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.