Thursday, March 5, 2009

Women workers demand state subsidy, job and reversal of economic policies

March 5, 2009

Some 100 women members of the Partido ng Manggagawa (PM), including displaced workers, staged a picket today at the Intramuros office of the Department of Labor and Employment to demand a six-point bailout for workers and the poor.

PM members brought a mock stretcher and a wheelchair to dramatize the dire plight of women, especially those who are displaced by the deepening global economic crisis. The mock stretcher and wheelchair, the group said, depict the urgent need of women for a life support system to cushion the impact of massive layoffs, high cost of living and tuition fee increases. The protesters also carried dextrose- and pill-shaped placards listing their 6-point call for a bailout.

“More than anybody else, it is the women workers who shoulder the heavy burden of the ongoing economic crisis due to lack of social protection from the state and the weak observance and implementation of core labor standards in the country,” stated Judy Ann Miranda, secretary-general of PM.

Job and security, Miranda said, is very important for a woman since having a regular job “is her first and major step in the long journey away from the dark world of domestication.” She also criticized the government’s theme in this month’s women day celebration that focuses more on entrepreneurship rather than job protection and job creation. “The theme ‘Babae, Yaman ka ng Bayan’ highlights the women’s exceptional role in poverty alleviation, but this merely stresses the self-help economic activities that they have already been doing since time immemorial because of lack of employment,” she added.

In particular, the Partido ng Manggagawa is demanding unemployment subsidy for women workers, tax refund for wage earners, health care coverage for displace workers, a reformed public employment program for displaced and unemployed women, and moratorium on demolitions and evictions. It is also calling for the reversal of liberalization, deregulation and privatization policies which women blame for the high prices of goods and the deterioration of public services.

According to Miranda, the immediate and harsh impact of the global crisis hit the women workers first since most of them work in electronics and garment industries, the country’s top export to the US and Europe.

Marites Manjares, a leader of the United Cavite Workers Association who joined the protest reported more layoffs in the Cavite Economic Zone in the town of Rosario. “The overwhelming majority of those laid off and about to be retrenched are women since they are workers in electronics factories,” she emphasized.

The country’s top export is electronics with revenues of $2.6 billion as of September last year. Manjares enumerated the recently affected electronics factories in the ecozone as:

Clarion: more than 200 to be retrenched this March
P. Imes: more than 100 laid off last February but the separation pay to be released only this month
Dyna Image: 400 jobs cut last January
N.T. Phils: 400 workers terminated last Dec

“With the crisis deepening, the double burden of women workers becomes heavier. The traditional coping mechanism of the workers and the poor is the safety net of family relations but this unduly relies on the unpaid work of women. The double burden means women are exploited as cheap labor in the factories and then utilized as unpaid workers in the home,” argued Manjares.

She explained that “The government must provide the safety net of social protection so that workers and the poor do not rely exclusively on the coping mechanism of family relations and women are not weighed down by the heavier double burden.”

The labor party is also calling for the passage of the Reproductive Health Bill now pending before the Congress.

“The RH bill answers the problem of high maternal mortality that is bound to escalate in times of crisis. Without the RH bill, reproductive health services are presently beyond the reach of poor working women,” Miranda concluded.

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