Thursday, September 24, 2009

Case file of Cebu union submitted to ILO as workers end campout in export zone

Press Release
September 24, 2009

The Partido ng Manggagawa formally submitted to the ILO High Level Mission (HLM) a case file on a Cebu export zone union detailing incidents that violate Convention 87 on the right to self-organization. Judy Ann Miranda, Partido ng Manggagawa secretary general, stated that “Even as the ILO HLM conducts its investigation on the government’s implementation and enforcement of Convention 87, in the Mactan Economic Zone (MEZ), a union is fighting for its life.”

The laid off workers of Alta Mode, a garments export firm in MEZ II that subcontracts for Abercrombie & Fitch among other multinational corporations, lifted today their picketline outside the company gates since their employer has agreed to a meeting tomorrow. Renante Pelino, president of Alta Mode Workers Union (AMWU), declared that “We end our campout in good faith to remove any obstacle to a dialogue with top management on our demands for recognition of the union, work rotation, financial assistance to laid off workers and union access to the factory during the temporary shutdown.”

Pelino said that “We call the attention of the ILO mission to the de facto ‘no union, no strike’ policy in the export zones. Yesterday it took hours of haggling just to allow food and water to be brought to hungry and thirsty workers in the campout. Criminals get better treatment in jails compared to protesting workers inside the export zones.”

At 2:00 pm this afternoon, around 100 AMWU members marched some 400 meters from the Alta Mode factory to the MEZ II main gate and were met by dozens of their families, other union members, and supporters from the Partido ng Manggagawa and other unions. The AMWU members chanted “Makibaka, Wag Matakot” as export zone workers watched the march proceed.

In a meeting last night with representatives of the National Conciliation and Mediation Board, Philippine Export Zone Authority and Aboitiz Land which owns MEZ II, AMWU agreed to lift the picketline in return for a dialogue with management. Since the declaring a temporary shutdown last September 11, Alta Mode has refused to negotiate with AMWU.

Among the recommendations forwarded in the AMWU case file are the following:

1. For the Philippine Export Zone Authority (PEZA) to form tripartite councils within all export zones with the mandate to discuss workers grievances and employers concerns within the export zone, and recommend actions to resolve the issues.
2. For the PEZA to setup billboards at every single gate of export zones with the message that (a) it is state policy to guarantee labor rights, (b) the law encourages trade unionism and collective bargaining, and (c) management interference in the right to organize is unfair labor practice.
3. For employers within the export zone to put up notices at company gates that it is company policy to the respect labor laws and specifically that it will not interfere in the workers exercise of freedom to organize.
4. For the PEZA to draft, in consultation with workers, an education seminar on labor rights, standards and welfare based on provisions of the labor code for all export zones workers, including managerial and supervisory employees, to be attended within their first six months of their employment.
5. For the Executive to draft a course on labor rights, standards and welfare to be included in the mandatory curriculum for secondary and tertiary education.
6. For the PEZA and employers to allow representatives of labor organizations, specifically union organizers, access to the export zones and to company premises for the purpose of union organizing and other union activities, including workers concerted actions.
7. For the PEZA to allow representatives of media access to the export zones for the purpose of reporting on workers’ concerted activities, including strikes, conducted inside the zone.
8. For the PEZA to guarantee the exercise of the workers right to engage in concerted activities, including strikes without harassment or intimidation by PEZA police, company guards or any agent of state authorities.

PAL union brings case vs. contractualization and labor rights violation to ILO

24 September 2009

Rampant violation of labor rights in the country is most probably the cause why the International Labor Organization’s (ILO) High Level Mission to the Philippines is swamped by many complaints that go beyond the mission’s specific mandate of looking into the eight particular cases brought before the body in 2007.

Once such additional complaint is from Philippine Airline employees who face a second wave of mass retrenchment due to the management’s planned spin-off of its ground handling operations and other functions beginning November 15, 2009.

Philippine Airlines Employees Association of the Philippines (PALEA) president, Gerry Rivera, said the ILO forum yesterday was very memorable for them since it was also on September 23, 1998 that PAL ceased its operations and sent termination notices to its employees. This was after employees rejected Lucio Tan’s proposal to offer stocks options to its employees and three seats in the Board of Directors, on the condition that all the existing Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBAs) with its employees would be suspended for 10 years.

Upon intervention from Malacanang, however, employees were forced to accept the CBA suspension. Rivera, who is also the Vice President of Partido ng Manggagawa (PM), said “the continuing saga of contractualization and labor rights violation all began from here.”

Another round of retrenchment in the offing

The PALEA leader disclosed that on September 9, 2009, Philippine Airlines President & Chief Operating Officer, Jaime J. Bautista, in a memorandum, informed the Philippine Airlines Employees Association (PALEA) of the management’s plan to outsource/spin-off some operational units. The memorandum is but a formalization of the company’s earlier verbal notices to the Union.

Citing heavy losses and to prevent further bleeding, PAL is planning to outsource/spin-off the Catering, Passenger Handling, Ramp Handling and Cargo Handling operations. The management is also studying the possibility of doing the same to other functions such as the Information Technology, Revenue Accounting, Reservations and Call Centers, Medical and other Human Resources Operations.

