Life on work stoppage is hard, but the adult females of Bleustar Workers Labor Union are claiming their topographic point in unionism and persisting. Together with work forces, they struggle against sexual torment, inhumane intervention, union-busting, and unjust labour patterns of direction. To them, the brotherhood is still their best hope of procuring a better hereafter for themselves and for their households.
The battle of Bleustar Workers Labor Union ( BWLU )
Bleustar Marketing and Manufacturing Corporation ( BMMC ) is the shaper of Advan insouciant shoewear and rainboots. The company ‘s operations started in 1990 after it broke off from Novaliches-based Rubberworld and became a “ blowout store ” to avoid unionisation. It employs a sum of 216 workers, 66 % of which are female and 34 % male. BMMC produces about 2,700 braces of rainboots per twenty-four hours and 5400 braces of insouciant places per twenty-four hours.
Majority of the Advan workers are adult females. At present, most of them are assigned in run uping ( 46 % ) and cutting ( 11 % ) . The work forces are located in the layering and injection ( 24 % ) procedure of the assembly line.
Exploitative patterns experienced by workers
A BWLU factsheet records the legion instances of development and labour misdemeanors experienced by the workers at BMMC.
Sexual torment. In 1993, the proprietor Jimmy Ong, would take his autonomies with adult females workers every twenty-four hours at the entryway of the shoe mill. He would touch and caress sensitive parts of the worker ‘s organic structure, blink his phallus, shaper her sit on his lap, and ask for them to one-night bases. Alternatively of turn toing the job, supervisors turned the other manner, stating workers to rinse it off. In the absence of a brotherhood, the adult females remained soundless and endured the maltreatment.
The Advan assembly line
Inhumane intervention and denial of rights. Workers were subjected to verbal maltreatment by the proprietor or the supervisors. They were besides denied overtime wage and cheated out of their holiday wage and dark derived functions. Three- to four-day forced foliages were imposed on the workers after six yearss of work. Annual fillips were delayed for two old ages. Unfair suspensions and physical maltreatment ( slapping ) were besides experienced by workers. Payment of workers ‘ benefits such as SSS ( societal security ) and PAG-IBIG ( lodging loan ) were besides delayed by every bit long as 3 months.
The exploitatory patterns experienced by Advan workers reflect the impact of labour flexibilization or contractualization. Flexibilization or casualization of labour are policies widely implemented in the fabric and garment industries and are hurtful to the rights of adult females workers. In the instance of BWLU where 70 % of its work force is made up of adult females, this consequences to decrease of the work force through layoffs and efforts of going a “ blowout store ” to hedge unionisation.
Flexibilization consequences in an employment relationship that discourages length of service. From about 300 workers in 1995, there are merely 216 workers soon employed at BWLU. Most of those discharged were cloacas and cutters, processes where largely adult females are employed. Labor flexibilization strategies are inventions designed to bring forth more net incomes ( EILER, 2000 ) , all at the disbursal of workers. This takes the signifier of labor-only catching or hiring of casuals which produces large net incomes for capitalists and consequences to the development of workers and the execution of anti-worker policies such as brotherhood busting or the constitution of a management-friendly brotherhood ( Module 13 ) . As in the instance of BWLU, when the effort to neutralize the brotherhood by ending all members was thwarted with a winning work stoppage, the direction decided to set up a viing brotherhood to oppress the hawkish attempts of the bing brotherhood.
Today, Advan workers receive a minimal pay of P382 whereas casuals receive P100 less. By using more insouciant workers, BMMC saves a large ball out of decreased rewards. Schemes such as the 10-hour-a-day work load are designed to avoid paying an excess twenty-four hours of work and hasten productiveness. Greater productiveness imposed upon workers has besides proven damaging to workers ‘ wellness. Sewing machines cause strains in the limbs, hips, and asthenopia. The jeopardies of mechanisation inside the mill include the remotion of upper limbs and fingers from runing injection machines. The deficiency of protective cogwheel and the hapless airing exacerbates the wellness jobs of workers.
The experience of Advan workers is the wheels of globalisation at work. Globalization presents a turning menace to adult females workers. Free trade understandings result to take down rewards and makes industries where adult females are concentrated more unstable ( UNPAC, 2006 ) . The international division of labour heightens adult females ‘s development and makes them overrepresented in underpaid and labour-intensive occupations where stereotypes of adult females workers are taken advantage: “ docility, agile fingers, young person, frequently of rural beginnings, credence of low rewards, and hapless on the job conditions ” ( Beneria, 2003, p. 78 ) . Womans are besides prone to lay-offs and pay cuts because they are considered “ secondary workers. ” While BMMC caters to a domestic market, it is still vulnerable to the onslaught of cheaper, imported places and boots from China and other states.
The intensifying occupation disruption of adult females renders them vulnerable to instances of sexual development. In the instance of BWLU adult females workers, lewd sexual progresss are sometimes tolerated by adult females despairing to maintain their occupations. To halt this development, unionism became the solution to which work forces and adult females workers of BMMC addressed their jobs.
