Wednesday, December 2, 2020

As Cebu labor organizers released from jail, DOLE asked to act on mass layoffs


Labor groups welcomed the release from detention of three labor organizers who were arrested in a workers rally at the Cebu Mactan Ecozone last November 30. Cases of “disobedience against a person in authority” lodged against Dennis Derige, Joksan Branzuela and Jonel Labrador were dismissed yesterday afternoon. Their colleagues Myra Opada and Cristito Pangan, both union leaders at the Mactan Ecozone, were released earlier.


Partido Manggagawa (PM) and Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (Sentro) also asked the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) for pro-active measures to stem the series of mass layoffs in the ecozones.


“We condemn the double standard of police in implementing the quarantine rules. Police turn a blind eye to Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque leading a mass gathering in Bantayan, Cebu last November 27 but without batting an eyelash arrest union leaders who were airing grievances on mass firings,” stated Rene Magtubo, PM national chair.


Meanwhile Josua Mata, Sentro secretary-general stated that “I would like to laud the decision of the prosecutor in dismissing the cases against our organizers. It only shows that there are still people in our justice system who are courageous enough to uphold the constitutional rights of workers.”


Magtubo insisted that “Another double standard is DOLE’s inaction on employers engaging in mass layoffs for dubious reasons while police immediate suppress workers’ protests against indiscriminate firings. We demand that Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello remind police that existing DOLE-PEZA-PNP rules on labor disputes prohibit security personnel from harassing workers’ concerted actions. We also ask him to convene a dialogue with labor groups on the continued hemorrhage of jobs inside and outside of the ecozones.”


Last November 30, the so-called MEPZ 5 led more than a hundred recently terminated ecozone workers in rally at the Mactan ecozone gate. But police dispersed the rally and arrested the MEPZ 5.


On November 27, First Glory Apparel fired 300 workers. This comes on the heels of mass layoffs at other firms in the Mactan ecozone. Earlier the Sports City group of companies retrenched 4,000 workers, Yuenthai fired 2000 workers, FCO laid off 100 workers and Kor Landa terminated 67 workers.

December 2, 2020

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Workers in export zones asking brands to facilitate reinstatement to work


Millions of workers in the Philippines were affected by one of the longest lockdowns imposed anywhere in the world. More than six months after the start of the lockdown in the middle of March this year, an untold number of workers remain either of forced leave or on floating status since they have not been allowed to return to work.


In many cases, workers in the export processing report that the companies are already operating but their positions have apparently been taken over by new hires or by contract or agency workers. This means that companies have taken advantage of the covid-19 pandemic to cheapen labor cost by exploiting new hires and non-regular workers.

The labor law in the Philippines only allows workers to be put in floating status for a maximum of six months. Beyond six months, workers must be reinstated or paid separation pay. A new administrative rule released by the Labor Department controversially extends the floating status to one year but with the proviso that workers must agree to the extension. This means, if workers do not agree to extend the six-month floating status then they can still file complaints at the Labor Department. Labor groups in Philippines are calling for the repeal of this new rule as it unfairly disadvantages workers and is contrary to law.

Among those seeking redress of this grievance over being put on floating status for more than six months are workers in two companies, one in the Freeport Area of Bataan (an export zone) and another in the industrial province of Cavite.


A group of workers in the quality control department of FPF Corporation, located in the Freeport Area of Bataan, are preparing to file a complaint for constructive dismissal since they have not been reinstated after the lapse of six months on floating status. They are also calling on brands for assistance in remediating their grievance. FPF Corporation produces luxury bags for global brands Brahmin, Fossil, Michael Kors and Kate Spade. As of the moment, Brahmin is the main customer of FPF but on occasion, the factory also makes bags for Coach if its sister factory FCF Corporation has excess orders.

Meanwhile some 50 workers of Rainbow 21 in Imus, Cavite have filed cases of illegal closure, illegal dismissal and labor standards violation (under payment of wages, overtime and holiday pay and non-remittance of social security contributions). The factory shutdown at the height of the lockdown but instead of reopening, workers learned that machines were taken out and relocated in an attempt at runaway shop. Rainbow 21 produced for US brands "Amy Byer" and "By and By Girl" before the factory unceremoniously closed down without giving the last salary and other benefits, including separation pay. Rainbow 21 was formerly named Dong Han Philippines Inc. and the Korean owner apparently has a penchant for closing down and changing names to avoid accountability to its workers.

Monday, November 30, 2020

Partido Manggagawa Demands the Release of Five Unionists Arrested in Cebu

As workers commemorated Bonifacio Day in a nationally coordinated action, Partido Manggagawa (Labor Party) demanded the release of unionists Dennis Derige, Myra Opada, Joksan Branzuela, Jonel Labrador, and Cristito Pangan.


Opada is the union president at Philippine Light Leather, Pangan is the union president at First Glory Apparel while Derige, Branzuela and Labrador are union organizers.


The Mactan Economic Zone has been a site of struggle between local labor and foreign capital.  Last Friday, Nov. 27th, some 300 workers of the First Glory Apparel were fired -- the latest in the surge of mass layoffs at garment firms in the zone in the past three months.  The Sports City group of companies laid off 4,000 workers, Yuenthai fired 200 workers, FCO laid off 100 workers and Kor Landa retrenched 67 workers.