“Once implemented, this second wave of outsourcing/spin-off will affect the job security of some 2,000 – 4,000 PAL employees currently assigned in those departments. And expected to be done under the same scheme that the management had employed in 2001, the remaining 7,000 PAL employees are therefore in for another round of mass retrenchment,” said Rivera.

Worse, adds Rivera, the plan may cast the proverbial last nail on the coffin for the PAL union which, for the last ten years, has been weakened and undermined by previous spin-offs and outsourcing, notwithstanding the effects of the state-sanctioned 10-Year CBA moratorium implemented since 1998.

10-Year CBA Moratorium 1998

The 10-Year suspension of PAL-PALEA CBA in 1998 was first in Philippine history, and perhaps one of the most blatant violations of ILO Conventions in the country on the right to organize and collectively bargain.

The management, with full blessings from the government, used the 1997 Asian financial crisis and the crippling pilot strike in 1998 against union-busting as pretext to force the issue of a moratorium despite strong opposition from PAL employees and the Philippine labor movement as a whole.

“Unfortunately, the Supreme Court came out with a surprisingly controversial decision affirming the validity of the CBA suspension,” Rivera said.

The decision created the jurisprudence that a CBA contract can be suspended even beyond its mandated lifetime. The decision also put PAL workers in limbo on how to exercise their Constitutionally-mandated right to organize, collectively bargain, and to strike.

As a consequence, internal conflict arose in the union afterwards as the management refused to recognize the new set of officers that won the union elections in April 2002, in clear violation of Conventions 87 and 98. The case remains pending before the Supreme Court.

On June 1998, PAL workers were rendered defenseless against the first wave of retrenchment which affected some 5,000 employees out of the approximately 14,000 employees before the 1998 strike. Included from those retrenched were some 1,400 flight attendants who were members of the Flight Attendants and Stewards Association of the Philippines (FASAP), who, just recently won a Supreme Court decision against illegal dismissal.

Spin-off 2001

On 2001, the Maintenance and Engineering Department was spun-off to a joint venture of Lufthansa Technik Philippines and MacroAsia Airport Services where PAL owner Lucio Tan Sr. also holds interests. MacroAsia’s Chairman of the Board is Lucio Tan, Jr., its President and CEO is Joseph Chua, the son-in law, while PAL President Jaime Bautista is the Treasurer. As a result, former PAL employees and PALEA members were terminated from PAL and rehired as contractual employees for Lufthansa Technik, and MacroAsia, of course, without the rights and benefits they previously enjoyed as PAL and unionized employees.

“The move was a classic example of how the PAL management has managed to implement contractualization scheme in the airline business effectively undercutting labor rights and undermining the Union existence,” lamented Rivera.

Spin-off 2009

PAL employees fear that the same spin-off and outsourcing scheme is going to happen now. This time, however, there is only a world recession to blame but no crippling strike the management can condemn. “Yet, there is a contractualization scheme to impose to once again to make labor assume the burden of flawed management decisions since the time PAL was privatized in the early 90s,” said Rivera.

In a Labor Management Council Meeting held last September 8, 2009, the PAL President & COO told the Union that the management has already invited prospective bidders for those departments targeted for spin-off. Again, as expected, one interested bidder is Lucio Tan’s MacroAsia Airport Services.

“It seems 10 years of labor sacrifice were not yet enough. Again, to save PAL from its current financial mess, the management is asking PAL employees to bleed some more,” explained Rivera.

Today, the PAL union has put forward the following recommendations as the ILO High level mission is set to meet with concerned government bodies and employers’ representatives.

1. For the Malacanang to certify as priority bill the passage of the proposed Security of Tenure bill and for Congress to pass the same in order to align the Labor Code to the letter and spirit of Convention 87 and 98. The security of tenure bill seeks to amend the pertinent provisions of the Labor Code to strictly regulate the practice of labor contracting and plug the loopholes in the law.

2. For the Labor Department to review Department Order No 18 specifying allowable and illegal forms of labor contracting. The Department Order has significantly liberalized the scope of legal contracting, thus giving legal blanket to outsourcing such as the PAL spinoff even if it weakens unions.

3. For the PAL management to suspend the planned outsourcing/spin-off.

4. For the Supreme Court to decide with dispatch on GR 155097 on the local election dispute within PALEA considering the inordinately long time of 7 years.

5. For the Congress and the Supreme Court to consider forming a special court or special division to handle purely labor cases to expedite the disposition of mounting cases at the NLRC, Court of Appeals, and the Supreme Court.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Case of laid off garments workers in Cebu presented to ILO mission

Press Release
September 23, 2009

In a meeting today with the International Labor Organization High Level Mission (ILO HLM) at the RCBC Plaza in Makati, Renato Magtubo, chairperson of the Partido ng Manggagawa, presented the case of laid off garments workers in Cebu as a “graphic example of violation of Convention 87 on the freedom of self-organization.”

