A batch of sacadas rescued from slave-like working conditions in Hacienda Luisita joined protests led by militant labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno and the All Workers Unity (AWU) in Manila today, before boarding their ride back to Mindanao.
The sacadas, “rescued” by the national agriworkers center, Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) will file criminal cases against their contractors and employers Greenhand Labor Service Cooperative, Agrikulto Inc and Central Azucarera de Tarlac (CAT) for human trafficking, once they return to Bukidnon.
Sakadas already filed labor complaints against Billy Baitus of Greenhand, and their main employers Fernando Cojuangco and Martin Lorenzo of CAT last week at the National Labor Relations Commission in San Fernando City, Pampanga.
Thirty-six sugar workers and four rescued minors, are expected to reach Cagayan de Oro City today, where the local farmworkers’ union, OGYON or Organisasyon sa Yanong Obrerong Nagkahiusa, organized a “panagtagbo” or welcome.
Meanwhile, UMA Secretary General Danilo Ramos, who accompanied the first batch of sakadas back to Mindanao today, expressed agreement with KMU and AWU in condemning the Department of Labor and Employment’s (DOLE) new Department Order (DO) 168.
“The sakadas were subjected to worst forms of exploitation and contractualization in Hacienda Luisita. This new DO 168 does nothing to end contractualization. Instead, it glosses over liabilities of despicable contractors like Greenhand and exploiters like the Cojuangcos and Lorenzos”
Ramos said that “modern-day slavery” is technically legitimized by such DOLE orders. “The Labor Department’s orders practically allow the Cojuangcos and Lorenzos to sign sakadas as slaves.
“There is even an order specifically for sacadas that institutionalizes the oppressive ‘pakyaw’ wages or group rates, and allows for the employer to oblige sacadas to pay for work tools and facilities,” Ramos noted.
In effect DO159, or the Guidelines for the Employment of Migratory Sugar Workers, which was signed on June 22, 2016 and reinforced by DO 168 institutionalizes labor-only contracting, unfair deductions and daily pay way below the minimum wage.
“These orders are rather puny attempts by the DOLE to make it appear that they are protecting sacadas – majority if not all of migratory sugar workers are paid below the wage rates of local workers who also receive meager pay.
Agrikulto Inc. had no qualms in making Greenhand ‘supply’ them a thousand sugar workers from Mindanao to work in Hacienda Luisita and in other parts of Central and Northern Luzon – the hacienderos behind this cult have been practicing the worst forms of contractualization for decades,” he said.
According to Ramos, DOLE officials such as Regional Director Ana Dione are fully-aware of the CAT’s appalling labor practices. Dione approved Greenhand’s permits in Central Luzon and told UMA that she already inspected the workers’ bunkhouse in Luisita last December. Dione even noted that Agrikulto, Inc. and CAT offer the “best accommodations” for sakadas.
“Why should this kind of cruelty and oppression exist to this day? All forms of contractualization must be banned,” ended Ramos.
Reference: Danilo Ramos, UMA Secretary General, 09994363493