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.