In unionism, there is strength
BMMC has a proud history of union-busting. Before the constitution of the Bleustar Workers Labor Union ( BWLU ) -KMU, three brotherhoods have been formed and crushed later. Leaderships were terminated, persecuted, or corrupted by direction. As the jobs of the workers piled up, the workers were advised to organize a new brotherhood and to guarantee its acknowledgment.
Learning lessons from the old formations, forming work for the brotherhood became more close to guarantee a rank of merely around 20. This clip, they were successful. The BWLU obtained enrollment with the Bureau of Labor Relations ( BLR ) of the Department of Labor and Employment ( DOLE ) in 2007. Management attempted to hold the acknowledgment cancelled but it failed. The Union attempted to hammer a corporate bargaining understanding ( CBA ) to force for retirement wage, separation wage, and 13th month wage.
A request for Certification Election ( CE ) was filed and granted but 13 yearss before the scheduled CE, the direction attempted a “ runaway store. ” Union members staged a work stoppage and barricaded the works by executing a die-in to barricade the Gatess. All 43 members were terminated because of their engagement and another work stoppage was staged in protest of brotherhood busting and unjust labour pattern. In September 2008, a memoranda of understanding ( MOA ) was signed, including a return-to-work order for all discharged union members.
Troubles with the execution of the MOA came as direction advocate cited proficient and procedural mistakes with the filing. Another challenge is the constitution of a rival brotherhood which is TUCP-influenced and management-backed. BWLU is soon federated to the Kilusang Mayo Uno, a hawkish labour federation of trade brotherhoods.
“ A adult female ‘s topographic point is in her brotherhood ” alongside work forces
A dramatic thing about the BWLU is the fact that it is headed by a adult female. Womans are by and large underrepresented in brotherhood leading ( Pineda-Ofreneo, 2005 ) , a fact many connect to the gendered organisation of brotherhood work. In the history of unionism in Advan, the first individuals to try brotherhood forming were work forces. The first leaders of the brotherhood were besides work forces. The current brotherhood president, nevertheless, Gloria Bongon, is a adult female. She cites fright, insecurity, and the adult female ‘s multiple loads as the primary grounds many adult females still hedge brotherhood rank:
Many adult females tell us “ we ‘re excessively old for the brotherhood. ” Many besides admit that they fear the loss of occupations should at that place be a brotherhood. Management has ever threatened to close down the company ‘s operations if a brotherhood is organized. Many besides treat us with disdain when we invite them – “ The point of being in this company is to work and gain, non to fall in a brotherhood and lose work. ”
Her refusal to head the brotherhood at foremost was out of fright of non being able to equilibrate her precedences with her household and brotherhood committednesss. Even in BWLU, merely 6 out of the 15 officers of the brotherhood are adult females, despite the fact that they make up about 70 % of the work force. This is consistent with Eviota ‘s ( 1992 ) happening that adult females ‘s comparatively low rank in brotherhoods is due to the load of productive and generative work which “ put limitations on their engagement in labour activities ” ( p. 95 ) .
Women ‘s attitudes towards brotherhood rank or leading are besides ideological. Womans are idealized as inactive and docile animals where the adversarial nature of brotherhood battles conflict with their stereotyped “ soft ” demeanours. Furthermore, adult females ‘s attitudes are structural in nature. Unions normally reflect male privilege ( Eviota, 1992 ) . Even the hawkish labour motion in the state admits that unionism is still mostly a male ‘s sphere ( Asia Monitor Resource Center, 2010 ) . The gendered organisation of brotherhood work typifies the feudal and patriarchal Philippine society every bit good as the unequal societal chances afforded to adult females. To this terminal, because most adult females workers are hardly educated, merely work forces are considered qualified to take on the undertakings of bargaining and dialogues. Womans hence take on the supportive functions. However, women-led brotherhoods such as BWLU may be considered a positive development in brotherhood patterns and may bespeak a turning assurance, assertiveness, and consciousness of rights among adult females workers.
The turning figure of adult females union members in BWLU besides indicates the potency of forming adult females around women-specific concerns in order to prosecute them into labour activities. BWLU ‘s formation, for case, originated from the issue of sexual torment and obscene patterns of direction against adult females. Although adult females remain underrepresented in the brotherhood ‘s leading, male leaders are speedy to admit the parts that adult females made in all of the brotherhood ‘s battles so far. Ronald, a velocity cloaca and a member of the brotherhood ‘s Board, recalls:
Our battles have proven how of import adult females are. When we went on work stoppage in 2008 after many of the brotherhood members were terminated by the company, the adult females made up the composite force. They were in the frontlines, ready to be paddled by company security. They were brave. Womans and work forces workers are contending for the same thing. I think we are every bit brave.
BWLU ‘s experience provides support to the quotation mark that “ a adult female ‘s topographic point is in her brotherhood. ” Given their big composing in the work force, adult females workers need to be present and empowered in the trade brotherhood motion because this is their most powerful arm against globalisation ‘s assault and the different crises that affect them.
