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Honoring my Mother | Revisiting a sweatshop

One might have thought that after two months since the story saw print, the poorly-ventilated conditions suffered by employees of the Victoria Plaza Department Store would have already improved. Wrong, it had in fact, gotten much worse. At the prodding of a friend who said that I should, at the very least see if there had been changes since I wrote about the workers’ plight many articles ago, I visited the store again and talked to some of them, with only one question in mind, has the situation improved?

For the still-uninformed, the shopping center where the VP department store is situated, already has a new owner. Despite this, VP’s existing contract with the previous mall owner is still set to expire in 2036, and therein lies the problem.

While improvements in the whole shopping center have slowly been set in motion, there had been little or none inside VP because of this. In fact, the new owner, NCCC had pulled out the compressor dedicated to their air conditioning for supposed “upgrade”. (The whole complex has centralized air conditioning.) This is the root cause for the poor ventilation inside the store. Sadly, it has now been almost eight months and that is what presently torments the VP employ.

In toto, these should all be management-to-management concerns, between NCCC and Southwood Mindanao Corporation, the mother company of Victoria Plaza Department Store. However, the workers caught in the crossfire bear the brunt of the stalemate.

At present, respiratory-related diseases are but one of the ailments suffered by already about a hundred of the VP employees. This includes headaches, fever, nervous tics, and even hair loss, resulting from the stale air, and the heat. While Southwood had already provided electric fans inside the store for the workers and customers, they are clearly not enough as the health issue remains.

In all, there has got to be an immediate, equitable, rational and humane solution that will address their predicament, and such action is non-negotiatable. For both giants NCCC and Southwood, be reminded that employees are essential components that make up their corporate world.

As stakeholders themselves, their well-being is management’s concern, and explicitly dictated by law. It is therefore never an option. Thus, the ball is in their court, while the employees of VP eagerly wait, gasping for air and deliverance.

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