Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Cebu workers end strike, declare victory in struggle

Press Release
February 17, 2009

The workers of a furniture factory in Mandaue who were the first to launch a strike against layoffs since the onset of the present crisis announced in a press conference today that they are lifting their picket lines after the successful conclusion of protracted negotiations yesterday. The workers of Giardini del Sole went on strike last February 3 and paralyzed operations of the firm for two days which forced the management to return to negotiating table. The first two days of the strike was filled with tension as management alleged that striking workers were preventing the free ingress and egress of other employees, and even defying the Mandaue mayor who interceded in behalf of management.

“If we had not launched a strike that paralyzed the company, then we would have been without jobs and would have been lucky to receive a separation pay after six months. But because we fought for our rights, we got from management and the government a ‘bailout package’ that is more than what they were initially willing to give,” explained Primitivo Ginoo, Jr., president of the Nagkahiusang Puwersa nga Mamumuo sa Giardini (NPMG), the union at the Giardini del Sole.

In negotiations that ended yesterday, management and government offered the following forms of assistance to the workers:
1. Immediate payment of separation pay of 13 days per year of service
2. P5,000 assistance previously released by management will not be charged to the separation pay
3. Refund by management to workers of unremitted SSS payments since July 2008 and other similar benefits
4. Grant of P360,000 in employment assistance from the city government of Mandaue to workers who are residents of the town
5. Capitalization for a worker-owned and managed furniture-making cooperative from the Department of Labor

“In times of crisis, the workers will have to fight for every centavo that they deserve in wages, benefits and assistance. Workers should learn the lessons of our struggle. We will be treated like disposable rags and worn out machines by capitalists bent on passing the burden of the crisis on workers. Instead of meekly receiving what little they offer us, workers should fight with their heads up high for jobs and rights,” argued Eulito Fin Jr., vice president of NPMG.

Renato Magtubo, chairsperson of Partido ng Manggagawa (PM), stated that the Giardini workers struggle can serve as a model of the “pro-labor bailout scheme” that the group is pushing for. “The Giardini model of militant struggle and workers assistance can be replicated wherever workers are victims of retrenchment and rotations,” he insisted.

PM is campaigning for a 5-point bailout package for workers and the poor that consist of (1) subsidy for displaced workers from the SSS, GSIS and OWWA; (2) tax refund for wage earners; (2) expansion and reform of the public employment program; (3) extension of health care coverage for displaced workers; and (5) moratorium on demolitions and evictions.

The labor dispute at Giardini del Sole started last January 5 when more than 300 Giardini workers held an impromptu protest at the factory gates upon learning that only 100 employees were allowed to work after returning from the holiday break. ###

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