Profit without honor

DIRECT FROM THE LABOR FRONT - Atty Josephus B Jimenez - The Freeman

Many of the richest businessmen today, whom we hold in awe and respect, have workers who belong to the poorest of the poor. Many taipans and moguls, tycoons and magnates have,  based on our reading of  so many decisions by the highest court of the land, dealt with labor-only contractors to save on labor costs, thereby contractualizing regular jobs and busting unions and shattering job security, by retiring forcibly and  retrenching permanent personnel to replace them with casuals.

Some of them have been charged with tax evasion or illegal mining or ravaging our forests and polluting our seas, rivers and lakes. Many of them might have deployed workers to dirty, difficult and dangerous jobs, or to deceptive and degrading work, without safety nets or social welfare protection. Is this corporate social responsibility?

There seems to be a wide gap between what business PR guys say and what businessmen really do. By their ads and other tools for positive image-building, businessmen invariably create positive images of corporate citizenship. But in reality, there are a lot of discrepancies between their talk and their walk. Their vision and mission do speak of high-sounding principles and of hackneyed motherhood statements. They profess to promote values that only saints can truly embrace and practice. But the way they treat people completely contradicts what they purport to be. Can they fool all the people all the time? Both their customers and employees do not find consistency between what they project to be and what they really do.

Many of these business organizations, be they global conglomerates or regional multi-nationals, or domestic family corporations, are not living up to the images they have built for public consumption. They do not really care for the health, security, welfare and benefits of their own employees. Some of them even cheat on SSS and Philhealth coverage, deducting from workers' salaries and never remitting them. Others are rabid in their policies of anti-unionism, busting workers' organizations without any hesitation, committing rampant cases of unfair labor practices, illegal dismissals and all other forms of exploitation and injustice.

Some of them are being charged of manufacturing and selling products and services that are harmful to the health and safety of the consumers and customers, or of operating businesses that are inimical to the morals and dignity of their workers. There are some who commit sexual harassment and other forms of unjust and illegal practices. Some firms maintain double payroll in order to cover up violations of labor standards.  Others are accused of maintaining sweatshops that are harmful to the workers' health, of abetting unsafe conditions without safety gadgets. Accidents cause diseases, disability and even death, and these employers do not provide adequate social protection for the workers.

Under our Constitution, property ownership bears a social function. Businessmen must do business with social conscience. There is nothing wrong on the part of every entrepreneur and employer to make sure that every business shall earn a reasonable return on investment. But every profit must be achieved with honor. Any businessman who does business in violation of laws, in breach of contracts or by denying workers' rights, loses his moral right to continue existing and gaining the patronage of the people. Our country is no place for earning business profit without honor.

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