The laid off workers were from Alta Mode, a garments export firm that subcontracts for Abercrombie & Fitch and Adidas among other multinational corporations. In a press conference today in Mactan City, members of the Alta Mode Workers Union (AMWU) called on the ILO HLM to investigate the “unwritten no union, no strike policy” in export zones.

According to Renante Pelino, AMWU president, “Our experience is just one among many similar cases of employer interference with government connivance in the workers exercise of the freedom of self-organization. No single union represents the tens of thousands of workers in the Mactan Economic Zone (MEZ). In the 30 years of MEZ, no union has been able to survive and gain status as bargaining representative of workers.”

Yesterday AMWU members barged into the MEZ compound and started a campout at the gates of the Alta Mode factory as a form of protest and to guard against any attempt at runaway shop. They are now on their second day of a “Campout for Union Rights.”

Magtubo cited the following as Convention 87 issues regarding Alta Mode:

1. Two days before the certification election last September 7, a meeting was held of Alta Mode workers under the guise of an assembly of cooperative members. The meeting’s agenda was not cooperative matters but the certification elections and the need to defeat the AMWU in the vote.

2. On the day of the certification election, all the union members were put on forced leave. Article 248 (e) of the Labor Code states that it is unfair labor practice to discriminate in regard to wages, hours of work, and other terms and conditions of employment in order to encourage or discourage membership in any labor organization.

3. AMWU members were the first batch of workers to vote in the certification election but since they were on forced leave they were not allowed into the production area. Supervisors and managers were free to make a last-minute campaign among the workers since no union members were in the shop floor.

4. AMWU won 107 votes, “no union” got 88 votes but the certification election remains unresolved since 27 challenged ballots are not yet counted. These ballots were cast by supervisory employees, line leaders and contractual workers who AMWU alleges are not part of the bargaining unit.

5. Four days after the certification elections, Alta Mode went on a six-month temporary shutdown. AMWU filed a notice of strike on the basis of union busting and members unanimously voted to go on strike. But due to the restrictions of the Labor Code, AMWU could not immediately go on strike despite union busting by the employer. Further, if AMWU did go on strike, workers cannot setup a picket at the factory gates since they will not be allowed inside the MEZ compound since there are temporarily out of work.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Laid off garments workers barge into Cebu export zone, discover possible runaway shop

Press Release
September 22, 2009

Some 100 workers of a garments factory that went on a temporary shutdown more than a week ago barged into the compound of the Mactan Economic Zone (MEZ) around 7:30 am today and setup a picket at the gates of their company. The protesting workers of Alta Mode, which exports clothes under world-famous brands such as Abercrombie & Fitch and Hollister, discovered a truck within the factory premises that is being filled up by materials and they suspect it might be an attempt at a runaway shop.

Renante Pelino, president of the Alta Mode Workers Union (AMWU), declared that “The truck is from a scrap dealer but it is possible they might spirit out machines in the guise of scrap materials. We warn our employer and the dealer that they will be liable for unfair labor practice if they attempt to transfer machines for a runway shop. We will not let that truck leave with machines and materials on board.”

Officials of the Aboitiz Land which leases the MEZ II compound to the Philippine Economic Zone have met the workers and asked them to leave pending resolution of the dispute. The workers however refused and vowed to keep guard at the Alta Mode factory gate and not leave without an agreement on their demands. The workers brought with them food, water and supplies for an indefinite campout.

AMWU is demanding that management recognize the union, honor the memorandum of agreement (MOA) forged last September 8 providing for work rotation and financial assistance for workers who will be put on forced leave, and finally for access by two union officers to the factory during the duration of the six-month temporary shutdown.

The Alta Mode factory has been rocked by labor unrest this year with workers complaining of inhuman working conditions such as excessive production quota, illegal forced leave and unfair schemes for undertime work. The workers organized a union but on the day of the certifications elections last September 7, management put all union members on forced leave. Still AMWU got 107 votes compared to 88 “no union” ballots cast but the certification elections remain unresolved since 27 challenged ballots remain uncounted.

Immediately after the elections, AMWU went into a 24-hour sitdown protest that ended with a MOA to put half of the union members back to work. However management reneged on the MOA by declaring a six-month temporary shutdown starting September 11. The union has a filed notice of strike and members have unanimously voted to go on strike.

Alta Mode has sister garments companies called Frankhaus International Corp. and MK Corp. operating in Taytay, Rizal. AMWU suspects that the temporary shutdown is a ruse to shift work to the sister companies and bust the union in Cebu.

PAL employees hold motorcade vs. spinoff, call attention of ILO

Press Release
September 22, 2009
PAL Employees Association

Philippines Airlines (PAL) employees held a motorcade today in a protest against the spinoff to be implemented on November 15. An estimated 2,000 employees, about half of the total PAL workforce, will be retrenched due to the spinoff of the catering, passenger handling, ramp handling and cargo handling operations.

The “Motorcade Kontra Spinoff” of some 40 cars and motorcycles started assembling at 10:30 am in the Coastal Mall in the intersection Coastal Road and Airport Road. By noon the motorcade then proceeded along the Diosdado Macapagal Ave. in Pasay City to the PAL Center located at the PNB Compound. It then moved on to Nichols airport terminal and finally ended at the PAL In Flight Center (IFC) along Airport Road in Paranaque.

