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Report: Firms in food industry among worst employers in PHL

A store employee arranges stocks at the beverage station at a supermarket in Makati City, in this file photo

Filipinos in the food industry are still subjected to poor working conditions, according to a report on the labor practices of farms, restaurants, factories and supermarkets conducted by an international confederation of nongovernment organizations.

Oxfam International said the survey covered 530 respondents in the food industry worldwide. “The aim of the survey was to provide a global snapshot of workers views on the pay and conditions they experience on farms, plantations and factories involved in the production of food and drink.”

The results of the survey were far from ideal with three quarters of the workers saying they were not paid enough to cover basic needs, such as food and housing.

“Over a third said they were not protected from injury or harm at work, and were not able to take a toilet break or have a drink of water when they needed it,” Oxfam said.

The respondents include 112 Filipino workers in factories that make various food products. The rest of the survey participants worked in farms and plantations in Costa Rica, Ecuador, Occupied Palestinian Territory, the United States and Peru.

Supermarkets’ role

IN three separate studies, Oxfam said supermarkets are playing a role in maintaining this poor working condition for food sector workers.

“Supermarkets are snapping up the lion’s share of the price we pay at the till but the workers who toil for hours to grow and harvest tea, fruit and vegetables are paid so little they can’t even feed their own families. This is not work—it is exploitation,” Oxfam International Executive Director Winnie Byanyima said in a statement.

The three studies covered workers in farms, which supply large supermarket chain in the US, East Brazil and India.

Oxfam said supermarkets are now raking in almost half of the price of the 12 everyday food items.

“Supermarkets have increased the share of the price they take from a basket of 12 everyday items from 43.5 percent in 1996-1998 to 48.3 percent in 2015. The share going to workers fell from 8.8 percent to 6.5 percent over the same period,” said Byanyima.

Oxfam is now conducting its “Behind the Price” campaign in an effort to raise awareness on the poor working condition of workers in food production among supermarket chains.

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