Remaining quiet has never led to justice: Reflections on a solidarity trip with NutriAsia Workers: Page 2 of 3
days a week. This is not just impractical, but inhumane. If in case their body gives up to the pressure of work, or the weather affects them in the most natural ways towards falling sick, they are constantly bothered with calls from management scaring them with threats of suspension.
Contractual workers discuss unjust conditions and issues they continue to face (Photo by Vidushi Dahiya)
The vulnerable economic conditions of the poor drive them to sign contracts to at least survive their day-to-day life. This vulnerability is seen by the corporations as an opportunity to further exploit the workers and deprive them of rights. A worker needs motivation to be constantly involved in the work. When there is no motivation, the workers just become like a machine. However, even the machine breaks down once in a while when overworked.
The workers explained how difficult it is to survive in such a low level of salary. The transportation, food, rent, etc. costs a lot from their income. Even if they wanted to, they cannot have a good life themselves and pass it on to their children. They speak out about risking their life everyday in precarious work conditions and still not being able to receive what they deserve. Despite working within temperatures of almost 80 degree Celsius, they still don’t receive medical aid. Workers recall amounts being deducted from their salary for social security, but some say they are not receiving it in full, among other issues. The unfair means used in these arrangements, by the company along with the contracting agencies such as B-Mirk, to exploit the workers have driven them to this struggle -- because remaining quiet has not led to justice.
Force was used upon by policemen against the workers in the past, to disperse them and attempt to end the struggle. Workers have been arrested by policemen creating a dispute, but blaming it on the workers and arresting them. The workers who fell to the tactics of the powerful could only weep in sorrow in the police station. Some recalled being made to remain in a cell with rapists, which seem rather unfair for the workers who were pursuing a silent movement and who were exercising their right to strike. This is not where the cruelty of the police force stopped. They arrested supporters such as a 15-year-old student and a 48-year-old man who belonged to KADAMAY, a movement of the urban poor. [The case being referred here is the first dispersal last mid-June 2018. In the second case on 31 July, 19 were arrested including five journalists. – Ed .]
The contracting agencies create confusion regarding the status of workers’ pay: whether the Manila Area wage rate applies to labourers that belonged there or the Bulacan Area wage rate. In whichever case, the rates of both the areas have increased but the salaries of the NutriAsia workers have not increased. [In the Philippines, minimum wage rates vary per region, prompting progressives to call for a national minimum wage and draw attention to the amounts needed for a family living