Alternative use for Bayani Fernando tarps

Bayani Fernando’s tarpaulin eyesores in Metro Manila should be removed, sewn together so it can be used as tents or roofing materials in evacuation centers across the country.

Para may silbi naman yang mga tarpaulin na yan.

PS:

I think Bayani Fernando’s audacity to pinky-fy the Metro, and put up self portraits slash campaign materials disguised as public announcements, has a psychological explanation. I leave it to the experts to crack what’s really going on in BF’s head.

Gov’t OFW reintegration program unmasked: Turning ‘supermaids’ into call center agents

The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration’s (OWWA) recent opening of a call center training program for Filipino domestic workers in Hong Kong provides us a glimpse of what’s in store for our overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) when they decide to return ‘for good’ in the country. It also exposed how and why the Arroyo government’s so-called reintegration program for our returning ‘modern day heroes,’ is doomed to fail.

After years of hard work in foreign lands, away from their families and the comforts of home; the government’s big plan it turns out, is to turn ‘supermaids’ into call center agents.

Labor Secretary Marianito Roque said the program aims to train domestic workers – touted by the government as ‘supermaids’ – so they may land jobs at the country’s booming call center industry upon their return. He said call center jobs pay the same as their previous jobs in Hong Kong .

The program consists of a 40-hour call center training course which a domestic worker can take for two hours during days off. The OWWA will provide the training for free.

Roque added that while the OWWA would be in charge of training prospective call center agents, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), would take care of their placement when they get home.

Hire and fire

The government’s reintegration agenda would essentially pit returning OFWs into jobs that are currently reeling from record high turnover rates or in jobs where attrition levels are at their highest.

The Contact Center Association of the Philippines (CCAP) has earlier stated that the turn-over rate in the industry has hit 60 to 80 percent; a fact that has earned for the Philippines the title of having the most turn-over rates among the world’s call centers.

Some believe that there actually exists a hire and fire policy in the Philippines ’ call centers. Journal of Service Industry Management researcher and industry analyst Catriona Wallace explains that the high turnover rates are often the result of a “deliberate strategy of frequent employee replacement to provide enthusiastic and highly motivated customer service at low cost to the call centre.”

“What you see here is an industry-wide policy of firing and replacing employees to keep their workforce fresh and motivated,” she said.

For Prof. Ben Teehankee, chair of the Human Resource Management Department of La Salle School of Business in Manila, if ever there’s truth in the hire and fire policy of call centers here, this strategy is just “not consistent with giving good jobs to Filipinos and developing people for higher job responsibilities.”

Meanwhile, a recent study conducted by Callcentres.net, a publishing group that is focused on the contact center sector, revealed that full time call center agents in the Philippines would stay in the company for an average of only 22 months, while part-time agents often stay for only about 10 months.

The Sidney based Callcentres.net said the study was sponsored by software solutions provider Genesys and Autonomy and covered almost 2,500 call centers across Asia . In the Philippines , 87 companies were covered by the study.

The high attrition rates has prompted almost all of the call centers in the Philippines to embark on a full-blown advertising campaign to encourage the Filipino youth to consider a career in the industry. News papers and even MRT stations are teeming with ads that promise a lucrative career in call centers, with slogans: “Are you getting paid for your performance?” “Ride your future with us!” “Great careers happen overnight!” “Entrust your dreams with us!” “Earn as much as P40,000 a month!” “Get our P10,000 signing bonus!”

A call center company is reportedly even giving their employees’ parents tours in the workplace to impress upon them that there really is a bright future for their kids in their company.

Exploited, dehumanized

But for most of call center employees, they quit simply because they feel exploited. This fact is further compounded by the droning routine in the workplace, the more than the usual fare of angry and cussing clients and the graveyard shifts that are already taking its toll on their health.

Iya Cipres, 26, a call center agent working in Mandaluyong City, says that though their pay is relatively higher than most of the jobs that are available in the market, the disparity between their monthly wage compared to how much the company makes is simply unfair and downright exploitative.

She said call centers rake in a lot of money in each call from clients who are mostly from the West. In her company, an agent there receives an average of 250 calls a day or more than 6000 calls per month. The average number of seats in Philippine call centers, according to Callcentres.net, is about 670 to 800.

Cipres also related how they are being “dehumanized” in their work. She said they are confined daily in their cubicles where even bathroom breaks are restricted to only two minutes. Their calls she added are being monitored and most of the time, recorded, by supervisors who checks on how they handle calls, how courteous and effective they are in solving the client’s complaints and/or inquiries.

Days off are irregular, falling on days that are dependent on the company’s judgment.

“We are forced to meet the company’s service level even during times when we simply can’t,” she said, noting that these very conditions trigger resignations, job-swaps and transfers in call centers.

Still, thousands like Iya are forced to stomach these deplorable conditions. “We have no choice,” she said. Cipres has a child to support and her husband’s earnings as an OFW simply isn’t enough to cover their expenses.

Quite a number also of call center agents treat their jobs as mere ‘transition’. Some of them, like Angel, 28, work there while processing applications for overseas employment.

