A few weeks ago, staffs from the CTUHR (Center for Trade Union Human Rights) and KMU (Kilusang Mayo Uno) visited Tacloban to get video footages of workers’ situation in the region for their video documentary. I had a chance to facilitate them to follow the life of a dock worker who lives in an urban poor community for a day.
We talked to the worker’s wife who was “naglalara”. She used coconut leaves which will be made into a “pusô”. Rice will be placed inside what they have made which will be cooked. Pusô is commonly seen at barbecue stands here in Leyte. They are paid P10 for every 100 pieces they make for the pusô.
Then we went to the pier to take video footage of the workers there with an additional police escort so we didn’t have to walk around the pier under the heat and for our “security”.
I’ve been to the urban poor community several times and had the chance to talk to some of the residents there including some dock workers about their situation. Every time I talk to them about their current situation, my resolve to continue the struggle for national democracy strengthens.
Now its time to share what I saw and heard.
A dock worker’s hard life
Although I haven’t actually experienced the work of a dock worker, called “hornal” in the local dialect, I’ve seen and heard how hard they work in order to get meager pay from their employers.
At the Tacloban Port, a “hornal” for the cement receives a minimum wage of P238 (COLA included) a day if his gang (a group of 10 to 16 hornal) reach their quota of 3,120 sacks per day. So for a gang with 10 members, each worker needs to carry 312 sacks per day.
Althought their employer is implementing minimum wage, there was actually no increase because before the P10 increase in minimum wage in 2007 (or was it 2008? I forgot), their quota was only 3000 sacks. In addition, in a month, the dock workers only work for at least 2 weeks a month, depending on the cargo ship that docks at the port. Meaning, no work, no pay. In a month, they only earn more or less P3,000.
Their work is hazardous because of heavy equipments surrounding them and cement dust but hard hats and face masks to protect the workers aren’t available for their safety.
Although an automatic deduction on the workers pay is implemented for their Social Security System membership’s monthly deposit, some of the workers found out that their records showed that for several months, their employer didn’t deposit their monthly fees.
For them, the hardest times are when there’s no cargo ship docked at the pier since work is only available whenever cargo ships arrive. Some of the workers look for alternative source of income when there’s no ship like working at the warehouses as “hornal”, offer their services in farms, and catch fish or dive for shells at the nearby bay just to be able to sustain their family’s need. It’s also hard for them during summer because the “paglalara” work for their wives has less work to do because there are less customers at the barbecue stands during the summer.
Because of their meager income, they only eat once to twice a day, usually with only dried fish as viand because they don’t have enough money. Rice alone is very expensive.
I saw them, heard them, felt them
I’ve seen and felt these people’s hard work to bring in small amount of money everyday but it has never been enough to give them a decent life with enough and healthy food for their children, decent clothes and a decent house.
I can never understand why some people insist that the cause of people’s poverty is because of laziness. Of course your hard work, patience, initiative and creativity is a factor to earn more. But do you think that’s enough when government policies, capitalists and other powers-that-be is united to further oppress the already oppressed poor? Can we just stand by and do nothing about this situation? The condition tells us that we must further our struggle to liberate the people from oppression!