December 16, 2008
A hundred displaced workers of a closed factory in the export processing zone in Rosario, Cavite picketed the offices of the Philippine Export Processing Zone Authority (PEZA) administrator around 2 p.m. today despite a ban on protest actions inside the compound. The workers were demanding that their union be consulted on the disbursement by the PEZA of PhP 1.69 million in money claims.
A momentary scuffle occured when PEZA guards unsuccessfully tried taking away the workers placards. However the workers were able to maintain the picket inside the PEZA compound while another group protested outside the gates. After a dialogue with the PEZA administrator, the union got its demand to be consulted.
The amount was the proceeds from the sale of the assets of the Sapphire Phils. garments factory that unceremoniously shutdown last January 15, 2007. According to Marites Manjares, union president of Sapphire Phils., “There were 300 workers when our factory closed down. But the PEZA masterlist ballooned to more than double with 640 names. This is new case of dagdag-bawas (addition-subtraction). The added names will result in lesser claims to be received by legitimate worker beneficiaries.”
“When the Korean owner of Sapphire Phils. suddenly left the country, the factory shutdown without the required 30 days notice and without giving any separation pay to the workers. Thus we filed a case at the Department of Labor for illegal closure and money claims. Now that the PEZA has sold the assets of the company, we want them to talk and coordinate with the union so that legitimate beneficiaries receive what is due them,” insisted Manjares.
The Rosario Workers Association and the Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) supported the picket of the Sapphire Phils. workers. Dennis Sequenia, chairperson of PM-Cavite declared, “In Chicago, USA workers occupied the Republic Windows and Doors when the factory closed without the necessary notice and without the required separation pay. They got their demands after six days of occupying the plant and winning even the support of President-elect Barack Obama. The Sapphire Phils. case is no different though the workers are not asking for the support of President Gloria Arroyo but simply that they not be prohibited from holding their protest action.”
“Labor discontent is simmering at the export zone as the global crisis impacts thousands of workers with layoffs and rotations, reduced hours and reduced pay. Today it is a picket at the PEZA office. Tomorrow it may be an occupation of a factory inside PEZA,” warned Sequenia.