Angel is a nursing graduate, who works in the same call center as Cipres. She is currently processing her application to work as a nurse or a caregiver in the United Kingdom.

Doomed to fail

Though the call center industry in the Philippines has room for more than 500,000 jobs until the year 2010 and is set to hire more than 10,000 agents monthly according to the CCAP, the government’s plan to train OFWs for call center employment upon their return, simply put, is doomed to fail.

In spite of this, with the opening of a call center training outfit in Hong Kong, we can expect the government to do the same in other countries such as Italy , Spain , South Korea, China and Japan . OFWs there that have learned the language and culture already has the edge in landing jobs in call centers here that provide language translations, tutorials etc.

Still, work in the country’s ‘sunshine industry,’ that is the call centers, can’t be considered long term and viable as what is needed and rightfully deserved by our returning migrant Filipino workers.

Expect them to line up again in various recruitment agencies or in the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) building for another shot in overseas employment after a few months of work as call center agents. ###

Mundo nag-aalsa dahil sa gutom

Nitong mga nakaraang buwan, nasaksihan sa maraming bansa sa mundo ang pag-apaw ng matinding galit ng mga mamamayan dahil sa gutom dala ng sobrang taas ng presyo ng pagkain. Sumiklab ang mga pag-aaklas sa Morocco, Senegal, Uzbekistan, Guinea, Mauritania at Yemen. Pumutok din ang ‘pasta protest’ sa Italya, ‘tortilla rallies’ sa Mexico at ‘onion demonstrations’ sa India. Nag-aalsa na rin ang mga mamamayan sa Pakistan, Indonesia, Egypt, Burkina Faso at Ivory Coast. 

Sa Pilipinas, tikom and bibig ni Pangulong Gloria Macapagal Arroyo sa nagbabadyang malawakang kagutuman sa bansa. Walang krisis, aniya. Praning lamang daw ang mga nagsasabing mayroon. 

“Perfect Storm”

Ayon kay Josette Sheeran, Executive Director ng World Food Program (WFP), ang sangay ng United Nations na tumututok malawakang kagutuman, matatawag na isang “perfect storm” ng gutom ang kasalukuyang nananalasa ngayon sa daigdig. 

Sabi niya, sanhi ito ng grabeng taas ng presyo ng pagkain at petrolyo, bumubulusok na dolyar, tumataas na demand para sa biofuels at sunod-sunod na kaso ng mababang ani. 

Mahigit 73 milyong mahihirap sa mundo ang umaasa lamang sa pagkaing ini-rarasyon ng WFP. Ngunit dahil sa tumaas ng 55% ang gastusin ng ahensya simula pa noong Hunyo, nangangamba ngayon ang WFP sa posibilidad na magbawas sila ng rasyong pagkain o di kaya’y tumigil na lamang sila sa kanilang operasyon sa ilang lugar. Ilan sa mga tataman nito, ayon sa WFP, ay ang mga bansang nasa sub-Saharan Africa. 

Samantala, umabot naman noong nakaraang linggo sa 30% ang itinaas ng pandaigdigang presyo ng bigas. Dahil dito, agad na nagdeklara ng anim na buwang suspension ang Egypt sa pag-export ng kanilang bigas para umano tugunan ang pansariling pangangailan. Apektado kaagad ng hakbang na ito ang mga bansang Turkey, Lebanon, Syria at Jordan na pawang umaasa lamang sa angkat na bigas mula sa Egypt. 

Sinundan ito ng Vietnam, na nagdeklarang magbabawas ng 25% sa kanilang export. Naghigpit na rin sa kanilang bigas ang mga bansang India at Cambodia. 

Ang pag-sirit ng presyo ng bigas ay pinalala pa ng grabeng pag-taas sa presyo ng langis sa pandaigdigang merkado na umabot sa $100 kada-bariles. Nagdulot ito ng drastikong pagtaas ng gastusin sa produksyon at transportasyon ng bigas. 

“There are 854 million hungry people in the world and 4 million more join their ranks every year. We are facing the tightest food supplies in recent history. For the world’s most vulnerable, food is simply being priced out of their reach,” sabi ni Sheeran sa isang pahayag noong Nubyembre 2007.

Oktubre noon ding nakaraang taon, nagbabala si Jacques Diouf, director-general ng UN Food and Agriculture Organization ng mga pag-aaklas dahil sa gutom. 

“If prices continue to rise, I would not be surprised if we began to see food riots,” aniya. 

Ngunit para naman kay Arroyo: “Many are worried because there is a rice shortage around the world, that we will have a rice shortage. The price of rice would increase a bit but there would be no shortage, the supply is continuous.” 

Sa kabila nito, nauna nang nakiusap si Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap sa mga restawran na maglagay sa kanilang menu ng kalahating-kanin. Nakatakda rin tayong mag-import ng 2.1 milyong metriko toneladang bigas mula sa Vietnam, 100, 000 tonelada naman mula sa Estados Unidos at 15, 000 tonelada mula sa Thailand. 

Noong isang taon, 1.87 milyon toneladang bigas lamang ang kinailangang i-angkat ng bansa. 

