For almost four months now, workers at the Kowloon Restaurant along West Avenue have been on strike. They spent their Christmas and New Year at the picketline. Amid hardships and sacrifices, they are determined to fight for what is due them.
BY RONALYN V. OLEA
Jing Rosales, 55, has not been going home regularly since December. His wife has driven him away because of the strike.
Jing has been working for Kowloon Restaurant for 25 years. On September 13, 2008, he and 72 other workers were terminated from work.
The workers were only demanding the implementation of two wage hikes ordered by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE). When they staged pickets during their breaktime in June, the management filed a case of ‘illegal strike’ against them.
Jing said his wife decided to break up with him before Christmas. They have two children, aged 13 and nine. He recounted, “Sabi niya, ano’ng kakainin natin? Paano pambayad sa bahay?” (She said, what would we eat? How would we pay for the rent?)
He said his wife has a small sari-sari (variety) store. He told his wife, “Magtulungan na lang tayo.” (Let us help each other.) But his wife was adamant. “Iyon ang pasya niya, nahihirapan na raw siya.” (That’s her decision. She said she has been suffering a lot.)
Since then, Jing would spend most of his days and nights at the picketline. Sometimes, he still goes home. “Kinakapalan ko na lang ang mukha ko. Umuuwi ako para makita ang mga anak ko. Nahihiya na nga akong kumain doon.” (I just gather the courage to go home to see my children. I am even ashamed of eating there.)
To earn some money, he would at times go to his brother in Trese Martires, Cavite where he helps out in manning the pet shop owned by his nephew. “Panggastos sa pamasahe, konting pagkain.” (I would spend it for transportation and food.)
He said he could not apply for any other job. “Sino ba naman ang kukuha pa sa akin sa edad kong ito?” (At my age, who would hire me?)
Jing said he and wife had never talked about separation in their 13 years of marriage.
Asked if he regrets joining the strike, Jing said strongly, “Hindi.” (No.) He added, “Mas mahirap sa loob, hawak ka ng management sa leeg. Dito, ipinaglalaban namin ang karapatan namin.” (It is more difficult to continue working in the restaurant because the management does what it pleases. Here at the picketline we are fighting for our rights.)
Jing’s co-worker Joel Francisco, 37, has opted for a different way in dealing with the hardships.
Even before the strike began, Joel sent his wife and four children aged eight, five, three and two to their home province in Catanduanes.
To be able to send money to his loved ones, Joel worked in construction projects for 15 days. At times, he would ask for help from his siblings.
He spent his Christmas and New Year at the picketline, away from his family. He has no money to go to Catanduanes.
Joel said, “Mag-a-a-kinse na naman. Di ko pa alam saan kukuha ng panggastos ng pamilya.” (The 15th of the month is near. I still don’t know where to get the money to send to my family.)
If Jing and Joel have to bear the pain of being away from their loved ones, Rey Palera has a different story.
Rey’s wife and son are often at the picketline.
After classes, Rey’s son Jomar, seven years old, would go to the picketline with his mother. Asked why he is at the picketline, the boy told Bulatlat, “Para sumuporta sa mga manggagawa.” (To support the workers.)
Asked if he knows why the workers are on strike, Jomar said, “Kasi tinanggal sila sa trabaho.” (Because they were fired.)
Severino Gesto, secretary of the Kowloon union, said Jomas has been an inspiration to the workers and the youth who often visit the picketline.
Asked about the status of the case, Gesto said they are awaiting the decision of the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC).
The management, he said, offered to pay them 10 days per year of service as separation pay. They refused to take the offer.
Gesto said, “Eh di sana, noon pa, nagpabayad na lang kami. Malaki na ang ipinuhunan namin dito.” (We could have accepted their payment long ago. We have invested so much to this struggle.)
Indeed, the Kowloon workers are determined to carry on with their fight. As Gesto said, “Alam naman naming panalo kami.” (We know we will win.) (Bulatlat.com)