June 16, 2009
Workers at Paul Yu, a lamp shade factory inside the Mactan Export Processing Zone (MEPZ) II producing for the export and local market, continued their work stoppage for the second straight day in protest at the suspension of seven leaders of their workers association. The seven were prevented from entering the factory premises at 8 a.m. today and around 400 workers refused to work in sympathy with the suspended workers.
“More workers compared to yesterday supported today’s mass action because they know that the suspension of the seven leaders is baseless and merely in retaliation for the protest action last May 8 and the filing of a case last May 21 against management’s numerous unfair labor practices. The MEPZ is a haven of criminals in suits while the export zone authority is a coddler of these crooked capitalists,” insisted Willy Dondoyano, head of the workers association and one of the seven suspended.
The work stoppage completely paralyzed the “black hand,” the main department of Paul Yu’s production where welding of lamp shades is done by regular workers. After massing at the factory gates, the 400 workers walked out of the MEPZ II compound and are holding a program at the export zone gates. A representative of Aboitiz Land, which owns the land on which MEPZ is located, has met the workers to mediate the dispute. The workers plan to march to the office of the Philippine Export Zone Authority (PEZA) at the adjoining MEPZ I compound to air their demands.
With the labor dispute in Paul Yu escalating, workers in other MEPZ factories are expressing solidarity. Renante Pelino, president of the newly-formed union at Altamode, a garments export factory in MEPZ II, said that “We support the fight of the Paul Yu workers against reduction in workdays even as management outsources production to contractors. Their struggle is our struggle. An injury to one is an injury to all.” Meanwhile Greg Janginon, chairperson of Partido ng Manggagawa in Cebu, declared that “The global recession is just an alibi for Paul Yu management to annihilate workers rights and weaken labor standards. Workers refuse to pay the price of a crisis that is not of their making.”
On Thursday the Labor Department will hear the case filed by Paul Yu workers that three-day workweek implemented since December lacks proper documentation and due notice. The workers are also complaining that the workdays are reduced for regular workers while 40% of production is outsourced to contractors. They also found out that the AVI Amor Vil Inc., the biggest among three agencies that Paul Yu has contracted to supply workers for the factory, is not registered and thus illegal.
Among the protesting workers are agency employees who have worked for several years, some as long as five years, yet they remain irregulars whose contracts are renewed continuously every two months. Workers are also complaining of non-payment of holiday pay, non-remittance of SSS deductions for agency workers, non-implementation of paternity leave and non-payment of break time.