The Cross that Families Carry
Jun 09, 2009 at 11:39 AM
Surviving from the Impact of the global financial crisis
Filipinos are known for their strong family ties. A Filipino household is
usually composed of an extended family; this may include not only the
grandparents but also other relatives. Economic and social
responsibilities are shared by each family member (depending on the age
and capacity). That is why in this time of crisis the workers are not only
the ones who suffer, their family shares the same misery too.
The Philippines is not unaffected in the current world economic crisis.
But capitalists survive and profit because they pass the burden onto their
workers. They found an opportunity to spend less but gain more under the
pretext of business survival and keeping by jobs. Logically, workers
become more vulnerable and miserable.
Misery no end
The Filipino workers with a family of six have been bleeding from the
minimum wage of P382 (US $ 8.12) per day while prices of basic commodities
soars. As early as August 2008, inflation rate reached an all-time high of
12.4 percent, the country’s highest in 17years. Food prices hiked by 13.6
percent, prices of staples alone like rice rose to 29.2 percent. Even the
P25 per kilo rice from the National Food Authority (NFA) is still
expensive for the workers whose income had shrink dramatically. That is
why workers and their families who had been living in austerity for the
past years had further tighten their belts.
Consequently, poverty in the country worsened this 2009. “Compared to last
year, Filipinos who consider their lives had worsened increased by four
points to 47 percent, new survey results showed.” There are some workers’
families who had only one meal per day. Aling Nisa, a seamstress in Grever
Apparel Phils. Inc. in Cavite for example, only eat lunch on workdays.
Since, the crisis compressed working days have been frequent in many
factories and I was in a “forced vacation”, laments Aling Nisa. “Usually
we just went to sleep to forget our hunger,” Aling Nisa said. Her son is
now also part of the 64.52 percent youth who are incapable of paying their
tuition and other school fees. Her son did not finish high school because
they were unable to pay the P 3,000 graduation fee and now having a hard
time to find jobs.
Workers like Aling Nisa live in a cycle of poverty. They can’t send their
children to school and get good education or often drop-out when hardships
become too tough. They are the young adult who have more difficulties
finding employment and doomed to life of misery.
Families in need seem to find ways to survive. Some families devise a
“budget adjustment” and focused on their barest necessity. They avoid
“luxuries” like buying sodas and eating on restaurants or fast food
chains. Ging, a retrenched worker since 2001, is again dependent to her
parents to support her basic needs. “I even adjusted my food allowance to
get by” Ging said.
Jen, a seamstress in Mactan Apparel Inc. in Cebu City has more worries.
Her whole family is financially dependent on her. “My husband is a
fisherman and he has no stable income that is why we always prioritize our
basic needs like food, rice and body soap. Also, we don’t have the luxury
of going out” Jen said.
Buried to Debt
Most of the workers kept afloat by a sea of debt. Borrowing money or goods
help them survive daily. They ask their relatives, borrow money or ask for
some food for the family. There are times when responsibility of parents
to send their children to school is passed onto the relatives albeit
temporarily, due to lack of finances. Workers can not always rely on their
relatives’ finances because the latter are also cringing from budgetary
Even singles feel the pinch. Kokoy and Mark, both workers in MEC
Electronics Phils. Corporation in Cavite and single complain that their
salary is not enough. “We use our ATM card as collateral to money
lenders,” Kokoy and Mark shared. ‘The interest rate is as much as 10
percent. Usually the money lender keeps the ATM of the worker-borrower and
withdraws the salary for them to ensure that loans are paid before they
return the card to its owners’, added Mark and Kokoy. When pay day comes
nothing is left from the worker’s salary as loans have to be paid, so they
have to borrow money again.
Some workers are more ingenuous. Aling Suzzy, was laid-off last December
2008 from Maithland-Smith in Cebu City – maker of high-end furniture for
export. From the small money she got, she a started small business (retail
store). To earn extra income and to finance her child’s education she told
CTUHR, “I sell bread every morning… we also put some parts of our house
for rent.” Some of my co-workers who returned to the province, put their
own small vegetable garden to save money. But those who have nothing to
turn to, live in so much suffering, she mused.
Dealing with the Crisis in Organized way
Ludy and Fred, couple who were illegally retrenched in DAIHO (Phils.) Inc.
in Laguna said that that joining workers’ union is particularly important
to cope with the crisis. “We are both union members and because of that
membership we learned not only the workers’ rights that we should enjoy
but the real situation of our country”, the unionist couple said.
To Jay and Eddie, both illegally retrenched workers from Golden Will
Fashion Phils. in Cavite, from DAIHO (Phils) Inc respectively, unions do
more than just helping understand the situation. Their unions give them
temporary shelter and feed them even before the crisis hits. Jay faces a
fabricated case that the company used as justification to fire him. Eddie
together with his other colleagues, on the other hand, is pushing the
fight against illegal dismissal, a fight that they have been waging for
few months now.
Urgent economic relief
The Filipino workers have been surviving with noodles and dried fish,
there’s nothing left of them except their families that the crisis could
squeeze further. Aggravating their situation is the capitalist’s move to
using the crisis to fire their workers without much obligation. Thus, it
makes more imperative for the government to intervene in favour of its
workers and peoples, and not in bailing out ailing capitalists.
The government should step in to help the laid-off workers. Support must
be provided to at least cover for workers’ basic needs like food,
medicine, and decent housing for their family which they could no longer
provide due to joblessness. But most of all, beyond family needs, every
person needs a decent job not only to earn, to use or hone their skills
but to create things necessary for his / her and society’s growth.
Today, more than before, the workers’ demand for a P125 national
legislated wage increase must be heeded. Emergency allowances that the
government announced must be implemented without delay and subsidies for
basic goods be provided so that the poor can somehow cope#.