Gerry Rivera, president of the PAL Employees Association (PALEA), said that “Spinoff aims to outsource work to companies also owned by Lucio Tan where workers will be non-union and thus receive cheaper wages, fewer benefits and have no security of tenure. Regular workers will be retired and then rehired as contractuals. This has happened before when work was spun off to Lufthansa Technik and Macro Asia, in which Lucio Tan both had major interests. Employees retrenched from PAL because of the spinoff were employed by Macro Asia and Lufthansa Technik on new contracts.”

Last week a Rivera and the PALEA led a noise barrage at the PAL IFC to jumpstart the campaign against the spinoff. Rivera also revealed that they have organized a signature campaign versus the spinoff among PAL employees. He insisted that “Spinoff is not a solution to company losses but a scheme to contractualize labor and raise more profit not from better efficiency of work but from greater exploitation of workers.”

Meanwhile Rivera appealed to the International Labor Organization High Level Mission (ILO HLM) to investigate the case of PAL since management’s suspension of the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) and spinoff of operations has weakened one of the erstwhile strongest unions in the country. The ILO HLM is tasked to hear complaints of government’s violations of Convention 87 on the freedom to unionize and Convention 98 on right of collective bargaining.

According to Rivera, in 1998 PAL with the connivance of a government formed Inter-Agency Task Force pressured the PALEA into suspending the CBA for 10 years. Rivera, then PALEA vice-president, questioned the CBA suspension on grounds that the right to self-organization and collective bargaining, being founded on public policy, cannot be waived. But the Supreme Court in a precedent-setting decision affirmed the 10-year CBA suspension despite clear provisions of the labor code that 5 years is the maximum statutory life of a CBA and 5 years is the maximum period for a sole and exclusive bargaining agent after which its representation status can be contested by another union.

Rivera is also calling the attention of the ILO HLM on the results of the elections for union officers of PALEA that has remained in limbo for 7 years since 2002. The case has remained unresolved by the Supreme Court effectively paralyzing the operations of the union and giving management an alibi to deny representation status to PALEA.

Labor groups cry “Wakasan ang Batas Militar sa Paggawa” as ILO mission due to arrive

Press Statement

Labor groups under the umbrella of Kowalisyon Kontra Kontraktwalisasyon (KONTRA), the broadest trade union coalition against massive contractualization, denounced the suppression of the workers right to organize as a High Level Mission (HLM) from the International Labor Organization (ILO) is due to arrive next week.

“The Philippines is the most dangerous country for trade unionists next to Columbia,” according to a statement from the group. The ILO HLM will investigate the government’s implementation of the ILO Convention 87 on the right to self-organization on the basis of complaints of extrajudicial killings of labor rights advocates and anti-union campaigns by the military and the state.

“Martial law is alive and well in the labor front two decades after the fall of the Marcos dictatorship. Systematic violations of the right to unionize stem from the fact that the labor relations in the country is governed by a Labor Code that was designed by the Marcos dictatorship not so much to guarantee workers’ rights but to suppress them to attract and maintain investments. Ironically the ramparts of the dictatorship in were dismantled 1986 except the chains bearing down on workers,” KONTRA argued in a statement.

The groups announced that a mobilization is planned on September 21 with the theme “Wakasan ang Batas Militar sa Paggawa.” The rally will start at 9 am in Morayta, Manila. KONTRA also appealed to the ILO HLM to call the government to task for “systematic violations” of the right to organize.

The groups presented a 10-point list of issues relating to breach of Convention 87:
1. The government’s counter-insurgency program and the policies of the Armed Forces of the Philippines that brands some trade unions as fronts of the Communist Party of the Philippines;
2. The constraints to organizing in the Export Processing Zones that has a de facto “no-union, no-strike policy”;
3. The use and abuse of the Assumption of Jurisdiction statute for its scope, which is well beyond essential services, and for its arbitrary implementation;
4. The use of libel, sedition and other criminal charges against unionists;
5. The implementation of RA 9481 that sought to strengthen workers' right to self-organization but was negated by the implementing rules issued by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE);
6. The government’s definition of what encompasses a strike and how workers’ freedom of expression was effectively curtailed;
7. The rampant use of contractual labor as union avoidance and union busting techniques;
8. The restrictions imposed by EO 180 on public sector workers’ right to organize;
9. The Public Sector Labor Management Council Resolution No. 1, which redefined the bargaining unit in the public sector, thus further constraining the exercise of collective bargaining;
10. The continuing absence of codified set of laws or work standards governing all public sector workers.

KONTRA is made up of the groups APL, CIU, KPMP, MALABAYAN, PM, PSLINK among others.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Labor party calls for changes to martial law-era labor code

Press Release
September 21, 2009

On the anniversary of the declaration of martial law, the labor group Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) called for major changes in the labor code in the interest of advancing workers rights and welfare. “It is ironic that even as we vow never again to repeat the tragedy of martial law, the 1974 labor code remains in force as an enduring legacy of the dictatorship and a tight chain on the hands of the workers. The 1986 Edsa revolution dismantled many ramparts of the Marcos dictatorship and revived the trappings of elite democracy but it retained the labor code in order to restrict the freedoms of workers,” argued Renato Magtubo, chairperson of PM.

