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Honoring My Mother | Sweatshop of a mall

This is the life. Fending for family with the littlest wage that one receives from catering to customers, as well as other services under poor working conditions. Such is the sad reality in one of our city malls today, although it may also be happening, at some varying degrees, in other malls anywhere where ordinary salespeople work long hours.

Never mind the reasons for or whatever politics is behind the months-long poor ventilation of Victoria Plaza today. The more relevant issue is that, for more than six months already, the stifling humid conditions inside the premises, resulting from the non-functioning and decades-old ventilation unit, has not yet been addressed. This, despite appeals from both workers and the concerned public have been brought to the attention of the new owners. Observing this first-hand, it begs the question, seriously, just how low in the priority of things is the plight of workers everywhere?

Comparing to other malls in the city, a somber and dispiriting mood welcomes one upon entering the entrance of what has the distinction of being the first mall in Davao city. Rarely does one meet a smiling salesperson, and it is not difficult to ascertain why. Try standing for hours while entertaining buyers under such conditions.

From local newspaper reports, it has been almost a month since the department of labor met with all parties to investigate, but still, no significant steps could clearly be seen. The humidity slapping one to thinking that it is much cooler outside, still hangs over the establishment like a cloud.

Stepping inside the department store area, which is located in the innermost part of the mall, is like entering a cave. Dead air could be the fitting description to it, despite the numerous strategically-placed stand fans inside the store. Token mechanisms which merely circulate the humid air within, because the areas beyond the reach of the fans are still stuffy.

Meanwhile, the main concern in all this remains: it is that workers risk their health just so they could earn their keep. The smell of materials made of plastic, rubber like slip-ons, kitchenware, pails and basins permeates throughout one floor and is painful to the nostrils, while the clothing section will make you sneeze because of the stuffy air saturated by dust and fiber.

Finally, inasmuch as steps may have already been taken as of this writing, and with the new owners announcing that everything will be better, the measuring stick still points to tangible improvements, not mere proclamations. The right of workers to suitable working conditions should not be regarded as a privilege that any employer can choose to give or take away.

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