On International Women’s Day, the Federation of Free Workers (FFW) expressed its solidarity with women workers in their struggle for equal rights and opportunities in the workplace.
“The FFW recognizes the significant role that we women play in the labor force and our valuable contributions to the economy,” said FFW Women’s Network (FWN) president Ma. Victoria Bellosillo.
FWN is the Women’s Committee of the FFW that has a regular seat in the labor group’s Governing Body.
“We cannot deny the productive role of women in society. They participate in production, provide services, and are responsible for unpaid care work, without which the economy and care for future generations would suffer,” said Bellosillo.
The FWN joined other women workers from the Women Workers United (WWU) in a dialogue with the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) today.
MANY WOMEN WORKERS REMAIN CONTRACTUAL
“Despite their contributions, women still face numerous struggles in the workplace,” stated Bellosillo, who is also the union president of the Central Philippines University Rank-and-File Labor Union-FFW. “These include low wages that do not provide for a family living wage, gender pay gaps, contract work, and a lack of unionization rights.”
Female union density rates remain low at 2.7%.
“Women’s employment in contractual work and odd jobs in the informal sector are significant barriers to their unionization,” Bellosilllo added.
Arta Maines, president of the United Cirtek Employees Association-FFW highlighted the exploitation and discrimination that women workers face.
“Ang daming babaeng manggagawang kontratwal lalo dito sa amin sa Laguna. [Many women workers are still employed as contract and agency workers in Laguna]. They have fewer privileges compared to male workers. They face inequalities in hiring policies, wages, benefits, leaves, and even in workplace facilities,” she said.
Maines is also FWN National Vice President.
“We have no voice in the creation of labor policies and decision-making that affect us. We will fight for the regularization of contract and agency workers and wage increases,” Maines stated.
UPHOLDING RIGHT TO CBA
Women workers organized in unions gain more as their right to freedom of association and collective bargaining is upheld.
“With our new union, we successfully concluded our collective bargaining agreement (CBA). This was greatly influenced by the participation and support of our members, most of whom are women,” said Rona Hernandez of the Viatris Employees Union-FFW.
The Viatris Employees Union-FFW just signed their CBA with management the other day.
“With significant contributions of women, we were able to successfully organize a union and then negotiate our CBA without encountering many obstacles. This highlights the importance of women in the forefront, women’s participation in the workplace and our valuable contributions to achieving our collective goals,” Hernandez said.
The role of frontline women workers resonates across the country.
Tiffany Ong, FFW vice president for Visayas, asserts, that “the government should take the lead in initiating wage increases among health workers.”
The Philippines has the lowest salaries for nurses and medical technologists in Southeast Asia, according to a recent study by data aggregator iPrice Group.
“Our health workers are crucial frontliners in the global fight against the coronavirus pandemic,” said Ong.
Ong, who is also the union president of the Iloilo Mission Hospital Employees’ Union, noted that “the FFW calls on all my fellow women workers to be courageous and to take responsibility in the union. We must not hesitate to become leaders and fight for equality. The FFW supports our struggle for equal rights and opportunities in the workplace.”
The FFW approved several policies at its last National Convention highlighting the need for women participation.
RATIFY ILO CONVENTION 190
“As we celebrate the International Working Women’s Day, we urge the government to Ratify ILO Convention 190 to pave the way for eliminating violence and harassment in the World of Work,” Ong said.
After the dialogue with the DOLE, the FWN will join the women’s march to Liwasang Bonifacio at 10 a.m. today. They enjoined fellow women workers to join and wear white or purple shirts.
“Together, let us stand with women workers and continue to fight for gender equality in the workplace,” Bellosillo said.