matitinding paglabag ng mga kapitalista sa aming mga karapatan. Katulad ng wala nga kaming payslip dati. Tapos ‘yung social security system namin, ‘yung SSS, hindi hinuhulog.”

Photo-37.jpg “Marami tayong mga LGBT sa paggawaan, LGBT sa sakahan, LGBT sa mga call center, sa paguruan, sa mga estudyante,” says Bahaghari President Bernadette Neri. “So ang bawat issue ng mamamayan ay issue talaga na dapat ay bitbit ng mga LGBT,” Photo by JL JAVIER

Photo-65.jpg Ka Boy has been working as a stevedore since 1981 and has experienced contractual work all his life. He says, “[Naranasan ko rin] ‘yung mga matitinding paglabag ng mga kapitalista sa aming mga karapatan. Katulad ng wala nga kaming payslip dati. Tapos ‘yung social security system namin, ‘yung SSS, hindi hinuhulog.” Photo by JL JAVIER

Aside from low wages, he also points to the lack of protective gear meant to be issued to workers in his field. “Kasi estibador kami, dapat meron kaming safety shoes, meron kaming uniporme, guwantes, lahat ‘yun wala. Walang ibinibigay ‘yung mga kapitalista.”

Ka Boy’s statements are reminiscent of the stories told by Bienvenido Tan Jr. of the Manggagawa sa Komunikasyon ng Pilipinas (MKP), a group that has been fighting to end labor-only contracting of PLDT employees. Two days before Labor Day, the group held a press conference announcing their success — upon investigation of PLDT’s employment practices, DOLE had ordered the regularization of nearly 8,000 contractual workers and rejected PLDT’s Motion for Reconsideration.

At the press conference, Tan spoke of dozens of young men who had experienced fatal accidents while working in the field due to the absence of proper protective equipment. Tan says that the agencies that hired the workers would ask them to pay for the protective gear. Since their salaries are low, they opt out of it.

The workers present at the press conference also shared their own experiences with ‘endo.’ “‘Nung wala pa pong [imbestigasyon], every six months ni-re-renew ‘yung kontrata namin. So bago siya nag-eexpire, ‘yung manager namin i-re-renew ‘yung contract,” says John (not his real name). “Ako, mag-aanim na taon na ako bilang contractual. Tapos nung nagka-imbestigasyon na ‘yung DOLE, ginawa kaming regular doon sa mismong agency para masabi lang na hindi sila nagpapa-endo.”

Photo-71.jpg “‘Yung mga workers na hindi stable ang jobs, hindi stable ang income, problema ang pamasahe,” says Steve Ranjo of the transport group PISTON. “Eight pesos is very cheap, considering, pero kung hindi naman tiyak ang kanyang trabaho?” Photo by JL JAVIER

Photo-8.jpg “‘Yung simbolo ng maskara nila ay simbolo ng walang halos na hugis na kinabukasan ng mga manggagawang kontraktwal,” says Manggagawa sa Komunikasyon ng Pilipinas (MKP) President Arthur S. Castillo during a press conference about the regularization of PLDT's contractual workers. Photo by BARDO WU

Solidarity among all sectors

Though the MKP had won their case, the organization marches alongside other labor groups on Labor Day to show solidarity with all the other workers across the country who are not as lucky, in the hopes that everyone should be able to achieve the same rights as they have, rights that have been fought for and won by various Labor Day protests since the Haymarket Square riot in Chicago 132 years ago.

“Kaya makabuluhan at makasaysayan ang Araw ng Paggawa dahil sa maraming sakripisyong ibinuhos ng mga manggagawa upang makuha natin ‘yung mga benepisyong itinatakda ng batas,” says Pete Pinlac, MKP Secretary General. “Pero ang lahat ng mga batas na ‘yan na nagpoprotekta at nagbibigay ng benepisyo sa mga manggagawang Pilipino ay binura lahat ng kontraktwalisasyon.”

These sentiments are echoed by other groups present as well.

Among those is Bahaghari Metro Manila, an activist LGBT group. “Nakikiisa kami sa Pandaigdigang Araw ng Paggawa kasi kinikilala na ang mga LGBT ay bahagi ng lahat ng sector ng Pilipinas. Marami tayong mga LGBT sa paggawaan, LGBT sa sakahan, LGBT sa mga call center, sa paguruan, sa mga estudyante. So ang bawat issue ng mamamayan ay issue talaga na dapat ay bitbit ng mga LGBT,” says President Bernadette Neri. “Kinikilala natin ‘yung naging malawak na pakikibaka ng mga manggagawa sa buong daigdig.”

Steve Ranjo of transport group PISTON (Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operator Nationwide) says that as part of the labor force, it is their responsibility to attend the protests. He says that the proposed jeepney modernization is not just a labor issue for the drivers, who risk being displaced under the program, but one that will affect all workers.

“Napakatagal na ang pasahod ng mga manggagawa ay nakapako sa napakababang antas, hindi lang dito sa Metro Manila, lalong lalo na sa [iba't-ibang parte ng Pilipinas]. Napakababa ng pasahod na talagang hindi nakabubuhay sa isang pamilya.” — Ka Boy, a stevedore since 1981

“‘Yung mga workers na hindi stable ang jobs, hindi stable ang income, problema ang pamasahe. Eight pesos is very cheap, considering, pero kung hindi naman tiyak ang kanyang trabaho?” says Ranjo.

He continues: “Halimbawa ‘pag tumataas ‘yung presyo ng langis, di namin magawang humingi ng additional fare. Alam kasi natin pwedeng ma-approve ‘yan pero anong dudukutin ng mga pasahero natin? Parte ‘yan ng situation natin na sumusuporta rin tayo doon sa pinaglalaban ng mga workers na alisin ang contractualization at i-raise ang minimum wage to a living wage. Yung pwedeng bubuhay sa pamilya. Kaya nag-aambag kami, nag-le-lend kami ng strength sa mga workers na nandito, at humuhugot din kami ng lakas sa kanila.”

Photo-35.jpg “Kaya makabuluhan at makasaysayan ang Araw ng Paggawa dahil sa maraming sakripisyong ibinuhos ng mga manggagawa upang makuha natin ‘yung mga benepisyong itinatakda ng batas,” says Pete Pinlac, MKP Secretary General. Photo by JL JAVIER

***

At the MKP press conference, the contractual workers wore white masks to cover their faces. The simple explanation for the masks is to avoid recognition by their employers, who may fire them if they are found to be joining such groups.

But the masks also have another purpose. “‘Yung simbolo ng maskara nila ay simbolo ng walang halos na hugis na kinabukasan ng mga manggagawang kontraktwal,” says MKP President Arthur S. Castillo.

As the government continues to avoid the total fulfillment of its promises to its workforce, the future of millions of workers across the country remain unknown. And so, the fight persists.

“We hope na ma-unmask na sila para maipakita nila ang kanilang sarili, para maipakita ang maayos na kinabukasan.”