March 10, 2010
The administration of the Mactan Economic Zone (MEZ) called for a meeting today between the management and union of Alta Mode Inc., a garments exporter for such global brands as Abercrombie & Fitch. The Alta Mode workers had requested the MEZ administration for a last-minute effort to mediate the almost month-long dispute as the permanent shutdown of Alta Mode looms Monday next week.
“We remain steadfast in our view that the closure of the Alta Mode factory is merely a desperate attempt to bust the union. Supposed losses and the global crisis are simply alibis to cover up management’s union busting and unfair labor practice. Even Alta Mode’s own financial statement for the years 2007 and 2008 belies its claims,” insisted Renante Peliño, president of the Alta Mode Workers Union (AMWU), an affiliate of the labor party-list Partido ng Manggagawa (PM).
Early this morning a commotion broke out at the campout of the Alta Mode workers at the MEZ II main gates when security guards tried to close the entry and exit to the protest site using steel fences. The guards backed down in the end as the workers resisted and picketed the main gates in protest.
In the meeting at the MEZ administration office, AMWU demanded that the workers be allowed to return to work pending an investigation of the real cause of Alta Mode’s shutdown. The union also called on the MEZ administration not to give a clearance to Alta Mode.
“While nobody can force an employer to continue its business, the government is not totally powerless to intervene. The export zone administration has the power to block Alta Mode’s closure by refusing to give it a clearance. The DOLE too has the power to investigate the workers’ grave allegations of management’s unfair labor practice,” Peliño argued.
AMWU refused to accept management’s offer of separation package although it demanded the payment of the workers wages for the almost one month period that management has disallowed workers to report for work. Only 15 contractual workers and office employees of Alta Mode have received the separation pay while none of the 91 union members have accepted.
Representatives of the DOLE Regional Office 7 and the National Mediation and Conciliation Board (NCMB) also attended the meeting at the MEZ. Mediation hearings called by the NCMB in the middle of February resolved nothing as management remained steadfast on closing the factory.
Since February 15, 2010, AMWU has camped out at the MEZ II after workers were refused entry and not allowed to go to work. Scores of supporters from unions in Cebu and other allies have trooped to the campout in solidarity with the Alta Mode workers. Even Women’s Day was commemorated in the Alta Mode campout last Monday by urban poor and working class women.