Workers’ Watch Project held 1st Mindanao-wide Labor Standard Training

Participants of the 1st Mindanao-wide Labor Standard Training with the staff of Workers’ Watch.

The Workers’ Watch Project successfully held the 1st Mindanao-wide Labor Standard Training (LST) last September 13 to September 15, 2021 at Bangkal, Davao City.

The said training aimed to discuss and understand the workers’ situation in the Philippines, work and International Labour Organization (ILO) supervisory mechanisms, General Labour Standards (GLS), Occupational Safety and Health Standards (OSHS), issues on termination, and legal remedies in cases of violations and non-compliance.

Jeo Olar, Workers’ Watch Project Manager, emphasized the urgency and significance of the LST in order for the workers to better protect and promote their rights especially amid the CoViD-19 pandemic.

“Even though Mindanao is considered as the country’s food basket, being the source of most of our export agricultural products, the workers’ condition is dire in these so-called critical industries of plantations, mining, and canning. The workers are being illegally terminated, unions are busted, mandatory benefits are not given, and due process is not followed, among others,” said Olar, further highlighting that these violations worsened during the pandemic.

“Despite their years of service yet, they still remain contractual,” she added.

Participants and staff discussing the significance of the Labor Standard Training and the plans on conducting similar activities.

Nonoy Librado Development Foundation, Inc. (NLDFI) Executive Director Emma Ricaforte encouraged the participants and staff to continue participating in these kinds of training and to conduct these in their respective centers.

“Training, such as the labor standard, is crucial for the workers to understand their current working condition and the actions that must be taken in cases of violations, which is why we must also keep on conducting these kinds of training so we could reach far and wide. Hopefully, we could engage more workers in countless plantations, mining corporations, and canning companies,” Ricaforte said.

The participants had shared the training’s relevance as they recalled their own experiences. Most of them were illegally terminated and did not receive any benefits from their company.

A participant from Region 12 detailing the issue on the illegal termination of several workers in Polomolok.

In addition, they also stated that they lacked knowledge on wage policies, benefits, safety and health standards, and legal remedies which led to their exploitation.

“We have better understanding of our rights as workers like the benefits that we should receive and the salary computations. It really helped us,” Ryan Illut said, a participant from Region 13.

Further, the speakers stressed out the necessity to use their training’s insights, urging the participants to conduct similar activities, and raise awareness among their fellow workers.

Aside from the LST, the Workers’ Watch Project will conduct a Paralegal Training this September 28 to September 30, 2021 to extend their knowledge on labor policies and legal procedures when dealing with labor cases.

WWP-NMR ESTABLISHES ITS SECOND WORKERS’ WATCH FORMATION

Last April 11, the Workers Watch- Northern Mindanao has established its second Workers’ Watch Formation in Aposkahoy, Claveria, Misamis Oriental.

The formation consists of 25 members, including four elected officers of the Workers’ Watch, the chairperson, the vice-chairperson, the secretary, and the treasurer. First, Ms. Geneza V. Cuevas, a purok leader, is elected as the chairperson of the formation. Followed by, Mr. Abellion H. Sagabal, a Higaonon leader, is selected as vice-chairperson. Finally, the elected secretary and treasurer are Ms. ReyMabel Banda and Ms. Violeta Silawan, both women leaders. Thus, most of the attendees and members of the formation are women who are members of the Higaonon tribe.

Barangay Aposkahoy is one of the remote areas of Claveria, the locations of the Del Monte pineapple and DOLE banana plantations. Workers of these plantations are mostly community members of Aposkahoy. 

The formation has tied with their Constitution and By-Laws which the general mandate is to protect and serve the interest of their community, especially when labor-related violations and abuses happen in their jurisdictions. 

According to Ms. Tita Hadman, the area coordinator of the WWP-NMR, medical missions and labor clinics will be conducted in the area soon as the community restriction eases. The labor clinic is a free-legal consultation on labor-related matters provided by the Workers’ Watch Project. 

CHR AND DOLE 13 ON FAVOR OF THE WORKERS’ WATCH

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) in Region 13 favor the establishment of workers’ watch formations in the region.

Last March 23, the Workers’ Watch Project (WWP) Team had paid a courtesy meeting with the regional offices of CHR 13 and DOLE 13. During dialogues, both offices had shared their constructive intentions in supporting the project. According to the CHR 13, this project would help them mainstream the importance of respecting and valuing human rights at the enterprise level, wherein mostly workers’ rights violations happen. Atty. Ralphmar Oñez, the lawyer of CHR 13, utters that they have difficulties with information dissemination especially in far-flung areas. Collaborating with the Workers’ Watch, they could build an alliance that would help them publicize the essence of human rights, especially in mining communities. With the help of the formation, the CHR could now easily collate data of human rights violations and immediately respond to all the alleged reports of human rights abuses in the region. The agency offers its services to the project to serve its mandate as a protector and advocate of human rights. The CHR 13 also expressed their gratitude towards the WWP for having them as a partner agency.

The WWP Team with the representatives of CHR-CARAGA

The DOLE 13 expresses their positive opinions on the project; however, they could not immediately call for a meeting to the business industry in the region. Primarily, the business sector barely responds to the call, especially when labour rights issues are on the topic. According to Ma’am Chona Mantilla, the regional director of DOLE 13, they are the mediator of the workers and the employers. They provide avenues for the complaints of both sectors that no side is compromised. For DOLE 13, the project would help them serve their principle and mandate as the principal agency dealing with labour rights. The director also provided list of areas in the region that they could hardly reach for services. These areas are also mostly mining communities. With the help of the formation, they could also gather data and reports on labour issues and complaints within these communities.

The Workers’ Watch Region 13 targeted workers’ communities in mining and palm oil plants areas wherein records of labour rights violations are high. The CARAGA (13) region is the mining and palm oil capital of Mindanao. It is a fact that the region has been facing environmental dilemmas due to excessive and unsustainable mining and palm oil productions. Also, numerous labour rights violations are drastically increasing based on the collected data of the WWP 13.

The WWP Team with DOLE 13 Regional Director Chona Mantilla

On the following day, March 24, the WWP team visited the targeted barangays for the project implementation- barangays of Taganito and Urbiztondo, Claver, Surigao del Norte. Officials of these barangays were welcoming on the said project. However, they were seeking the official memorandum from the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) endorsing the project to their community. As for them, they are still under the DILG. However, the WWP team had explained that the primary partner agencies of this project are the DOLE and CHR as this project aims to mainstream human rights in the business industry.

Today, the WWP 13 is still working and coordinating with its partner government agencies and workers’ communities to establish workers’ watch formations in the region.