PM together with other labor groups under the KONTRA coalition formed to campaign against contractualization mobilized today several hundreds of workers. Theme of the workers rally was “Wakasan ang Batas Militar sa Paggawa.” The KONTRA mobilization assembled around 9 am at Morayta in Manila before proceeding to Mendiola by 10 am.

“The urgency of revising the martial law-era labor code comes to stark relief as the International Labor Organization starts its High Level Mission on the government’s enforcement of the Convention 87 and 98 on the right to organize of workers and bargain collectively,” Magtubo explained. The ILO High Level Mission (HLM) arrives today and starts if investigation officially tomorrow.

Magtubo also issued a challenge to the presidentiables to make put in their platforms the labor issues. “For the coming election to truly be a fight between good and evil, the presidentiables must specifically commit to changes in the labor code and jurisprudence on labor in the interest of promoting workers rights and welfare. Any presidentiable who claims to be fighting for good instead of evil must be an advocate of labor,” Magtubo insisted.

PM also appealed to the ILO HLM to investigate the “no union, no strike” policy in the export zones and the contractualization of labor both of which the group claims as a hindrance to the exercise of the right to unionize and bargain. “For example, Philippine Airlines will spinoff by November 15 its catering, passenger and cargo handling operations thus affecting an estimated 2,000 workers, about half its workforce. But this is just a retire-rehire tactic to weaken the PAL union. Lucio Tan owns the companies which will continue the spun off operations but with workers who are non-union with cheaper wages, less benefits and no security of tenure,” Magtubo described.

He also clarified that in the Mactan Export Processing Zone in Cebu workers are complaining of unfair labor practices by management designed to interfere in the workers exercise of the freedom to organize. “A clear case in point is Alta Mode, a garments factory producing world famous brands like Abercrobie and Fitch and Hollister, that put on forced leave all of the union members on the day of the election for workers to decide on having a union. And several days after the union won a majority of the votes, the management put the factory on temporary shutdown in order to intimidate the workers,” Magtubo added.

Monday, September 14, 2009

PAL workers hold lunchtime noise barrage vs. spinoff

Press Release
September 14, 2009

Philippine Airlines (PAL) employees held a noontime noise barrage against management’s plan to spinoff major operations. The protest at the PAL In Flight Center along Airport Road in Paranaque is only the first salvo of mass actions to stop the planned spinoff, according to Gerry Rivera, PAL Employees Association (PALEA) president and vice chairperson of the labor party-list group Partido ng Manggagawa (PM).

“Spinoff aims to outsource work to companies also owned by Lucio Tan where workers will be non-union and thus receive cheaper wages, fewer benefits and have no security of tenure. Regular workers will be retired and then rehired as contractuals. This has happened before when work was spun off to Lufthansa Technik and Macro Asia, in which Lucio Tan both had major interests. Employees retrenched from PAL because of the spinoff was employed by Macro Asia and Lufthansa Technik on new contracts,” explained Rivera.

The planned spinoff to be implemented on November 15 will affect an estimated 2,000 workers in the airline’s catering, passenger handling, ramp handling and cargo handling operations. Rivera announced that a signature campaign against the spinoff is ongoing and beside the noontime protest today, a presscon and motorcade rally is planned for Wednesday.

Rivera insisted that “Even assuming the PAL is losing now, it however posted profits for several years before. So why is it that in times of crisis, workers are first to be sacrificed but in periods of boom, employees are last to benefit? Workers will resist paying for the price of the economic crisis that is not our fault.”

Quoting from PAL’s own website, he said that since 2000, the first year of the airlines’ rehabilitation program, it has been posting net earnings and that by 2007, it had a net income of $140.3 million for its fiscal year ending March 31, 2007, supposedly the largest annual profit in the airline's 66-year history.

“Spinoff is not a solution to company losses but a scheme to contractualize labor and raise more profit not from better efficiency of work but from greater exploitation of workers,” Rivera argued.

Labor contractualization is a major grievance of ordinary workers and the labor movement. PM is supporting the so-called Security of Tenure bill in Congress that provides for a cap on the number of contractual workers that can be hired by employers.

Labor unrest brewing vs. PAL spinoff

September 13, 2009

Rank and file workers of the Philippine Airlines are flexing their muscles against imminent job loss after the management bared its plan to implement a major restructuring program before the end of this year.

Gerry Rivera, PAL Employees Association (PALEA) president and vice chairperson of the labor party-list group Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) is leading a noontime protest tomorrow to be held at the PAL In Flight Center, Airport Road, Paranaque City against what the union bewails as Lucio Tan’s predilection of throwing the weight of his corporate problems to the workers.

A signature campaign against the spinoff is also ongoing and after the noontime protest tomorrow, a press conference followed by a motorcade rally is tentatively scheduled on Wednesday.