To mark Bonifacio Day, members of the Mactan Ecozone Workers Alliance, Partido Manggagawa, and Sentro assembled at Gate 3 and marched to Gate 2 where they held a program highlighting the Zone capitalists' attack on the right of workers to unionize, bargain collectively, seek redress of grievance and assemble peacefully. However, police broke up the rally and arrested the five unionists.


Rene Magtubo of PM called for an end to the repression of labor rights and the harassment of human rights defenders.  "Activism is not terrorism," said Magtubo.  "This is precisely the theme of today's national and global commemoration of Bonifacio Day."


The arrest of the PM Cebu labor organizers underscores the escalating attacks on workers' rights in the country, said Magtubo.  "It adds to the unsolved killings of unionists, busting of unions, and red-tagging of union activists." 


Last year, PM-Cavite labor organizer Dennis Sequena was brutally murdered while facilitating a labor seminar.  No one has been arrested, much less charged with his murder.


The impunity with which workers are fired in economic zones like Mactan, in the middle of a pandemic, graphically illustrates the inability of the government to ensure job security for native labor, and its puppetry toward foreign capital.  As employment shrinks steadily and dramatically in the country, the brunt of the double blow of a recession and a pandemic is felt most grievously by the Philippine working class.

Arrest of Cebu labor organizers slammed


The labor group Partido Manggagawa (PM) denounced the arrest of several of its leaders and organizers in Cebu during the Bonifacio Day action of workers in the gate of the Mactan Economic Zone.


“We call for the release of PM leaders Dennis Derige, Myra Opada, Joksan Branzuela, Jonel Labrador and Cristito Pangan. Activism is not terrorism. Repression of labor rights and harassment of human rights defenders must stop. This is precisely the theme of today’s national and global commemoration of Bonifacio Day,” declard Rene Magtubo.


Members of Mactan Ecozone Workers Alliance, Partido Manggagawa and Sentro assembled at the Gate 3 of the Mactan Economic Zone at 8:00 am then marched towards Gate 2 where they held a program that highlighted the attacks on workers’ rights to unionize, bargain collectively, seek redress of grievances, and peaceful assembly.


Retrenched workers of factories in the Mactan ecozone joined the Bonifacio Day commemoration in Cebu against repression of labor rights. Last Friday, some 300 workers of First Glory Apparel were fired. This comes on the heels of mass layoffs at other garment firms in the Mactan ecozone in the last three months—the Sports City group of companies retrenched 4,000 workers, Yuenthai fired 2000 workers and FCO laid off 100 workers.


Magtubo insisted that “The arrest of PM Cebu labor organizers puts a spotlight on the escalating attacks on workers’ rights in the country and adds to the unsolved killings of unionists, busting of unions and red-tagging of union activists. Last PM-Cavite labor organizer Dennis Sequena was brutally murdered last year while facilitating a labor seminar.” 

November 30, 2020

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Garment firm layoffs 300 to bust union in export zone


A garment exporting firm in the Mactan Economic Zone yesterday laid off 300 employees in a move that surprised those affected. This morning hundreds of its workers protested at the factory gate of First Glory Apparel then marched around the ecozone complex to air their demand for reinstatement.


“First Glory management is a Grinch for firing workers weeks before Christmas. Is this their Christmas gift to workers who have worked loyally these past years?,” declared Cristito Pangan, president of the labor union and one of the workers retrenched. The workers are refusing to accept the termination offer and demanding their reinstatement.


Pangan added that “First Glory is just using covid and the bankruptcy of its main client J.Crew of US as an alibi to bust the union which has a pending petition for certification election. Production has not decreased and in fact workers are asked to report for duty even on holidays and Sunday. This belies management’s claims. Likewise, we know that J.Crew has already exited bankruptcy this September and is operating normally in the US. That is also why we are still making clothes for this global brand.”


The firings at First Glory comes on the heels of mass layoffs at other garment firms in the Mactan ecozone. Earlier the Sports City group of companies retrenched 4,000 workers, Yuenthai fired 2000 workers, FCO laid off 100 workers and Kor Landa, retrenched 67 workers.


“The hemorrhage of jobs at the Mactan ecozone continues despite rosy reports from the government that the economy is recovering. Workers are facing the double whammy of job losses and high prices without letup even with Christmas just on the horizon and the covid vaccine nearing distribution stage,” declared Dennis Derige spokesperson of Partido Manggagawa-Cebu.


Derige announced that the coming Bonifacio Day action of workers will highlight the plight of workers in the Mactan ecozone along with the threat of the anti-terror law and other repressive measures in the time of covid. The November 30 action of workers in Cebu is nationally coordinated with other labor organizations and is also supported by global union federations.


“Without labor rights and civil liberties, workers will suffer under the despotism of capitalists intent on maximizing profits by squeezing their employees. Higher wages, better benefits, shorter hours and workplace safety are inseparable from the fight for democracy in society. This is the cry of workers today in the Mactan ecozone and in November 30 in Cebu and elsewhere,” Derige explained.

Photos of protest:

Video here:

November 28, 2020