January 23, 2009
A new labor dispute has erupted in Cebu over a meat processing factory’s plan to reduce its work week from six days to just four days. The labor union of Lami Foods in Mandaue City will start daily protests this afternoon at the factory gates and will file on Monday an unfair labor practice (ULP) case at the NCMB Region VII office.
Desiderio Lastimoso, president of the Workers Organization of Lami Foods, said that they were surprised by a memorandum released by management last January 15 about the implementation of reduced work days starting on February 16. He explained that such constitutes a violation of their collective bargaining agreement (CBA) that stipulates that workers must be informed and consulted of any work arrangements 10 days in advance. After he refused to sign the memorandum, management tried to convince workers directly but to no avail.
The workers are demanding that management withdraw the workweek reduction scheme and to comply with the CBA provision on consulting the union. “The two days reduction in the workweek means a 33% reduction in workers pay. It is a sacrifice that workers cannot afford given the hard times. The company on the other hand is not affected by the global crisis since it produces for the local market. In fact, it is profitable since it recently introduced new machines that resulted in the overstock of products that management is now using as an argument for the reduction in working days,” argued Lastimoso.
The union expects that their ULP case will lead to a preventive mediation hearing to be facilitated by the NCMB. The Lami Foods union is calling on the solidarity and support of fellow workers in Cebu. They expect that labor unions in Mandaue, Lapu Lapu and Cebu cities will send delegations to their daily protests similar to the labor solidarity expressed with the workers of Giardini del Sole. “All for one, one for all. An injury to one is an injury to all,” exclaimed Lastimoso.
Lastimoso asserted that “Workers can accept the cut in working days if there is no cut in wages. Such a scheme simply means that management shares with its workers the increased profit resulting from the increased productivity of labor due to use of improved machines. It should not be the case that better technology leads to worse working conditions.”
Lami Foods is owned by an Alfred Choa and the factory processes meat products from hotdogs to hams and canned goods for the Visayas and Mindanao market. There are around 75 regular workers and more than a hundred contractuals.