Tuesday, July 28, 2015

State of Negros: The rise of ‘new sacadas’ belies SONA claim of PNoy on labor

Partido Manggagawa-Negros
28 July 2015

The rise of ‘new sacadas’ in Negros belie the claim of President Aquino during his State of the Nation Address (SONA) yesterday that the country is now moving from cheap labor to high-tech producer.

Fresh from the joint consultation-workshop on the state of sugar workers held in Bacolod City last Sunday, the Negros chapter of Partido Manggagawa (PM-Negros) and the Sentro ng Nagkakaisang Manggagawa (Sentro) described as ‘first world falsehood’ the assertion of the President that high-tech production is taking over cheap labor that for a long time characterized the Philippine labor force.

“What country are you talking about, Mr. President?  Negros is now home to BPOs yet the island remains a country of sacadas,” said the two groups in a statement.

It is clear, according to PNoy, “The Filipino can now compete.  Previously our only selling point was cheap labor.  Now factories for high-tech equipment are coming here, from airplane parts, electrical tricycles, printers, and other digital media products to high-quality medical devices.”

During their Sunday consultation, PM-Negros presented a study that pointed to the rise of ‘new sacadas’ in Negros resulting from the dismal failure of agrarian reform in the island as well as the massive contractualization of farm works in the Sugarlandia.

“The old dumaans (regular workers) were replaced by tens of thousands and contractual workers. And the migrant sacadas that mainly came from Panay and other neighboring provinces before are now replaced by inland sacadas -- a phenomenon that suggests a downside shift in labor relations in the island,” explained the group.

According to PM-Negros, the ‘new sacadas’ of Negros is represented now by tens of thousands of contractual farm workers who comprise at least 80% of the total workforce in sugar plantations in the island.  They receive not more than P150 per day working as planters, weeders, fertilizer applicators, harvesters and haulers.

“Until the late 90s, Negros sourced its shortage of sacadas from outside of the island but now the internal labor market is heavily populated with contractual, seasonal and mobile workers who perform work previously done by regular workers or the dumaans,” said the two groups.

For PM and Sentro, the combination of failed agrarian reform and the onslaught of contractualization schemes created this phenomenon as workers who were displaced due to massive retrenchments lost their employee-employer relationship (EER) and eventually their right to become land reform beneficiaries. 

“This condition left at least 100,000 hectares with no more agrarian reform beneficiaries to claim the lands, creating in effect an army of sacadas that hop from one hacienda to another around the island to find work,” explained the group.

This state of sugar workers in Negros, added the groups, is further threatened by the expected adverse impact of Asean integration on Philippine agriculture once the zero tariff regime begins to be implemented this year.

“We expect massive job loss once the country’s sugar industry fails to survive the intense competition with Thai and Vietnamese sugar,” said PM.

The saddest point, said PM and Sentro, is to hear the SONAs of the past and present Presidents, without any mention of the pressing problems in Negros, specifically the life of sugar workers.

“Ang problema namon, amon lang gid problema. Isa kami sa halimbawa sang SONA nga indi matalupangdan,” concluded the group.

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