Last September 9, the PAL management informed its employees that a spinoff will be implemented beginning November 15. The planned spinoff will affect an estimated 2,000 workers —almost half of the total workforce in the airline’s catering, passenger handling, ramp handling and cargo handling operations.

PAL is currently reviewing its entire organizational set-up to make the workforce “lean and mean," after suffering heavy losses this year. A company statement said that as of end-March this year, the airline posted $301.4 million in losses. According to Flight's ACAS database, PAL had 7,751 employees in 2007.

PAL employees are resisting the planned spinoff as they believe that its main aim is to bust the union by outsourcing those work to companies that are also owned by Lucio Tan such as MacroAsia Corp. where workers are non-unionized, receive cheaper wages, less benefits and without security of tenure.

“More than 5,000 of our employees suffered this onslaught ten years ago and we see it coming again on the same pretext that the company used to justify massive outsourcing plan before,” explained Rivera.

Rivera pointed out that since catering, passenger, cargo and ramp handling operations cannot be replaced by modern machines, “the management can only think of replacing secured and trained workers with contractual ‘modern-day slaves’ to cut down on costs.”

“This is unacceptable,” Rivera declared, insisting that labor should not be made the usual sacrificial lamb in every corporate restructuring programs.

“Why put everything on our shoulders? Corporations worldwide had been bailed out many times over, why can’t the same be done to workers who are the very lifeblood of this dying system,” concludes Rivera.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Hundreds of poor residents along South Rail and Manila Bay hold rally at HUDCC

Press Release
September 10, 2009
Alyansa ng Maralitang Pilipino

Some 500 urban poor residents living along the South Rail in Laguna, Batangas and Cavite, and along the coastlines of Manila Bay held a rally at the Makati office of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) and a dialogue with housing officials on their demand for decent housing and livelihood opportunities.

Romy Cabugnason, spokesperson of Alyansa ng Maralitang Pilipino (AMP), said that “Thousands of families will be displaced by demolitions along the Calabarzon areas of South Rail and Manila Bay to give way to rehabilitation of the railway and clean up of the bay. But the urban poor are not garbage that should be thrown away to give way to so-called development. There is no real progress unless there is social justice.”

The Calabarzon urban poor assembled at Magallanes in Makati around noon and then marched to the HUDCC office by 1:00 pm. They then held a dialogue at 2:00 pm with HUDCC officials regarding their demands.

The residents along the Manila Bay are asking for in-city relocation, alternative forms of fishing for livelihood, and financial assistance for relocation, livelihood and social services. While the demands of the urban poor along the South Rail line are the release of the funds meant for relocatees, sale to informal settlers of the Philippine National Railroad lands that will not be used in the rehabilitation, and representation in the inter-agency committee on relocation.

Members of Alyansa ng Mamamayan na Apektado ng Road 1 (AMAR-1), Samahang Mamamayan Naninirahan sa Riles ng Calabarzon (SMPRC) and Partido ng Manggagawa joined AMP in the march, rally and dialogue. The protesters came from the towns of Calamba, Los Baños and Bae in Laguna, Sto. Tomas and Tanauan in Batangas, and Bacoor, Kawit, Cavite City, Rosario and Tanza in Cavite.

Demolition of fishing communities along the Cavite coastline of Manila Bay was supposed to start yesterday as per the notices sent to residents promting the urban poor to hold a rally and dialogue with HUDCC officials. Preparation for eviction of residents along the South Rail starting from Calamba are also underway.

Cabugnason explained that “We are merely asking for the social cost of these development plans that should already be factored into the project cost. The urban poor demands amount to only a small portion of these multibillion projects.” The South Rail projects costs more than P 40 billion with an allotment around P 1.8 billion for relocation. The government meanwhile recently allocated P 1.6 billion for the Manila Bay clean up, of which P 250 million is for relocation of informal settlers on open waterways in Metro Manila.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

ILO asked to investigate workers rights violations at export zones

Press Release
September 9, 2009

The labor group Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) asked the International Labor Organization (ILO) High Level Mission due to arrive on September 22 to investigate violations of the right to unionize at the export zones and industrial estates. Renato Magtubo, PM Chairperson, stated that “The Philippines is signatory to ILO Convention No. 87 which obliges governments to guarantee the right to self-organization of workers. That right is blatantly violated by the unwritten no union policy at the export zones and industrial estates in order to attract foreign investments.”

PM is pointing to the Mactan Economic Zone (MEZ) in Cebu as a case in point. Magtubo explained, “No single union presently exists within MEZ despite being in operation for three decades since it opened in 1979. In the latest attempt at organizing, all union members at the Alta Mode factory in MEZ were all put on forced leave on the day that the workers were to vote to certify the union as bargaining agent. The Labor Department did not lift a finger despite such being a violation of Article 248 (e) of the Labor Code which provides that it is unfair labor practice to discriminate in regard to wages, hours of work, and other terms and conditions of employment in order to discourage union membership.”

