MARIVELES, Bataan – Workers’ groups here have initiated a community pantry dubbed “Pagdadamayan” in celebration of Labor Day.
The Alyansa ng Manggagawa ng Bataan-Bataan Labor Alliance (AMBA-BALA) and Freeport Workers League (FWL), affiliates of Workers for Peoples’ Liberation (WPL) in partnership with Youth for Nationalism and Democracy (YND), have joined the community pantry movement inspired by the Maginhawa community pantry in response to the cries of people experiencing hunger and lack of work due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Billed as #Pagdadamayan, AMBA-WPL members resorted to organize a workers’ pantry this time as their unique way of celebrating the International Labor Day 2021.
They said that when government and the capitalists fail, the workers look back to their communal spirit. “Mula sa bawat isa ayon sa kanyang kakayahan, para sa bawat isa ayon sa kanyang pangangailangan”, explained Elpidio Avellanoza, Secretary of Desktop Employees Union (DEA) –WPL.
The workers’ pantry has generated its supplies from workers’ contributions and solicitations initiated by the Youth for Nationalism and Democracy (YND). While the pantry is on-going, songs about the workers plight were offered by Teatrong Bayan.
“Isang taon na tayong ganito, marami pa rin sa ating mga kapwa manggagawa ang walang laman ang kaldero, walang maisaing, kumakalam ang sikmura! Habang ang pangakong ayuda ng gobyerno, inabot na ng siyam-siyam kung ‘di man ay talagang napako na!”, added Avellanoza as it describes the sorry plight of the workers during this time of COVID19 pandemic.
“Dati nang kulang ang kita at benepisyo na tinatanggap ng manggagawa bago pa man ang COVID19, pero pilit na pinagkakasya para sa pamilya, pero ngayon, bagamat, may mga nakakapasok na, hindi pa rin nakakabawi ang mga manggagawa bunga ng mahabang kawalan ng trabaho, walang sahod, lalong lumala ang kahirapan naming mga manggagawa”, lamented by Leonora Celiz, former Dong-In worker who was out of job for over a year now.
“Panahon nang iangat ng manggagawa ang bayanihan sa kapangyarihan sa produksyon at serbisyo sa pakikibaka para sa kaligtasan ng mamamayan sa gutom at ligalig.” said Celiz.
Bataan-Bataan Labor Alliance- WPL Meanwhile, as of March 2021, the AFAB Factsheet a total of 38,121 workers are currently employed inside the Freeport zone, a 70% increase in the period of 2000- 2020. In the country, about 9 million workers lost their job since the pandemic strike last year but 6 million were able to get back to their work before the new round of COVID 19 surge again this year.
“Paano naman kaming mga manggagawa na hindi pa nakakatanggap ng ayuda mula sa DOLE? Mula ng huminto sa operasyon ang aming kumpanya, mahigit isang taon na kaming walang hanap-buhay, bukod sa pagkain, saan namin kukunin ang pambayad ng upa, tubig, ilaw, at utang?” said President, DLX Union.
The government’s COVID-19 response, thus, made it more difficult for the workers and their families to protect themselves from the virus. Food aid came late and random. Work, pay, savings and alternative livelihood are unavailable during the lockdowns.
Furthermore, under this extremely difficult circumstances AMBA-WPL believes that uncertainty of work conditions, dislocation and the lack of occupational safety and health measures would get worse when factories resume their operation without the strict intervention of the government.
We want the government to really look into the plight of the workers as they are the economic force of the society.
“At the end of the day, this COVID19 pandemic has shown that human needs are more essential than profit” added Elpidio Avellanoza, “What would the new normal means for us workers? That is if long-held practices and policies like contractualization, lack of security of tenure, bargaining rights, poor working conditions and the low income of workers would be scrapped and changed by policies that would prioritize the sector and synchronize this with an appropriate national economic and industrial development program. It does not mean economic dislocation but job creation.” Avellanoza, ended.
The group has called on the government to be true to their Constitutional mandate and set aside their own vested interests especially at the time of crisis.