COVID-19 Watch News

Labor center criticizes Century Pacific Foods for ignoring safety protocols of mass-hired workers

By Reuben Pio Martinez

The Pagkakaisa ng Manggagawa sa Timog Katagalugan (PAMANTIK-KMU) criticized Century Pacific Foods, Inc. for supposedly immediate, mass hiring and mismanaging new workers seeking means for a livelihood.

This came to be when most of the original workers of the said manufacturing company refused to attend due to the total lockdown taking place in the City of Biñan.

In a post circulating online, the union showed two images of the working conditions in the company’s Laguna International Industrial Park (LIIP) canned meat processing plant. The management offered the newly employed laborers, who were only required to provide their biodata and a barangay clearance to work, a live-in offer, wherein they can stay in the premises. However, instead of a decent workspace and rest areas, they were instead given unsanitary areas and carton boxes for sleeping mats.

When it was announced on March 22, 2020 that the City of Biñan would be placed under total lockdown as a precautionary measure during the COVID-19 pandemic, Mayor Arman Dimaguila emphasized that local government units (LGUs) should monitor the skeletal workforces of each company within the city. It is also the LGUs responsibility to see through it that all employees must observe social distancing to avoid possible contamination. Additionally, Dimaguila stated before that no person would be allowed to leave or enter the city as long as the lockdown is implemented. The images showed that in addition to not providing the workers any protective equipment, social distancing was not properly enforced.

A representative of PAMANTIK-KMU further explained the mass hiring process, in that no interviews were given for the new applicants, and that this entire endeavor was a means to generate massive amounts of production to catch-up with the consumers’ demands. This is so despite the company stating that they have enough supplies to provide for all of the people’s needs. Additionally, the workers would allegedly be let go without warning once working conditions in the Philippines return to normal.

The representative also mentioned that the laborers would only be receiving minimum contractual pay. As Biñan is a “growth corridor area” (GCA), or a rapidly urbanized community, as per Wage Order No. IVA-18 effective on April 28, 2018, the minimum wage is P400. They also receive no compensation other than the aforementioned amount.

On the company’s financial aid, PAMANTIK-KMU stated that none of the workers are receiving any. The promised incentives for the Department of Labor and Employment’s (DOLE) COVID-19 Adjustment Measures Program (CAMP) is said to still not have yet been distributed. Under Department Order No. 209 Series of 2020, this would give workers (except government employees) who experience a suspension of or a decrease in regular pay brought upon by the pandemic, and those who are not allowed to work due to the temporary halting of work P5000 once, with no conditions.

Century, however, is not the only company allegedly doing this practice. Cawal Southern Tagalog also reported that the Universal Robina Corporation (URC) workers were given uncomfortable working conditions, including box cartons for sleeping mats and the apparent lack of social distancing. The union shared this detail on their Facebook page last March 26.
As of now, there is no formal investigation being conducted, but the concerns have been forwarded already to both the LGU and DOLE. [P]

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