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Jollifee: What Capitalism and Consumerism Does (or Doesn’t) Pay For

By: Bell in Jar


Graphics by: Andrea Nicole R. Villasanta


To what extent do we defend offenders? And to what basis do we hold them accountable? These are questions that are often being asked, but the conversation on accountability is a tricky one. At times, it is clear-cut. Oftentimes, it is not.


An example of this is the recent Jollibee fiasco – which included a viral post about a customer finding a towel in lieu of a fried chicken in her order. Given the fast-food chain’s loyal following among Filipinos, it was no surprise that amid the controversy, people came running to their rescue. While many have raised support for the Filipino fast-food brand and condemned the actions of the worker responsible for the incident, countless others have also argued that the fiasco is a result of underpaid and over-exhausted labor.


This, though, should not be a matter of asking who is at fault. Rather, it is a matter of what we can and should do so that this does not happen again. While accountability should be at the hands of the sinner, it should also be placed on the shoulders of a system that allows for these mistakes to be made in the first place.


In 2018, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) urged the Jollibee Foods Corporation (JFC) to regularize over 6,000 of its workers as part of the government agency’s campaign to stop illegal work contractualization practice.


Contractualization, often referred to as Endo – short for “end of contract”, is a common practice wherein companies hire employees under a contract of less than six months to avoid providing their employees with benefits as required by law. As a result of this, these employees often have to jump from job to job with no assurance of employment in between. Furthermore, when workers are under this system, they are reduced to nothing more than the products they make or the services they offer.


JFC is not the only company guilty of profiting from these unjust labor practices. Joining them, Dole Philippines Inc. and PLDT Inc. also topped the list of businesses that DOLE found to be engaged in labor-only contracting. Overall, the list included 3,377 companies that followed a similar modus operandi. In defiance, several of the nation’s largest enterprises laid off around 200,000 workers cumulatively. This in itself shows how little regard companies have for their workers. Given the actions of these corporations, it is evident that employees are viewed less as people and more as dispensable labor.


Combatting this modern type of systematic exploitation and oppression is not easy. Not especially when it is so deeply ingrained into both our culture and our economy. The system has made the exploitation of workers so inherently normal that laborers are seen to create more value from their work as they are earning for the cost of their daily needs. As a result, workers are unable to provide for more than themselves.


Under capitalism, we have failed to provide for the people that allow for our needs to be provided. Even as we belong to a higher stratum in the class system, we must not forget the plight of those less privileged than we are. It is only the bare minimum for us to be speaking up for them. If we can, and we should, we have to fight for them as well.


While legislation for contractualization has been passed, we still need a stauncher and more robust order to prevent powerful corporations from taking advantage of our underprivileged fellowmen. It is high time that we, as a society, remember to humanize workers. Oftentimes, we forget to recognize the grueling, long shifts they work. We end up easily pinning their mistakes on laziness when in reality, they are products of a system that overworks them for not much in return.


We, as consumers, have a role in how we view the brands and companies that we patronize. We should be mindful of the products that we consume. While, yes, we may not be able to overthrow or even tweak the unjust system as individuals, our cumulative effort to fight for something that is greater than us is still worth something. As cliché as it may sound, change starts with us. We evolve over time; we progress over generations, our systems should as well. This battle should not end with us. Beyond accountability, we should demand for compensation and change for these workers. They deserve better; they need benefits, security of employment, and livable wages.


As consumerism pays for products and services, unfortunately, it barely pays the workers responsible for our convenience. In parallel, capitalism pays for advertising, investments, and administration bonuses, but it barely pays the bottom of the corporate pyramid.


If the price for cheaper products and services is companies profiting over the toil and labor of its workers, then personally, I would like to decline. If the fee for brand loyalty and regard for corporate oppressors is ignorance over the fray and struggle of our underprivileged counterparts, well – no, thank you.


So, the hanging question remains: whose service are we really paying for? The oppressor's or that of the oppressed? And what are we really paying for? Jollibee or the Jollifee? You decide.

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