February 16, 2010
Around 7 a.m. this morning, displaced workers of Alta Mode Inc., a garments factory in the Mactan Economic Zone (MEZ) II and subcontractor for global brands such as Abercrombie & Fitch, setup a picket line outside the main gates of the export zone in Lapu-Lapu City. “This is not yet a strike. Instead we have been locked out of work by management,” explained Renante Pelino, president of the Alta Mode Workers Union (AMWU).
The escalating form of protest by AMWU members came on the heels of the planned closure of the factory on March 15 and the refusal by MEZ II guards to allow the Alta Mode workers to come to work starting yesterday.
As AMWU members established tents and hanged streamers just outside the MEZ gates, Pelino stated that “Alta Mode workers demand to be accepted back to work so that we can feed our families. We appeal to the MEZ guards and Lapu-Lapu police to respect our picket line in order to avoid any untoward incidents. And we call on our fellow export zone workers to support our struggle for decent jobs and labor rights.”
The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) called the union and management to a 10 a.m. mediation meeting in Cebu City today but the latter did not attend. “That management boycotted today’s mediation meeting shows their intransigence and lack of interest in resolving the labor dispute. There is no reason for Alta Mode to decline to face the workers but that they have no acceptable explanation for the impending shutdown,” insisted Pelino. Another mediation meeting has been set for February 19.
Dennis Derige, spokesperson for the labor party-list group Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) in Cebu, proclaimed that they are organizing labor solidarity for the AMWU struggle. “Capitalists and the government are mistaken if they think that labor repression will check the brewing workers unrest over attacks on their jobs, wages and working conditions,” Derige argued.
Management has sent notice that on Thursday they will pay benefits due the workers. But workers are not being invited back to the factory and instead told to proceed to the DOLE offices in Cebu to receive the money.
AMWU is alleging that management plans to close the Alta Mode factory in order to bust the union. AMWU filed for a notice of strike last Thursday, a day after management announced the closure last. Last Friday the workers voted to go on strike with 86 yes and only one no.