Korean manager points gun at union organizer

Roh Fung, the Korean manager of Royal House, Inc. [not their real names] pointed a 45-caliber pistol at sewer Sebastian Andres [not his real name] after he balked at signing a resignation letter and a blank sheet of paper – which later contained a statement that Andres was apologizing for causing damage to the company due to union formation – last December 1, 2002.

Andres was called to Fung’s office where the Korean explained the letter. Andres refused to sign and asked to be terminated instead. Fung took a gun from his drawer and pointed it discreetly at Andres’ side.

“Fung told me that he’d shoot if I wouldn’t sign the papers,” Andres said in the vernacular.

While Andres was in Fung’s office, the other 149 workers were compelled to sign a petition that they are favoring Andres’ resignation, and that they are not supporting the union. Andres was led out of the company after the petition was signed.

“Sinabihan ako ni Mr. Fung na ipapakidnap niya ako ‘pag tinuloy ko ‘yung union at ipapakulong niya ako dahil sa union booklet,” Andres said. (Mr. Fung threatened that he would have me kidnapped if I pursue union formation and he would put me in jail because of the union booklet.)

RFI, located in Angono, Rizal, is a Korean-owned garment company producing for JC Penney, Baby Tags, Cinderella and Little Angel labels, which are exported to the US. JC Penney has a corporate code of conduct which requires its suppliers to strictly comply with “all applicable laws and regulations”.

The company pays Php 95 to Php 160, far from the region’s minimum wage of Php 237 per day. A worker’s rate is based on performance during speed trials.

Employees work 13 to 14 hours a day, but are paid only for three extra hours. The company does not pay other benefits and holiday pay. Workers are paid only the regular rate instead of the 130% premium for work on Sundays.

Workers are reprimanded for not meeting impossibly high quotas. At times, they are not allowed to go home unless they finish their task.

Employees are terminated without due process. “‘Pag mabagal lang ‘yung worker, papauwiin na tapos ‘di na pababalikin. Pinapapirma na rin na finished contract na,” Andres said. (When workers are slow, they are sent home and are not allowed to report for work again. They are compelled to sign a statement that they have finished their contracts.)

Workers are not sent home even when sick. In November 2002, a seven-month pregnant worker passed out due to overwork. No one dared help her. When a line leader Elena Santos offered to help, “the production manager told me that I shouldn’t care since she’s not in my line.” The Filipino production manager subjects workers to other forms of verbal abuse.

In October 2002, workers were compelled to work continuously for 3 days and were not allowed to go home. The company did not provide food during those 3 days. They were made to sleep only for 3 hours after working long hours.

Andres filed a case against the Korean with the National Labor Relations Commission.

Despite the threats, union formation is progressing in the company, which is under the survey for compliance under the TUCP/Solidarity Center Anti-Sweatshops Campaign.

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