THE CHINESE proverb “a horse cannot gain weight if not fed with extra fodder during the night” could probably explain the phenomenal “rags-to-riches” life story of Filipino-Chinese Henry Sy Sr.
What he is now is not all due to his “sipag” (diligence) and “tiyaga” (perseverance) – to use the campaign slogan of a defeated presidential bet – but owing also to a large dose of devious business practices, which made Sy Sr., with a personal net worth of $7.2 billion or more than P300 billion, the wealthiest in the Philippines for the fourth time in a row based on the recent Forbes’ annual list of the world’s super-rich.
This was the fearless appraisal of the Alliance of Progressive Labor-Youth as it celebrates today’s International Youth Day (IYD) by picketing selected SM malls across the country that the youth activists described as the “cradle of fortune” of Sy that he built by turning them into lucrative “contractual workshops” with an endless supply of “cheap and docile” workers, mostly young men and women.
APL-Youth announced earlier that its affiliates will mark IYD by conducting a coordinated anti-contractualization pickets at several SM shopping malls in Metro Manila, Batangas, Cavite, Naga City, Cebu, Cotobato, General Santos, Davao, and Cagayan de Oro.
To further draw attention to the rampant use and abuse of non-regular labor, especially among the teens and young adults, a number of APL-Youth members will likewise stage today a protest action when President Aquino delivers the keynote speech for a youth forum ironically held at the SMX Convention Center in SM Mall of Asia in Pasay City.
They plan to unfurl placards with messages urging the government to promote “decent, not disposable, jobs” and to help pass the Security of Tenure (SOT) bill, which is still pending in Congress for a decade now – mainly because of stiff opposition from the likes of Sy.
SM has pioneered the unbridled hiring of employees, especially salesladies, for short-term or usually five-month contracts only and then rehires them again and again through the same setup to avoid their regularization, the APL-Youth said.
APL-Youth added that with brisk sales and by employing a mostly non-regular workforce – who have lower wages, fewer benefits, no security of tenure, and banned from joining trade unions – the SMs were able to amass greater profits, which would eventually pave the way for the rapid rise and diversification of Sy’s companies.
His multibillion-dollar business empire here and abroad, particularly in mainland China, encompasses shopping mall development and management, retail merchandising, banking and financial services, and real estate development and tourism.
APL-Youth is the youth arm of the Alliance of Progressive Labor, a national labor center of various workers’ organizations in the private, informal and migrant sectors. APL-Youth, composed of community-, school- and workplace-based teens and young adults ages 15-35, aims to unite and empower the youth sector and to link them with the labor movement and the broader social movements.