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The Misfortune of Child Employment

(from DOLE Zamboanga) Jonathan Reyes, a barely 13 year-old boy from Ayala, Zamboanga City, learned his lessons well in a hard way when he played with the fangs of child labor in one of the business establishments in Recodo, Zamboanga City.

It all started on January 20 when Jonathan met a man in Barangay Recodo, who brought him to a Grocery located along national highway, Barangay Recodo where he was engaged to work as a store helper.  On his first day of work, he was immediately instructed by the owner, to carry three (3) sacks full of flour weighing 25-kilograms towards a place where repacking is being done. Also, he was taught how to repack sugar and assist in the packing of goods bought by customers. During lean periods, he was also made to sweep the premises of the store.

During his employment, he came to meet two other minor workers namely Alvin who is fifteen years old and Mike who is seventeen years old. All of them where provided three free meals a day except they were only permitted to eat when the influx of customers slows down. Moreover, they were given the privilege to use a sleeping quarters free of charge. Sadly, the place is a highly-elevated and ladderized cottage which does not have proper walls and lightings or illumination. They had no choice but to settle lying down in the floor as the place does not have a bed, much less, a blanket and a pillow to serve a shield against the coldness of the night.

Unsurprisingly, on the eve of the second day of work, Jonathan got sick which forced him to plead for help from his employers. Much to his dismay, his pleadings fell on deaf ears which prompted him to seek aid outside of his workplace. Subsequently, he, together with his parents, found himself in the office of the National Conciliation Mediation Board 9 who immediately scheduled a conciliation conference between the employers and the Reyeses in accordance with the Single Entry Approach Program of the Department. This initial government effort, however, proved futile as the employers failed to appear during the scheduled conference.

Eventually, the case was referred to DOLE Regional Office 9 who, in partnership with DSWD 9 and other partner-agencies, immediately rescued minors Alvin and Mike from the hard employment conditions of the said establishment. Thereafter, the minors were given psychosocial counseling by social workers to cushion the impact of hard labor on them. DOLE-Zamboanga City Field Office, on the other hand, conducted the appropriate profiling with end in view of granting livelihood benefits to the parents of Jonathan.

(Note: the names mentioned in this news item were changed to protect the identity of the child laborers involved)


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