May 8, 2009
The labor group Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) today lambasted the management of Keppel Phils. for implementing a two-day workweek in order to force its workers to agree to its redundancy offer. A labor dispute has been festering in the Keppel shipyard since March with workers alleging management is out to bust the union Nagkahiusang Mamumuo sa Baradero (NMB) Keppel Shipyard-National Federation of Labor (NFL).
“In the one month since an agreement was forged last April 8 between management and the union, Keppel has consistently tried to sabotage the settlement by blackmailing the workers into submitting to the redundancy plan by shortening the workweek. At the height of the dispute in March, Keppel workers were working just three days in a week. Now it is just two days in a week thus workers’ take home pay has been reduced to a third,” explained Dennis Derige, spokesperson of PM in Cebu.
PM is arguing that Keppel’s reduction in workdays is tantamount to a violation of the April 8 agreement. Section 3 of the agreement stipulates that neither side will engage in actions that will exacerbate the situation.
Derige answered management’s alibi that theirs is no work to be done. “The ship repair business was strong but they shifted to ship building thus forcing former clients to smaller shipyards in Cebu. Why then did they go into ship building when there is no marker for it? It only makes business sense because management wants to bust the union and replace regular workers with cheap and docile contractual labor,” he insisted.
Derige added that “Keppel is trying to starve the workers so they will agree to surrender their rights. We warn management that their blackmail will not work. Keppel workers are not alone. The labor movement will support Keppel workers in their fight.”
PM also criticized the DOLE for lying about the real status of the labor situation. “For several weeks the DOLE has kept on repeating the marketing line that companies are rehiring and layoffs are ebbing. But the unresolved dispute at Keppel and other struggles at MEPZ belie the DOLE’s propaganda,” Derige stated.
The Keppel union still has a pending notice of strike that it has not withdrawn. Since a majority of the work force has voted for the strike, the union can go on strike at any moment.