“They drove us out with force. They even used water canons.”
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA – Images of bloodied striking workers of the Peerless Producers Manufacturing Corp. (Pepmaco) in Calamba, Laguna greeted netizens on Friday morning, following a violent attack against them by armed goons in the wee hours early that day.
Several media outfits have earlier reported the company’s failure to make them regular employees, despite working for at least 12 hours a day for the past 15 years. Apart from the poor pay they are receiving – about P373 a day – they are also reportedly deprived of mandatory benefits such as social security insurance, and on housing and health.
In an apparent effort to quell the workers active call for the management to look into their concerns, at least 64 employees have been dismissed, including their union leaders. Among the most recent was the dismissal of another three workers early this month.
This morning, striking workers were attacked and dispersed while they were still asleep. Pepmaco Workers Union, in a Facebook post, said the company’s security guards even took away personal belongings of the striking workers.
“They drove us out with force. They even used water canons,” the union said.
Early this afternoon, while attempting to return to their picket line, police officers were sent to serve as barricades, some were even armed with high-powered firearms.
In its company profile, Pepmaco described itself as a Filipino company that was built “ground up” back in 2004. Today, it claims to be able to produce the “best surfactants in the world” using the “most current and innovative technology” available.
Their technology, however, apparently does not include safety gears for their workers who are left to work with toxic ingredients with practically their bare hands. Workers have reported having skin and respiratory diseases.
In a statement, state workers’ union Courage said their plight is no different to many workers all over the country who are employed under a “Labor Only Contracting” work scheme.
“The pending ‘security of tenure’ bill allows job-contracting by big firms and will fail to regularize workers. The only change it will do is that even the labor pool market will be left for monopoly big companies due to the capitalization requirement. Thus, contractual workers will be at their mercy, enduring low wages and without benefits,” Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao said in a statement.
As such, it is not surprising that workers all the way from Laguna arrived today at the picket line to show their support to the striking Pepmaco workers.