This article is a contribution by Party members in the National Capital Region to Ang Bayan’s (AB) series featuring outstanding experiences on Party branch building in various fields of revolutionary work. AB’s editors encourage all Party committees to contribute to this series by submitting their featured stories.
Gem has been working in Peryo for 12 years, a known food manufacturing company in Metro Manila, when she was dismissed from work along with fellow workers because they asked for just wages and regularization.
The company where Gem was working has 500 employees. Majority are contractual workers and only receive wages below the minimum. The company does not provide benefits such as 13th month pay, holiday pay, service incentive leave pay, PHilHealth, PAG-IBIG and SSS. They were even deprived of meal breaks during 12 to 14 hours of work.
Aside from low wage and lack of benefits, they also endure dangerous working conditions. Just like any other factory reducing costs, the company does not provide safety equipment. Everyday, workers inhale poisonous chemicals used to make their products. When accidents or sickness befall workers, the management is quick to hide the incidents and refuse to provide treatments for the victims.
Their working conditions seem to be management’s most hidden secret. But eventually, their maltreatment was exposed. When the workers took steps to expose their situation, the management suspended them and accused them of sabotaging factory operations.
There was a workers’ union which, however, tolerated the company’s inhumane treatment of its workers. Worse, their union leaders are in cohorts with the management and sell off their struggles. In the middle of the year, more workers were laid off. This pushed the workers to unite and launch protests. Eventually, they organized their underground revolutionary organization to strengthen their struggle.
Surge of struggles
At the beginning of their fight, a few workers become enlightened and in contact with the revolutionary forces. They studied their present conditions in contrast to the profits of the capitalist. From here they learned of the company’s high rate of exploitation.
Their fight for a wage increase and regularization became much more justified. Based on their discussions, monthly salaries of regular and contractual employees differ by 40%. About 60% which should have be given to the contractuals end up as the company’s profit. This gap is felt deeply by the workers especially during these time of surging prices of goods and basic services.
It is easy for the workers to come up with the factory’s profit based on its capability to pay personalities charging expensive rates for their advertisements and endorsements. “They can pay movie stars and celebrities, but they cannot pay fairly the workers who make their products,” exclaimed Gem.
As their struggle progressed, the workers faced legal proceedings to campaign their demand for better working conditions. Through their discussions, the Party branch clarified that the legal aspect of their struggle only serve as complementary to their struggle in the streets, and this is why they need to intensify other forms of protests.
Carrying the lessons from the revolutionary workers’ movement, they fought for their rights and consciously utilized the opportunity not only to benefit their work and attain their demands, but also to aggressively increase membership.
Their picket protest is the key. From a handful of members, their recruitment increased by 350% during the time of their campaign.
At the same time, they endured harassment, intimidation, surveillance and threats from the management and police forces. Private guards also threatened them with violent dispersals. The workers are fully aware that their fight is not only with the capitalist, but also against the laws and policies of the reactionary state.
Being aware of revolutionary struggle
For Gem, her illegal dismissal is a small sacrifice for bigger victories that the workers and the people wanted to attain. Since the first day that she and her co-workers were retrenched, she offered her entire time in arousing and explaining the need for revolution.
She is not alone. In fact, 30% of the workers in Peryo are now full time activists.
Their association was organized during the first quarter of 2018 as a result of workers’ party section expansion work in the nearby factory. Along with the growing clamor for regularization, the workers were able to swiftly expand and launch campaigns. Party recruitment was also conducted at the same time.
Even though the Party branch was still fledgling, members are actively recommending new targets. They gather their target recruits and ensure they complete a study program.
The workers realized the correctness of their struggle even more as the campout movement advanced under the guidance of the regional Party organ. They met and were able to relate with other workers from other unions which have the same conditions as them.
Carrying the lessons of rectification and the actual difficulties they experience as workers, they were able to make fellow workers promptly complete the basic courses and key documents. For them, these lessons serve as beacons of truth.
Since factories are near their homes, the newly-honed revolutionary workers join other workers’ struggles in nearby factories. They also attend demonstrations in city centers.
Since the establishment of their Party branch, they were also able to expand to neighboring factories. This is one of Gem’s primary task now.
“I am very happy and the introduction of the Party to me is very positive. I regret the years that passed that I was not able to know the organization, but right now I believe that the workers need to join the revolution to push for a society which serves the opressed,” said Gem.
At the moment, the workers are intensively planning on how to speed up and efficiently deepen their proficiency in ideology, because they understand fully that studying theory is key and an accompaniment to strong and triumphant practice.
The workers acknowledge the need for a firm grasp of correct analyses of all aspects of society. In fact, discussions are held almost on a daily basis regarding the state’s oppression of workers and they always keep on finding ways on how to practice the lessons they learned.