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.