The National Federation of Sugar Workers is asking the Department of Labor and Employment andthe Social Security System to fast-track the distribution of their work benefits, as farmers and farm workers of Negros Occidental face issues that worsen their situation, NFSW chair Rolando Rillo said yesterday.
Rillo said that, last week, they held a dialog with these two agencies to discuss their demands that have remained unsolved for a long time.
Conducting the dialog with DOLE and SSS was one of the activities that the NFSW held to celebrate the organization's 47 th founding anniversary last Monday during their 7 th Regional Congress in Bacolod City.
The NFSW staged a rally during the celebration and held a discussion with various government agencies, like DOLE, SSS, and the Department of Social Welfare and Development.
Rillo said that, during their discussion with the DOLE-Neg. Occ. director Agnes Capigon, the agency promised to disburse the farmers' benefits within the first quarter of the year.
He added that the social amelioration fund from DOLE should also bedistributed to the sugar workers as it has been pending for almost a year.
DOLE records show that last year, a total of P128,015,868.27 was collected and distributed to local planters associations of sugar milling districts in the province.
Neg. Occ. has the highest number of mill districts covered under SAP in Western Visayas with nine, compared to Panay with only three.
Meanwhile, Rillo also said there are still employers who do not pay the premiums for the farmers to SSS, and the agency is still working on these cases.
There are employers whoalready paid the contributions; however, SSS will still finalize the list of who can get these benefits, he said.
“Some employers have alreadypaid but some are still not following the SSS mandate on paying workers' benefits,” he said, adding, “Most of these cases might be passed on to the regional office in Iloilo.”
During their anniversary protest, Rillo said farmers and farm workers from every hacienda are now experiencing different issues, particularly the effects of tax reform, and continuous conversion of agricultural lands that made their situations worse.
With the effect of tax reform on the farmers, the organization is calling for a ‘50-50' reform in their wages, where there should be an additional P50 in daily wages and 50 percent increase in the pakyaw rates, he explained.
Apart from the increase in wages, Rillo also said that landlords should stop converting agricultural lands into commercial or residential area as this cause displacement of farmers and farm workers, depriving them of the opportunities they could get from farming. *MLG
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