Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Cebu workers to push for “return to work” in preventive mediation today

Press Release
January 6, 2009

In the preventive mediation called today by National Conciliation and Mediation Board (NCMB) officials, union leaders of Giardini del Sole, Inc., one of the biggest furniture manufacturing and exporting companies in the country, will demand that all workers be allowed to return to work.

“If the negotiations fail then we will push through with filing a notice of strike on the basis of union busting,” declared Eulito Fin Jr., vice president of Nagkahiusang Puwersa nga Mamumuo sa Giardini (NPMG) and a member of the Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) in Mandaue City. Unions in Mandaue, Lapu-Lapu and Cebu are already preparing for sympathy actions to the Giardini workers.

Yesterday more than 300 Giardini workers held an impromptu protest at the factory gates upon learning that only 50 of the workmates were allowed to work. In the afternoon, they marched to the NCMB office with the intention of filing a notice of strike. The workers are alleging that despite management’s filing of an application with the Department of Labor and Employment, the so-called temporary shutdown was illegal since they did not receive any notice to the effect.

“Workers will only agree to a temporary shutdown after the lapse of the required 30 days notice and upon opening of the company books to prove its claim of losses or lack of demand. And while temporarily shutdown, management must provide a subsidy with counterpart assistance from the local government and national agencies so that workers will not die of hunger,” explained Fin. The union will demand P5,000 and a sack of rice per month or a total of P300,000-P400,000 for the maximum 6 months duration of a temporary shutdown. “That is drop in the bucket compared to the tons of company profit in the last 22 years. We also insist that management remit in full our SSS payments so we can take out loans and claim benefits,” said Fin.

Renato Magtubo, national chairperson of PM, stated that “The Giardini case illustrates the urgency of a bailout scheme for workers affected by the crisis. The SSS, GSIS and the OWWA must use its funds to subsidize private sector workers, government employees and overseas contract workers respectively until they can find work up to a maximum of six months.”

He added that “The emergency work program of the government must be radically reformed. The patronage system must be exorcised from it by putting the employment program under the co-ownership if not control of people’s organizations. Also minimum labor standards at the very least must be guaranteed instead of the present setup where the ‘kamineros’ and ‘oysters’ are hired on a contractual basis for below minimum wages. The scope of the work program must not be limited to those who will be laid off due to the global crisis since it is imperative to give jobs to the four million who were unemployed even before the crisis struck.

The Giardini workers however still suspect that the management is merely using the global crisis as an alibi to bust the newly established union. Last November the management dismissed the union president and treasurer and suspended active union members. ###

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