As the country marks the International Women’s Day on March 8, the women leaders and unionists of the NAGKAISA Labor Coalition known as the NAGKAISA Women’s Committee urged the PBBM Administration to heed the workers’ demands for immediate wage increase, passage of bills to protect security of tenure and freedom of association in both the public and private sectors and ratification of the ILO Convention 190.
Rising inflation has become an urgent concern as workers struggle to survive amid soaring cost of commodities and services. The NAGKAISA Women’s Committee underscored how inflation disproportionately affects women more than men.
“While inflation hurts everyone, it hurts women more,” said Jillian Roque, Chief of Staff of the Public Services Labor Independent Confederation (PSLINK). “Women workers who are already concentrated in informal, precarious, and underpaid jobs without job security and social protection have to further grapple with the impacts of skyrocketing inflation and the pandemic aftermath.”
According to Roque, inflation also contributes to widening the gender gaps and inequality in the country.
“As inflation continues to erode purchasing power, women are forced to make sacrifices for their families by starving themselves and skipping on meals, or cutting back on essential items and services including health care,” Roque said. “Stressing about ways on how to stretch their already unlivable wages and household budgets in the face of rising inflation is also exacting a toll on women’s mental health. They also end up assuming more and more care work duties – often unpaid – at home thereby worsening women’s multiple burden even more,” she added.
Contractualization also worsens gender discrimination and gender pay gaps according to Judy Miranda, Secretary General of Partido Manggagawa. She said many women are employed under “End-of-contract” or more widely known as ENDO arrangements which pay cheaper wages and accord lesser benefits.
“Contractualization is being used by employers as a way to skirt on their obligations to regular workers such as social and health benefits including reproductive health benefits of women workers,” said Miranda.
She pointed out that ENDO workers both in the private and public sectors are deprived of their fundamental rights to stable employment and freedom of association making them more vulnerable to exploitation. “Pregnant women and nursing mothers in contractual employment for example are not able to assert their rights at work because employers can simply refuse to renew their contracts,” she said.
Since assuming the presidency last year, PBBM has been slammed by workers’ groups for his lack of labor agenda. The coalition believes that the President should finally step-up to the plate and take action on wages and security of tenure. “The PBBM admin should prioritize raising wages and reforming the existing wage setting mechanism which has persistently failed the workers and exacerbated pay gaps. The President should also certify as urgent the passage of the pro-worker security of tenure bills and strengthen freedom of association starting by enacting the long overdue Public Service Labor Relations Act,” Miranda said.
The coalition also lamented the increasing violence against women workers citing the recent cases of migrant domestic workers in Kuwait including Myla Balbag who was left paralyzed after jumping from the third floor in order to escape from her abusive employer and Jullebee Ranara whose body was burnt and left in a desert as examples. The NAGKAISA Women’s Committee called for justice for all victims of physical abuse, sexual abuse and other forms of violence and the immediate ratification of the International Labor Organization’s Convention 190 on the Elimination of Violence and Harassment in the World of Work.
“Our sisters continue to face the daily reality of violence in their homes, communities, and workplaces,” said Nice Coronacion, Deputy General Secretary of SENTRO. “It is important that we push for mechanisms that help protect working women from the various threats, risks, and dangers we face. To this end, the ratification of the ILO C190 is essential for setting-up the policies and environment that will protect women and help us in the assertion of our rights. While C190 on its own is obviously not the solution, it is a step in the right direction that will benefit all workers, especially women wherever we are — be it at home, at work, or in public,” she explained.
The labor coalition also reminded the government to comply with its international obligations particularly ILO Conventions 87, 98 and 151 on freedom of association and collective bargaining and act on the recommendations of the ILO High Level Tripartite Mission which investigated the grave violations on freedom of association in the country early this year.
“Among the victims of killings, enforced disappearances, union repression and red-tagging are women workers from across all sectors of labor,” Ma. Victoria Bellosillo of the Federation of Free Workers said. “We urge the BBM administration to swiftly implement the ILO HLTM recommendations particularly the establishment of a Presidential Commission focused on stopping killings and other grave violations of the right to organize of workers.”
The NAGKAISA! Labor Coalition members including FFW, PM, PSLINK and SENTRO are organizing various mass actions along with other labor groups and women’s rights organizations on March 8 to highlight women workers’ rights including protest actions at the Department of Labor and Employment and the Department of Justice and a broad mobilization at the Liwasang Bonifacio.