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.