By ROMMEL BALAJADIA II
BAGUIO CITY — For a worker’s life is tied to their wage. This is where they draw all their basic needs, from food, clothing, shelter and even their cellphone load.
Because of this, workers are inherently industrious after all, it is most required or they lose their jobs, their source of income. This was the reality of Clarita Miranda, a former sales lady at Novo. Almost everyday, she came in at 8:00 AM and clocked out of work at 8:00 PM with only a 30 minute lunch break in between. “Having a rest day was an exception for us; we worked the whole week for 12 hours a day,” said Miranda. The worst of it is that they were being paid P200 for a 12 hour workday. This is in violation of the P285 minimum wage set in the Cordillera region, apart from failing to pay for overtime and provide for a rest day, vacation leaves and sick leaves. That is why we decided to file a complaint with the Department of Labor and Employment, she said. “It is not like Novo cannot afford to pay us a decent wage it is just that they do not want to,” Miranda said. “Novo can earn as much as P600,000 on a peak day,” Clarita explained. By her estimate the earnings of Novo are more than enough to pay them a decent wage.
Furthermore, Miranda already fulfilled the minimum requirements of being a regular worker when she continued to be an employee of Novo for more than six months. Still, this did not hinder the management from illegally terminating her and her companions’ employment in retaliation to their complaint. At that time, Miranda was not aware that she was pregnant with her second child. Battered by the battle against Novo and carrying a child, Clarita decided to be a fulltime housewife and depend on the income of her husband Mounir.
Since then, we were on a tight budget, Miranda said. “Bagoong (fish sauce) is okay as long as we can eat,” she said. Clarita is thinking about getting a job when their baby is bigger. “With the wages now, I’ll just be working to buy milk so we decided that I should just breast feed her instead of looking for work.”
According to Vicente Dilem, Kilusang Mayo Uno- Cordillera spokesperson, Clarita’s case is not isolated. More and more workers are suffering from low wages, he said. That is why we have a campaign to raise the minimum wage to P 750, across-the-board, nationwide, Dilem said. We want this to be implemented by passing a law for a national minimum wage, he added. Workers are being paid P 285 or less which is not enough to give them a decent life, he said. Dilem noted an Ibon Foundation study that shows that the family living wage is at P1,090 a day. That is what a family of five should earn to live decently, he said.
However, the Aquino government likes to change figures just to make it look like poverty is being reduced, Mike Cabangon, Anakpawis Cordillera spokesperson said. Under the Aquino administration, the poverty threshold was lowered to P46 by the National Statistical Coordination Board, he said. This resulted in a statistical reduction of poverty but not an actual one, Cabangon explained. “How can P46 be enough for one person not to be considered poor?” he asked.
This question is answered everyday in the lives of workers earning low wages. “Most of us don’t eat breakfast before going to work,” Clarita Miranda explained. “Getting home after 8:00 PM was difficult because we couldn’t afford a taxi and we have to run to catch the last jeepney trip home,” she continued. When asked if the situation at Novo has changed since she left she said that it has not. “All my companions in the complaint have been slowly dismissed from Novo and those that have been left are too scared to complain which is why the same situation remains there,” Miranda concluded. # nordis.net