ILO asked: Probe rights at export zones

Published by rudy Date posted on September 9, 2009

MANILA, Philippines—The high-level mission of the International Labour Organisation due to arrive on September 22 should investigate violations of the right to unionize at the export zones and industrial estates, Partido ng Manggagawa (Workers’ Party) said Wednesday.

PM chairman Renato Magtubo noted that the Philippines is signatory to ILO Convention 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,” he said.

A case in point, he said, is the Mactan Economic Zone (MEZ) in Cebu.

“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,” he said.

“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,” he added.

In a related development, some 100 members of the Alta Mode Workers Union (Amwu) who staged a 24-hour sit-down protest starting Monday afternoon to protest the forced leave policy successfully engaged the management.

On early Tuesday evening, management acceded 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, said the agreement with management will put half of the union membership 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,” Pelino said.

Last Friday, Magtubo said, 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 alleged that he was under intense observation by management for the last two weeks, even conspicuously tailed by men in two motorcycles on his way home on the very day of his dismissal.

Magtubo said that while Pelino has reported the harassment incident and his complaint of illegal dismissal to the labor department, no action has yet been taken.

The PM chairman also said that the contractualization of workers has become a barrier to union organizing, especially in 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,” Magtubo said.

“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 added.

The union elections at Alta Mode, a subcontractor for garments brands like Adidas, Reebok, and Abercrombie & Fitch, remains inconclusive, Magtubo said.

In the certification elections, 107 voted for Amwu while 88 chose no union but 27 ballots remain uncounted after they were challenged by the union because they were cast by supervisory employees, line leaders, and contractual workers who are not supposed to be part of the bargaining unit. –INQUIRER.net

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