In a related development, some 100 members of the Alta Mode Workers Union (AMWU) staged a sit down protest starting Monday afternoon to protest the forced leave. The 24-hour factory occupation ended early evening yesterday with management acceding to workers demands to implement a work rotation scheme instead of forced leave and to provide financial assistance to workers who cannot be absorbed through work rotation. Renante Pelino, AMWU president, elaborated that “Half of the union membership will now be put back to work through work rotation and the rest will be given P500 every week in assistance, half as cash advance and the other half for free. Such a victory is not possible without the courage and militance of the workers.”

Magtubo added that last Friday, a worker leading a union organizing drive was retrenched in a mass layoff of some 1,000 workers at the Taiwanese-owned Sports City conglomerate of garments factories that includes Metroware, Mactan Apparel, Fedder Apparel and Global. Jose Pelino, a worker at Metroware, claims he was singled out for dismissal due to his organizing work. He alleges that he was under intense observation by management for the last two weeks and furthermore he was conspicuously tailed by men in two motorcycles on his way home on the very day of his dismissal. Magtubo pointed out that Pelino has reported the harassment incident and his complaint of illegal dismissal to the Labor Department but no action has yet been taken.

Magtubo also emphasized that the contractualization of workers have become a barrier to union organizing, especially in the export zones and industrial estates. “Contractual workers work side by side in with regular workers in the factories, with the former frequently outnumbering the latter, practically an insurmountable hindrance to unionization. For example, Cebu General Services and Nozumi are the two biggest agencies supplying thousands of contractual workers to factories in MEZ and the giant Mitzumi electronics plant in Danao, all of which have no unions,” he clarified.

The union elections at Alta Mode, a subcontractor for garments brands like Adidas, Reebok and Abercrombie & Fitch, remains inconclusive, Magtubo emphasized. In the certification elections, 107 voted for AMWU while 88 chose no union but 27 ballots remain uncounted since they were challenged by the union since they were cast by supervisory employees, line leaders and contractual workers which are not supposed to be part of the bargaining unit.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Cebu garments workers hold sit down protest against forced leave, unfair labor practice

Press Release
September 8, 2009

Some one hundred workers at the Alta Mode garments firm in the Mactan Export Processing Zone (MEPZ) started a sit down action yesterday and spent the night inside the factory in protest against the forced leave implemented by management that discriminates against union members. “The forced leave that was timed for the certification elections yesterday constitutes unfair labor practice and discrimination to discourage union membership,” asserted Renante Pelino, president of Alta Mode Workers Union (AMWU).

As of this morning 89 workers remained inside the factory and vowed not to leave until management resolves their demands. Pelino explained that the AMWU demands are: (1) rotation among the workers so they can share the supposedly reduced workload, (2) financial assistance for those workers who still cannot be absorbed through rotation, and (3) definite cutoff date to the forced leave and reduced workdays. The union states that even the Labor Department encourages work rotation as an alternative to retrenchments.

The union plans to file today a notice of strike on the basis of union busting and unfair labor practice. AMWU is arguing that the forced leave discriminates against the union since practically all of the more than 100 workers affected were AMWU members.

In the certification election yesterday, AMWU got 107 votes, 88 voted for no union while one ballot was spoiled. Another 27 ballots are being challenged by AMWU since these were cast by supervisory employees, line leaders and contractual workers who the union allege are not part of the bargaining unit. The case is due to be heard by the Labor Department.

Pelino explained, “Our sit down action is a peaceful protest with the aim of obliging management to sincerely face the workers’ grievances. This is a fight for our jobs and our rights. Without our jobs, we cannot live. But without the union, we are vulnerable to abuse and discrimination at work.”

Before the sit down protest started late in the afternoon yesterday, AMWU held a dialogue with management in the presence of officials of the export zone administration. The dialogue was inconclusive as management claimed they could not answer the workers demands since the company owners were in Manila.

AMWU is appealing for support from fellow MEPZ workers and the labor movement in general. No union presently exists within MEPZ and the workers movement has been accusing the export zone administration and the Labor Department of implementing an unwritten no union policy.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Cebu union complains of unfair labor practice as workers vote in historic certification elections

Press Release
September 7, 2009

The newly formed union at the Alta Mode garments factory in the Mactan Export Processing Zone (MEPZ) complained of management’s unfair labor practice as workers vote today whether to certify the Alta Mode Workers Union (AMWU) as the sole and exclusive bargaining agent of rank-and-file employees. If AMWU wins in the certification elections, they will be the first successful union in MEPZ.

More than 100 workers, practically all of them union members including all union officers were put on forced leave effective today, just in time for the certification elections. Alta Mode makes clothes under world-famous brands like Adidas, Reebok and Abercrombie & Fitch. Last March, Alta Mode workers successfully protested against excessive production quotas and illegal reduction in working days. Since then they have formed and registered the AMWU to protect their rights and advance their welfare as employees.

Renante Pelino, AMWU president, stated “Management hasty decision to put half of the workforce and almost the whole of the union on forced leave without even a notice with the Labor Department is evidently meant to harass and intimidate the workers against voting for the union. The Labor Code clearly provides in Article 248 (e) that it is unfair labor practice to discriminate in regard to wages, hours of work, and other terms and conditions of employment in order to encourage or discourage membership in any labor organization.”

