KASAMA Vol. 11 No. 2 / April–May–June 1997 / Solidarity Philippines Australia Network

On March 8, International Women’s Day, Carmelita Alonzo, a sewing machine operator at VT (Vitorio Tan) Fashion Image Inc, died at the Andres Bonifacio Memorial Hospital in Cavite, Philippines, after 11 days in hospital.

According to her co-workers at VT Fashion, "Carmelita was killed by her 14 hour workday every day plus overtime of eight hours every Sunday." (Philippines News and Features, March 19, 1997)

The workers denounced the system of quotas set by the company which forced them to work 12 to 14 hours per day. According to the Workers Assistance Center in Rosario, Carmelita, a 35 year old mother of five, had died because of the strict regime in VT Fashion and its sister company, All Asia Garment Industries, which force workers to obey a compulsory 14 hour shift.

Following her death, VT Fashion gave Carmelita’s family 3,000 pesos (US$120) as a donation.

VT Fashion is a Taiwanese invested garment factory located in the Cavite Export Processing Zone. The company started its operations in August 1992, producing skirts, jackets, dresses, short pants, vests, and blouses. VT exports mainly to the USA, Canada, Taiwan, Japan, and China. There are 1,046 workers in the factory, of which 90 percent are women between 17 to 30 years old. Workers receive 155 pesos (US$5.96) as the daily minimum wage and are subjected to overtime. This wage is not enough to meet the living costs of workers and rising prices.

Workers are made to work from 7am to 9pm during weekdays, 7am to 7pm on Saturdays and 6am to 2pm on Sundays. Rest periods are usually an hour during lunch time and 30 minutes in the afternoon.

Less than half of the workers are regular. Most are employed on a 3 to 4 month ‘apprenticeship’ contracts or as contractual workers with employment contracts of only 5 months. Others are employed on 6 month contracts.

The company subcontracts work to other companies inside and outside the Export Processing Zone. During peak production, work is subcontracted out and workers are hired for 3 to 6 months as apprentices and contractual workers.

The company has also established a new company called EQ. Workers on 6 month contracts at VT Fashion Image will be transferred to EQ when their contracts expire.

Presently, the company is busy hiring another group of contractual workers since it has terminated the services of those whose 5 month contracts have expired. The management makes sure that contractual workers do not reach 6 months of employment and always makes sure that there is a new group of workers to replace those whose contracts are expiring.

Contractual workers have no sick leave with pay or other benefits. Once the management discovers women workers who are pregnant they are fired immediately, even if their contract has not finished. Workers are easily dismissed and there is no union at VT Fashion Image.

For more information contact:
Asia Monitor Resource Center
(attn. Gerard)

Send messages of solidarity care of:
Zernan Toledo
Workers Assistance Center
c/- Most Holy Rosary Parish,
Cavite 4106 Philippines

Source: Asian Workers Organising, Vol.15 No.2, May 1997, Australia Asia Workers Links, PO Box 264, Fitzroy Vic. 3065