By Jonathan L. Mayuga, Businessmirror, JANUARY 11, 2017
Rescued Hacienda Luisita sugar-plantation workers from Mindanao on Wednesday blamed the “contractualization” scheme for the “slavery” that continue to victimize landless farmers in agricultural plantations.
A group of sugar plantation workers, or sacadas, joined protests, led by the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) and the All Workers Unity (AWU), before leaving Manila to return to their home town in Mindanao.
Rescued by members of the Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA), the sacadas vowed to file criminal raps against their contractors and employers, Greenhand Labor Service Cooperative, Agrikulto Inc. and Central Azucarera de Tarlac (CAT) for human trafficking once they return to Bukidnon.
The rescued sacadas claimed to receive a measly P10 a day for a hard day’s work, which starts in the break of dawn. Their job is to harvest sugarcane and load them to waiting trucks to be brought to a nearby sugar mill.
They were hired as contractual employees only to find out that they will be working under harsh conditions. One of the workers who was sent back home died of illness which was aggravated by the poor working condition as a sacada.
Sacadas are seasonal workers contracted to harvest sugarcanes by the sugarcane plantation owners in the Visayas and Luzon.
Fed up with their “slave-like” working condition, they sought the help of UMA to file appropriate charges against their employers and recruiters.
UMA Secretary-General Danilo Ramos, who accompanied the first batch of sacadas back to Mindanao, joined the leaders of KMU and AWU in condemning the Department of Labor and Employment’s (DOLE) new Department Order (DO) 168.
“The sacadas were subjected to worst forms of exploitation and contractualization in Hacienda Luisita.
This new DO 168 does nothing to end contractualization. Instead, it glosses over liabilities of despicable contractors,” Ramos said.
According to Ramos, “modern-day slavery” is technically legitimized by such
In effect DO159, or the Guidelines for the Employment of Migratory Sugar Workers, which was signed on June 22, 2016, and reinforced by DO 168 institutionalizes labor-only contracting, unfair deductions and daily pay way below the minimum wage.
“These orders are rather puny attempts by the DOLE to make it appear that they are protecting sacadas majority if not all of migratory sugar workers are paid below the wage rates of local workers who also receive meager pay,” Ramos said.