MANILA –The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD ) said Saturday that it fully supports the Department of Labor and Employment’s (DOLE) efforts among Sacadas from Mindanao tricked into working in Hacienda Luisita as the latter made the recommendation to cancel the registration of the sacadas’ recruiter.
“The DSWD fully supports the DOLE’s effort to stop this vicious cycle of trafficking and exploitation,” said DSWD Secretary Judy M. Taguiwalo.
The cancellation of Greenhand Labor Cooperative registration, and the restitution of the amounts illegally deducted from the MSW or Mindanao Sacadas in Hacienda Luisita by Greenhand and Agrikulto were among the recommendations of the DOLE’s Assessment Team in its Special Assessment and Visit of Establishment (SAVE) report.
The Assessment Team was led by the DOLE Regional Office III and joined by the Bureau of Working Conditions, Bureau of Workers with Special Concerns, Occupational Safety and Health Center, and Legal Service.
Their task was to assess the compliance of the Greenhand, Agrikulto Inc, and Central Azucarera de Tarlac (CAT) on general labor standards, occupational safety and health standards, and other pertinent laws.
DOLE Usec. Joel Maglunsod led the DOLE Assessment Team. The report was shared during a meeting held Thursday, July 16, at the DOLE’s Labor Governance Learning Center in Manila.
Among those who attended the meeting were DOLE Undersecretary Bernard Olalia, and DOLE’s Regional Directors from the Regions 3, 10, and 12. Representing the Mindanao sacadas were representatives from Unyon ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA). Officers from Greenhand, Agrikulto Inc. and CAT, and representatives from the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), and the DSWD also attended.
The DSWD, together with DOLE and DAR were among the government agencies which promptly responded to the UMA’s appeal for assistance for the Mindanao sacadas who fled Hacienda Luisita because of the inhumane work and living conditions.
As a response, DSWD immediately provided help through the NCR and Central Office’s Crisis intervention Units.
They provided foodpacks, medical assistance, and transportation assistance to facilitate the MSW’s return to Mindanao.
Forty nine sacadas were assisted in December 2016; while another 16 Sacadas, a toddler and a baby were assisted in January 2017. Both batches took temporary refuge in the DAR’s covered court the whole time they were in the NCR.
“It is not enough that the department is ready and willing to provide assistance whenever cases of labor exploitation and abuse take place. Providing food packs and transportation assistance comprise temporary relief measures: they are mere shock absorbers. The main problems that should be addressed comprehensively and decisively are the exploitation and trafficking of farm workers in general, Taguiwalo said.
Findings of SAVE
Meanwhile, of the 864 MSWs recruited from Mindanao, only 27 remain in Hacienda Luisita; 586 MSWs escaped from the bunkhouses; 176 MSWs left with waivers and promised to pay cash advances; and 72 T’boli group members were sent home.
On allegations of child labor, Agrikulto representatives said that the company did not employ minors,
However, it was revealed that Greenhand had to send one worker home after it was discovered that he was a minor. The prohibition is included in the company’s Service Agreement.
In addition, a separate report from DOLE’s Region 10 Office, (the region where most Sacadas hailed) have reported four minors employed by Greenhand.
MSWs also claimed that Greenhand illegally deducted money for food and cash advance of the workers, never mind that some of the food included expired and spoiled canned goods. Greenhand asserted that it provided free food and accommodations to MSWs.
The team also learned that the initially offered cash advance of Php 7,000 was cut down to Php 5,000 in accordance with Greenhand and Agrikulto’s Service Agreement. Half of the money was given prior to departure, and Php 2000 upon arrival.
Billy Baitus –one of Greenhand’s main recruiters — admitted charging the workers Php 500 each to cover the additional cost during the transport of MSWs.
For every ton rate, Php 5 was also deducted for the Ambogkol Manobo Tribal Association, Inc. while another Php 5 was deducted for the Datus.
The team also learned that the MSWs were promised Php 210 for every ton they have harvested with a quota of 18 tons per load for a group of 13 persons.
However, during the actual harvest, the Team found that a group of 13 MSWs can only reach the quota of 18 tons four or five times a week only. Because of this, each MSW were paid only Php 1,523 per week or Php 117 per day.
A payroll obtained by UMA shows that MSWs receive a net pay of as low as Php 9.46 per day.
“The pakyaw system must be stopped as this prevents the MSWs from earning enough to compensate their hard labor. Though the minimum wage is still far from being enough to meet decent living standards, as a minimum standard, this ensures better conditions for the sacadas compared with the per piece rate system. If we can do this in the banana industry, why can’t we do it for the workers in the sugar industry?” Maglunsod said.
On the aspect of providing adequate temporary dwelling facility, the team visited the Greenhand Compound. It was discovered that Agrikulto provided potable water, sanitary facilities, a clinic, mess hall, rice cookers and electric stoves for the MSWs, and the bunk houses with beds. The team also showed a video they shot during their January 27 visit claims of Agrikulto.
Danilo Ramos of UMA, however, pointed out that the video was taken weeks after January 4 and 5, when the issue of the Mindanao sacadas were first exposed in the media. Agrikulto and Greenhand had since had time to make changes. Ramos is also the secretary general of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP).
Of the 864 Mindanao Sacadas in Hacienda Luisita recruited by Greenhand, only those from Region 12 comprised of 59 MSWs were able to go through DOLE’s process of acquiring certification for Authority to Transport. The DOLE requires this of recruitment agencies before they can transfer hired employees.
Based on the report, the DOLE’s assessment team provided five recommendations, and these are:
-Cancellation of DO18a registration of Greenhand and issuance of Cease and Desist Order directing it not to enter into new contracting arrangement;
-Require Greenhand and Agrikulto to restitute the amounts illegally deducted from MSW’s;
-Review the Department Order No. 159-16 in relation to working and living conditions of workers in the sugarcane industry;
-Conduct of time and motion study in the different sugarcane areas to benchmark shares of MSW’s; and
In coordination with appropriate government agencies, institute appropriate actions against Greenhand and Agrikulto for child labor, illegal recruitment and trafficking of persons.
“These recommendations must be swiftly acted upon by DOLE,” UMA’s Ramos said.