Despite management’s unfair labor practice, Pelino declared that AMWU is ready for today’s certification election that will start in this morning and end by 3 p.m. “The union is confident that Alta Mode workers will not be frightened by management’s scare tactics. Workers will assert their rights to choose a union so that they will have a voice and representation in the company. We hope to break new ground and be the first union to be certified inside the MEPZ,” he affirmed.

Dennis Derige, spokesperson of the Cebu chapter of Partido ng Manggagawa (PM), insisted, “No union presently exists within the MEPZ despite being in operation since 1979. Although the Labor Department and the export zone administration keeps denying it, everybody knows that they try to keep MEPZ a non-union zone in order to attract and maintain foreign investors. But without unions to defend them, MEPZ workers are victims of rampant infringement of labor standards and workers rights.”

PM also decried the fact that the unfair labor practice at Alta Mode is the second incident in as many weeks of violation of the right to self-organization. Last week, the Sports City conglomerate of four garments firms in MEPZ retrenched 1,000 employees including Jose Pelino, a worker leading the organizing efforts. On the day that Pelino was dismissed, three motorcycles tailed him as he left the factory, got out of the MEPZ and went to his home in Sitio Gabi, Lapu-Lapu City.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Cebu garments firm to shed 1,000 jobs, union leader cry illegal dismissal and harassment

Press Release
September 4, 2009

Some 1,000 workers are being retrenched by a group of four garments factories in the Mactan Export Processing Zone in Cebu. The Sports City group of garments firms that includes Metroware, Mactan Apparel, Fedder Apparel and Global has sent notices to several sets of its workers and already paying separation pay to the first few batches.

Among those laid off is a Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) leader in Metroware who is accusing the company of illegal dismissal since he is being retrenched for his efforts to organize his fellow workers. Jose Pelino, Jr. went today to the office of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) in Cebu City to receive his separation pay and also to talk to DOLE Regional Director Cayanong about his complaint.

Pelino said that he noticed being under intense observation by management for the last two weeks. Yesterday around 1:30 pm he was called by top management to a meeting where he was told that he is being retrenched. Pelino questioned his dismissal and refused to sign a document accepting his retrenchment. He demanded from management to implement a voluntary retrenchment program so that only those workers willing to go will be laid off but others still willing to work can remain in the company. He also admitted to management that he has already organized many workers in Sports City who call for the same demand of voluntary retrenchment.

After the confrontation with management, he left the factory at 4:00 pm yesterday and noticed three motorcycles tailing him. The three motorcycles followed him from the Metroware plant to the gates of MEPZ I and up to the street of his house at Sitio Gabi, Progress, Brgy. Gun-ob, Lapu-Lapu City.

“The three men in motorcycles did not try to hide the fact that they were tailing me for four kilometers and is obviously meant to harass and scare me. The circumstances of this harassment show that it is related to my organizing activities at Metroware,” Pelino alleged.

Accompanied by other PM-Cebu leaders, Pelino reported the harassment incident to the police today. Dennis Derige, spokesperson of PM-Cebu, challenged the DOLE and PEZA to act with dispatch on Pelino’s complaint of illegal dismissal and harassment. He said that “Just several weeks ago, leaders of MEPZ workers met DOLE, PEZA and DTI officials about their grievances and the government representatives promised reforms to protect labor standards and workers rights. Pelino’s case shows that nothing has yet changed, in fact it may have gone worse.”

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Workers call on Sen. Santiago to abrogate VFA

Press Release
September 2, 2009

The labor party-list group Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) called on Sen. Miriam Santiago to push for the abrogation of the controversial Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA). Renato Magtubo, chairperson of PM, stated that, “The American troops in the country have overstayed their welcome, they are now bwisitors. The soonest the GI Joes are out of the Philippines, the better. With several allegations of sexual harassment on the American troops, they are fast becoming known as a band of rapists.”

The group said that the workers welcome any move that will question the VFA. “It is a step in the right direction if Sen. Santiago moves for renegotiation of the VFA. But it is even better if she recommends the termination of the notorious VFA,” insisted Magtubo.

PM is questioning the fact that the VFA has allowed the permanent basing of the US troops in the country thus negating the gains of the removal of the former American bases in the early 1990’s. “Year in and year out, American troops are in several critical areas in Mindanao, essentially establishing permanent bases and facilities under the cover of the provisions of the VFA despite the prohibition in the Constitution,” argued Magtubo.

He added that “Like the former bases in Clark and Subic, the continued presence of US troops have spawned social problems as shown by the cases of Nicole and Vanessa. It has even worsened the scourge of corruption with anomalies in the Balikatan funds as exposed by Ltsg. Nancy Gadian.” PM was actively involved in the campaign to seek justice for Nicole.

“The war against the Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah cannot be used as an alibi for basing US troops in Mindanao for they are not supposed to be involved in combat or even advisory roles in a purely internal matter. In fact, the presence of US troops are inflaming Islamic insurgency since it serves as agitation for propaganda. It has to be remembered that Al Queda started and grew as a reaction to the basing of foreign, principally American, military forces in the Muslim holy lands of Saudi Arabia,” Magtubo elaborated.