September 9, 2009
The labor group Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) asked the International Labor Organization (ILO) High Level Mission due to arrive on September 22 to investigate violations of the right to unionize at the export zones and industrial estates. Renato Magtubo, PM Chairperson, stated that “The Philippines is signatory to ILO Convention No. 87 which obliges governments to guarantee the right to self-organization of workers. That right is blatantly violated by the unwritten no union policy at the export zones and industrial estates in order to attract foreign investments.”
PM is pointing to the Mactan Economic Zone (MEZ) in Cebu as a case in point. Magtubo explained, “No single union presently exists within MEZ despite being in operation for three decades since it opened in 1979. In the latest attempt at organizing, all union members at the Alta Mode factory in MEZ were all put on forced leave on the day that the workers were to vote to certify the union as bargaining agent. The Labor Department did not lift a finger despite such being a violation of Article 248 (e) of the Labor Code which provides that it is unfair labor practice to discriminate in regard to wages, hours of work, and other terms and conditions of employment in order to discourage union membership.”
In a related development, some 100 members of the Alta Mode Workers Union (AMWU) staged a sit down protest starting Monday afternoon to protest the forced leave. The 24-hour factory occupation ended early evening yesterday with management acceding to workers demands to implement a work rotation scheme instead of forced leave and to provide financial assistance to workers who cannot be absorbed through work rotation. Renante Pelino, AMWU president, elaborated that “Half of the union membership will now be put back to work through work rotation and the rest will be given P500 every week in assistance, half as cash advance and the other half for free. Such a victory is not possible without the courage and militance of the workers.”
Magtubo added that last Friday, a worker leading a union organizing drive was retrenched in a mass layoff of some 1,000 workers at the Taiwanese-owned Sports City conglomerate of garments factories that includes Metroware, Mactan Apparel, Fedder Apparel and Global. Jose Pelino, a worker at Metroware, claims he was singled out for dismissal due to his organizing work. He alleges that he was under intense observation by management for the last two weeks and furthermore he was conspicuously tailed by men in two motorcycles on his way home on the very day of his dismissal. Magtubo pointed out that Pelino has reported the harassment incident and his complaint of illegal dismissal to the Labor Department but no action has yet been taken.
Magtubo also emphasized that the contractualization of workers have become a barrier to union organizing, especially in the export zones and industrial estates. “Contractual workers work side by side in with regular workers in the factories, with the former frequently outnumbering the latter, practically an insurmountable hindrance to unionization. For example, Cebu General Services and Nozumi are the two biggest agencies supplying thousands of contractual workers to factories in MEZ and the giant Mitzumi electronics plant in Danao, all of which have no unions,” he clarified.
The union elections at Alta Mode, a subcontractor for garments brands like Adidas, Reebok and Abercrombie & Fitch, remains inconclusive, Magtubo emphasized. In the certification elections, 107 voted for AMWU while 88 chose no union but 27 ballots remain uncounted since they were challenged by the union since they were cast by supervisory employees, line leaders and contractual workers which are not supposed to be part of the bargaining unit.