May Krisis – KMP

Sa kabila ng tahasang pagtanggi ng gubyernong Arroyo sa napipintong kagutuman sa bansa sanhi ng kakulangan sa bigas, nanindigan ang Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas na mayroong aktuwal na krisis. 

Ayon kay Rafael “Ka Paeng” Mariano,  tagapangulo ng KMP, maging ang National Food Authority (NFA) at ang Department of Agriculture (DA) ay alam na nagbabadya ang pagputok ng krisis sa pagkain sa Pilipinas. 

“The main cause of this crisis is the backward and feudal state of agriculture in the country and is worsened by neo-liberal policies of the Macapagal-Arroyo regime and trade liberalization that has drastically cut rice lands through land-use conversions and crop conversions. Now this was further aggravated by the rice cartel by their control of the rice industry and their hoarding practices today,” paliwanag ni Mariano. 

Nagpakita pa ang KMP ng mga memo mula sa NFA, na nagdedetalye ng mga pagsusuri ng ahensya hinggil sa posibleng sanhi ng krisis sa bigas, at mula sa DA na naglalaman naman ng mga pandaigdigang kaganapan hinggil sa krisis sa bigas at tumataas na presyo nito. 

Ayon pa kay Mariano, patuloy pang tataas ang presyo ng bigas sa pandaigdigang pamilihan kahit pa magsisimula nang umani ng palay ang mga magsasaka sa bansa sa isang buwan. Ang agresibong pagsasara ng maraming bansa sa kanilang mga eksport na bigas, mga peste na umaatake sa mga palayan ng Delta Province sa Vietnam, at ang patuloy na paglobo ng populasyon sa Gitnang Silangan at Africa; ang ilan sa mga itinurong dahilan ni Mariano. 

“It is crystal clear that there is an actual crisis, that is why Malacanang is trying to increase our rice stock through importation,” idiniin ni Mariano. 

Ngunit nanindigan ang lider magbubukid na hindi solusyon ang importasyon sa krisis sa bigas bagkus palalalain pa lamang nito ang sitwasyon. “Food security program based on imports is not food security at all,” aniya. 

“What we need now are immediate rice price controls and at least a 25 percent increase in the local procurement of rice of the NFA, so that the cartel cannot get their hands on the April-June harvest. These are our only chance to stave off the rice crisis until we implement genuine agrarian reform, so that this will not happen again,” pagtatapos ni Mariano. ###

OFW group laments yet another Filipina domestic worker on brink of death

News Release

April 2, 2008

For reference: Connie Bragas-Regalado, Chairperson

An alliance of organizations composed of overseas Filipinos and their families today lamented the final death sentence handed by Kuwait‘s Supreme Court to domestic worker May Vecina, 28 years old. At the same time, Migrante International appealed to Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah to spare her life.

“Less than five months after Marilou Ranario was similarly sentenced to death by the same court, we witness yet another Filipina domestic worker on the brink of death. We empathize with her family and demand that the Arroyo government truly exhausts all means to save her life. At the same time, this is another grim wake-up call regarding the very exploitative and vulnerable plight of OFWs, particularly of domestic workers,” says Connie Bragas-Regalado, Migrante International Chairperson.

Migrante also called on the family to stay strong in this entire ordeal and to never stop fighting for May in Kuwait .

Domestic worker Marilou Ranario was sentenced to death by Kuwait‘s Supreme Court last November and following a Migrante International-led campaign to save her life, Arroyo was compelled in December to intervene and request that Kuwait‘s Emir issue her a pardon.

“It is incumbent that Arroyo again diplomatically intervenes in this case  especially since based on our experience, we will not be surprised if a closer look at May’s case reveals weaknesses in the support and legal defense provided May by the Arroyo government,” added Regalado.

“A genuine investigation of how the RP post addresses the systematic and gross abuse of domestic workers in Kuwait is also long overdue. According to May’s lawyer, Attorney Faisal al-Matar, May complained of mistreatment by her employer before the tragic incident,” she said, noting that monthly, there are likely hundreds of domestic workers in the country forced to ‘run away’ from abusive employers.

There are an estimated 73,000 OFWs in Kuwait , with 60,000 of them working as domestic workers earning less than US$200 monthly.

According to Migrante International, there are more than 25 OFWs on death row around the world while five OFWs have already been beheaded overseas under the Arroyo government.

All the more reason not to remit on Arroyo’s birthday

“These cases plus the long list of other cases of extortion, corruption, abandonment and wanton disregard for OFWs and their families’ rights and welfare is more than enough reason why OFWs want Arroyo booted out of Malacanang,” said Bragas-Regalado.

Bragas-Regalado stated further that aside from Vecina, there are hundreds of OFWs currently languishing in Kuwaiti jails and in cramped embassy run shelters. Recently, fifty Filipinos were reportedly scrounging Kuwaiti dust-bins for food.

Arroyo’s long list of sins against migrants and the Filipino people emboldens more and more OFWs not to remit their earnings on Arroyo’s birthday this Saturday as part of their sector’s contribution to the growing oust Arroyo movement. In Hong Kong, the Zero Remittance Day will be extended to April 6.

To conclude, Bragas-Regalado said to Gloria, “Prepare to be zeroed.”#