Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Keppel management settles dispute, union declares partial victory

Press Release
April 8, 2009

The management and union of the large Keppel Cebu shipyard this afternoon signed a memorandum of agreement spelling out the terms of a settlement over the month-long labor dispute over mass layoffs. The Keppel union considered the agreement as a “partial victory in the tactical fight against retrenchment.”

Roger Igot, president of Nagkahiusang Mamumuo sa Baradero (NMB) Keppel Shipyard-National Federation of Labor (NFL), said that “We were able to preserve the union and more than half of the regular workforce. Thus we will have a new collective bargaining negotiations come December whether under the present management or the new company that will undertake shipbuilding operations.”

The memorandum of agreement stipulates that management will not declare another redundancy and may use only persuasion in making workers accept the company’s offer for alternative employment in their other shipyards both locally and abroad. The agreement also allows any worker among the 70 that were retrenched through redundancy to contest their termination in a proper forum with the help of the union.

Renato Magtubo, chairperson of Partido ng Manggagawa, asserted that “The agreement is merely a ceasefire in the class struggle. At the moment the balance of forces tilted in favor of the workers through their militant struggle and labor solidarity among Cebu unions. The Giardini del Sole workers formula of militant struggle against mass layoffs has proved successful once more.”

In the course of more than a month, the Keppel union has engaged in sitdown protests and rallies at the shipyard gates with the support of the Solidarity of Cebu Workers (SCW). The Keppel union has a pending notice of strike and assails management for using the mass layoffs as a means to bust the union and replace the regular workforce with contractual workers. The memorandum of agreement enjoins both parties from engaging in any acts that will exacerbate the dispute. In concrete this means that the management will not push through with another redundancy while the union will follow through on the strike.

“The labor dispute at Keppel, the layoffs at Lear and other factories at the Mactan Export Processing Zone belie government claims. It is wishful thinking on the part of government to say that layoffs are over. The good news over more hiring than firings are just fairy tales. Still we call on all workers to challenge government’s promises of assistance for the displaced including the temporary unemployment insurance of P10,000 per month for six months. Workers should claim these benefits and protection through protest and struggle,” argued Magtubo.

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