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#StandWithWorkers: Worker union discloses company abuses

Angelica Avila, a Production Helper of Peerless Products Manufacturing Corporation (PEPMACO), recalled the cries of her co-workers as they demanded their mysterious assailants to stop hitting them. When her co-workers “finally” stopped fighting back, 11 of them ended up wounded.

PEPMACO is a local company known for its production of soap and detergent products, such as Champion Detergent, Hana Shampoo, and Systema Toothpaste.

But Avila and her co-worker Jimmy Sioson, a Screw Operator of their Bar Department, did not gather in the DLSU Amphitheater last July 3 to promote their business’ products. Instead, they showcased the abuses and mistreatments they experienced in their stay with the company.

P23 more

Employees who worked for the company for six months only receive an average rate of P396, as Avila disclosed. “Nagtagal kami ng mahabang taon doon, o isang dekada [ayon sa aming] mga kasama namin doon, dahil nga sa medyo mataas yung sahod nila (PEPMACO) kaysa sa provincial rate,” she explained, stating that those who work in provinces only receive P373⁠—P23 less than those who work in urban areas.

(The reason we stayed there for years, or a decade according to our other co-workers, was because the salary is higher than the provincial rate.)

Albeit the slightly higher pay, Avila shared that there was no other benefit that accompanied them. Workers were not granted a rest day, undertime, or even a chance to ask for a leave of absence, with Avila sharing that a single day of absence would result in three days of suspension, and three days of absence would result in seven days of suspension.

Kahit na may sakit kami, pipilitin nalang namin pumasok kaysa ma-suspended,” she shared, for fear of a decrease in her salary is something a single mother like Avila could not risk. She stressed the need to provide for her family, no matter how dangerous the work conditions are.

(Even if we get sick, we force ourselves to come to work rather than face suspension.)

Reaching their limit

Avila stressed the fact that surfactants, a vital component of detergents and an ingredient PEPMACO products heavily feature, have burned her and her co-worker’s skin countless times. Coping with the pain for the past two years, she added that employees are barred from using gloves when handling the soap due to the susceptibility of deformation. Avila complained, “Mas inaano pa nung may ari ng PEPMACO na pangalagaan yung mga produkto kaysa sa amin na mga manggagawa.”

(The owner of PEPMACO cares more about his products than us workers.)

Along with the lack of safety within her work environment, hospital aid was nowhere to be found. Avila recalled an instance where a worker fell and had their stomach crushed in a soap mold. With no professional aid offered by the company, Avila explained that the worker just opted to return home. “Hindi na rin siya nakakapagtrabaho ngayon,” she added.

(He is unable to work now.)

Right to fight

The PEPMACO Workers Union-National Federation of Labor Unions-Kilusang Mayo Uno was formed when long term workers of up to 13 years were fired from the company. “Nagsasama po kaming mga manggagawa para maipakita namin sa may ari ng PEPMACO na nagkakaisa kami dahil karapatan namin ipaglaban [ang kawalan ng katarungan],” Avila expressed, adding that June 24 marked the first strike the organization had in mobilizing against the company.

(Us workers joined together to show the owner of PEPMACO that we are united because it is our right to fight [against this injustice].)

Along with Sioson, Avila wanted to come to DLSU personally in order for the students to be made aware of the current situation happening with PEPMACO and why strikes such as the one last June 24 happened. “Inilalaban namin ito hindi lang [para] sa amin, kung ‘di sa mga susunod na henerasyon,” she advocated.

(We are fighting for this not only for us but for the next generation as well.)

Isabela Marie Roque

By Isabela Marie Roque

Enrico Sebastian Salazar

By Enrico Sebastian Salazar

Contributor of University and Vanguard since TLS 58. Internal Development Manager in TLS 59. Currently designing the new website.

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