Contractualization is a scheme that allows capitalists to replace their workforce with ease according to market demands. For the management, this translates to maximization of profits but for the laborers, this system denies them the security and benefits of a regular job while being paid very low wages.
By Reyna Mae Tabbada
Women workers in the Philippines have long been victims of abuse and discrimination. They suffer under working conditions detrimental to their health and sanitation. And they are the victims of extremely oppressive and exploitative labor practices. Problems on the safety of the physical work environment are perennial concerns of women workers. In recent years, the unjust relations between women laborers and management have also turned for the worse.
In a 2004 world commission report, the International Labor Organization said “millions of women workers (were) absorbed into the global production system” where contractualization of labor is very rampant. The situation in the Philippines mirrors this worldwide trend: the Labor Force Survey of the National Statistics Office (NSO) from October 2005-2006 shows women constitute 38.8 percent of the labor force. Research by the Quezon City-based Center for Women Resources (CWR) also reveals that three out of 10 employed persons are contractual, many of them women.
In an interview, Mary Joan Guan, executive director of CWR, said that these women contractual workers are concentrated in the following industries: manufacturing, garments, factory, sales services, and electronics. Contractual workers are called by different names such as trainees, project-basis, and piece rate, with a flexible work arrangement. Even in government, contractual women workers are rampant as they are not included in the plantilla.
Contractualization is a scheme used by capitalists to allow them to replace their workforce with ease according to market demands. For the management, this translates to maximization of profit according to the standards of globalization. For the laborers, this system denies them the security and benefits of a regular job while being paid very low wages.
Miriam Grafil, CWR research coordinator, lamented that the plight of women contractual workers has not improved. “Hindi umaangat ang kalagayan nila. Mula pabrika napunta sa pagiging sub-contractuals hanggang maging contractors,” (Their conditions have not improved. From factory workers, they became sub-contractuals until they become contractors) she said. And much of this can be due to the widespread implementation of sub-contracting.
Companies that use sub-contracting employ middlemen to hire workers. The workers work at home or at the factory but they can fix their time according to their own needs. A whole community is usually employed by the middle man. This is especially attractive to mothers who need to earn as well as stay at home to tend to their children. Even the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) espouses sub-contracting as “pagmamalasakit (show of mercy)” to the mothers.
But Guan disagrees. “Hindi iyon pagmamalasakit. Ang bayad ay piece rate. Hindi lamang sa nanay ang trabaho kundi buong pamilya. Pero ang sweldong binibigay ay para sa isang tao lamang kahit buong pamily ang gumawa. Dahil kung piece rate ka, gusto mong mas marami magawa,” (That’s not mercy. The pay is still by piece. The work is not just confined to the mother but to the whole family. But the pay is only for one person even though the whole family worked. Because if you’re paid by piece, you want to be able to finish more products) she argues.