January 9, 2009
The workers of Giardini del Sole of Mandaue City, one of the biggest furniture exporting companies in the country, won major concessions in negotiations at the National Conciliation and Mediation Board (NCMB) Region 7 that ended 5:30 p.m. yesterday. The settlement averted the Giardini union’s plan to file a notice of strike on the basis that the temporary shutdown was illegal and a ruse for union busting. “Workers now have a voice in how the company will cope with the crisis. The crisis cannot be used by management as a maneuver to bust the newly established union,” asserted Eulito Fin Jr., vice president of Nagkahiusang Puwersa nga Mamumuo sa Giardini (NPMG) and a member of the Partido ng Manggagawa (PM).
Management and the union agreed on the following points:
1. Establishment of a joint evaluation team that includes the union, management and the DOLE/NCMB to rotate work among as many of the workers as possible. The joint evaluation team will also monitor the company’s performance and recall the workers when demand picks up.
2. Granting of financial assistance of PhP 5,000 and one sack of rice per month for the duration of the temporary shutdown. It will be deductible from separation pay in case of permanent closure.
3. No worker will be terminated and only voluntary resignations will be accepted.
4. Release of backwages for the holiday pay last December equivalent to three days salary.
“We fought for our demands and that is the reason we won them. If we had not protested when we were shut out of the factory last Monday and we had not marched to the NCMB, then we would all be jobless and hungry by now. By rotating the job among the workers together with the subsidy from management, we have a fighting chance to survive the crisis,” declared Fin.
Dennis Derige, spokesperson of PM-Cebu, announced that the Cebu, Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu unions that have been preparing for solidarity actions to the Giardini workers will now shift to campaigning for a bailout scheme for workers. “The plight and fight of the Giardini workers highlight the imperative of a bailout package for workers affected by the crisis,” he said.
Derige explained the bailout scheme as “The SSS, GSIS and OWWA must subsidize all private sector workers, government employees and OFW’s who will be laid off due to the crisis that should last until they find a new job up to a maximum of 6 months. Government must also declare a tax rebate for all workers equivalent to 2 months wage. And a public employment program must be established for the four million unemployed Filipinos.”