Unlike many brotherhoods which started off as a battle for better working conditions and rewards, BWLU was organized around a specific gender issue. The formation of the brotherhood involved Numberss of adult females in secret forming others and converting them to fall in the brotherhood. From the narratives shared, there seemed no gender hostility in brotherhood organizing or even in leading. The refusal or vacillation to take was knowing among adult females and non a deliberate act to except them from the decision-making procedures.
I recall when I started to assist the first brotherhood, many were scared to fall in – work forces and adult females. Many of the work forces I spoke to feared losing their income merely every bit much as the adult females. All of us workers have a common involvement and all of us must fight together – work forces and adult females.
From the beginning, the BWLU took up women-specific issues when they attempted to form before traveling to general issues on rewards, unjust intervention, favoritism, and working conditions. However, brotherhood leaders who remained were those 1 ) without viing duties or 2 ) able to alter their perceptual experiences of work and were able to successfully depute jobs equitably in the place to do clip for brotherhood work.
Something ‘s got ta spring: the attendant jobs of adult females unionism
Aside from hours of productive work performed by adult females in the assembly line and generative work performed at place, brotherhood work demands extra hours among adult females workers. Union work load, harmonizing to Gloria, require around 51 hours a hebdomad. As a consequence, out of 283 work yearss, adult females brotherhood leaders work merely 181 yearss. This is a important ground why many adult females workers shun brotherhood duties because of the work load outlooks. This demanding work load assumes that effectual leading in the brotherhoods requires no viing involvements of duties. To adult females already executing multiple work functions, going a leader is burdensome, if non impossible. This besides explains why many of the adult females brotherhood leaders such as Gloria or Glecy, are either individual or do non hold their households shacking with them. Gloria ‘s household is in Bataan. Workload becomes more manageable if there were no kids to care for or if there is just distribution of housekeeping among married spouses, as in the instance of Ronald:
When I became active in the brotherhood, my married woman was ever huffy at me, stating that we need the money and my absences at work would do things hard for us particularly when we have a babe on the manner. She was ferocious at the brotherhood and she did non desire to be a member. However, I was able to form her and it is our understanding that we portion the housekeeping equally. When she is at work, I do the house jobs and frailty versa.
Another job experienced by adult females leaders is emotional emphasis at the guilt of non run intoing the outlooks of household or brotherhood work. Gloria for case, about left her hubby because she was forced to take between her household and her brotherhood. Expectations of work are gendered in that female parents are expected to carry through domestic work in add-on to their paid work. Women ‘s primary duty is the place and household work, therefore this becomes a barrier to brotherhood engagement for many female parents. Loyalty to the brotherhood is something that is looked down by some hubbies. This becomes a job because adult females union members like Gloria or Glecy consider the brotherhood to be their “ household. ” Sometimes these adult females found themselves caught between their association with the brotherhood and their existent households or their personal relationships.
Ronald ‘s experience besides underscores the of import function of forming and consciousness-raising among partners to democratise the division of labour in the place. The demands of brotherhood leading create clash among partners which may take to the devolution of household life, finally taking to loss of rank in the brotherhood. Those we interviewed shared narratives of former brotherhood leaders who were non able to prevail with their maps because of force per unit area from the household to halt brotherhood engagement. Furthermore, it is a peculiar challenge for adult females union members to demand democratisation in household life every bit good as in the workplace by educating their hubbies or partners.
The adult females who shared their experiences with us have been in the brotherhood for several old ages since its origin. Gloria, for case, eventually accepted the highest leading in the brotherhood after changeless goad from companions. Despite the many forfeits they pay – lost clip with their households, the squelchs in their battles, and the emphasis – these adult females are hanging in at that place. Their committedness to unionism is apparent. Even in the thick of blazing union-busting when direction supported the TUCP-federated brotherhood to vie with BWLU, endangering to pass over out all their additions, Gloria emotionally declares:
We will non give up despite what the direction does to us. We have worked so difficult to acquire to where we are now. We will non give our old ages of difficult work and battle and merely allow them [ the viing brotherhood ] take over merely like that.
It has been a perennial review of brotherhood pattern that it is non gender-sensitive. Some adult females union members acknowledge that brotherhood battles are basically modelled after the male ‘s manner of managing things. It is non for the frail-hearted, they say, non for ‘wusses ‘ ( Paavo, 2004 ) . It is easy to conceive of adult females unionists sink or swim because of multiple work loads. The manner brotherhoods are constituted, if it remains a topographic point where leaders are expected to be people without extra or viing duties, so the brotherhood is non so friendly a topographic point for a adult female. In some instances such as Ronald ‘s where he and his married woman are both active members of the brotherhood, the function of forming one ‘s partner or household is important. Aside from this individualistic attack, possibly a restructuring of leading or work loads could do brotherhoods a more liberating and humanising experience for both adult females and work forces.
Despite the reverses and losingss, the successes that the adult females union members of BWLU have secured alongside work forces, give them their committedness to unionism. Their political consciousness besides invigorates them to prevail in their battles, cognizing full well that workers have no security anyplace under the international division of labour. While unionism started out as a test and mistake for them and assorted errors were made along the manner, the brotherhood is still their best hope of deriving occupation security, procuring nice rewards and better working conditions. It is still their best arm.