“We cannot focus on our work and the blower in the factory is not enough to ventilate the production plant,” said Blas, a factory worker. “We can’t work any longer now reducing our income due to heat,” Regie, a pedicab driver butts in. “Our family members contract several illnesses, cough, asthma and several skin diseases due to extreme heat. The entire community feels like burning every day,” laments Divina, a working mother.
These were the collective feelings of factory workers and pedicab drivers gathered last April 28 in Punturin, Valenzuela City, to assess how Climate Change is impacting work and workers’ conditions.
In the last months, the temperature has hit between 38-41oC with heat index much higher according to PAG-ASA. While the earth is rumbling from a long drought and recent earthquakes, workers are being ‘baked’ inside poorly ventilated production lines contending with rusty blower spewing hot air in often windowless factories. In Valenzuela City, where many workers are obliged to work for 12 hours every day without a day off and paid less than the minimum wage, especially the long-term contractuals, climate change impacts are slowly killing those workers. They often go home dehydrated, as companies failed to adapt to changing temperatures without changing work systems and quotas.
In their homes – boarding houses and one cubicle so-called apartments, residents complained of skin diseases, asthma, cough, heart ailments and other illnesses caused and aggravated by extreme temperature. Their wages ranging from Php 200-P510 (USD4-10) cannot bring them to health clinics or expensive medical treatments.
“They are pushing the workers to individually adapt to climate change without recognizing that it’s the companies and corporations practices and unfettered desire for profit that’s driving global warming,” says Daisy Arago, Executive Director of Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR) and one of the workshop organizers. She added that studies revealed that 100 Transnational Corporations are responsible for 71% of greenhouse gas emissions that are burning the earth. [link] Yet, workers and the marginalized poor are suffering more from the negative effects of climate change, she added.
“If workers are paid better, Php 750 national minimum wage is given, we have secure jobs, not and we can freely organize or unionize, we can better adapt to climate change. This means that we do not have to dwell along waterways, or under bridges that are dangerous and most vulnerable. Or stay in crowded communities without access to fresh air and a cleaner environment. We can send our children to health clinics,” asserted Malou Santos, Women WISE3chairperson.
Asked what else workers need to do to address climate change impacts, Glenn Bayona, one of the workers who attended said, “We need to change not only the industrial but also agricultural policies. Actually, the economic policies that give power to corporations to destroy hills and mountains, deplete the water sources, poison our air from pesticide aerial spraying & powerplants, etc, that drive us here in the cities to become contractual workers.”
Santos added that workers, especially women would continue to be vulnerable if the basic needs like wages, housing, water, energy are not addressed. It is not us individually that are responsible for heating up the planet and we demand climate justice. When we mean climate justice, the workers, women and other vulnerable sectors’ demands are met and given justice.
The workers also asserted that climate justice is one of the issues that should be addressed by the running candidates this upcoming May 13 Midterm Elections.
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