The management of a metal factory in the industrial belt of Silang, Cavite has responded to complaints of interference in the exercise of the freedom to associate and inadvertently confessed to doing so. While management vehemently denied interfering, it nonetheless owned up to several instances of unfair labor practice—convening a meeting of workers to discuss the issue of unionization, investigating the documents of the union being organized, and even spreading the news of the union formation to workers resulting in confusion. All of these are an open-and-shut admission of management interference in the workers’ right to unionize.
In a letter-reply to the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre (https://business-humanrights.org/sites/default/files/documents/Taifini-response-Sept-2016.pdf), the management of Taifini through its legal counsel, said that “September 2 – Management held a general assembly with all its workers, including union members and officers. In the said assembly, the matter of the formation of the union was discussed and management emphasized that it respects the constitutional right of its workers to self-organize.”
Management using its authority to convene a general assembly of its all employees to discuss the formation of the union falls entirely within the ambit of unfair labor practice.
In the Labor Code of the Philippines, it is stated that “ It shall be unlawful for an employer to commit any of the following unfair labor practice: 1. To interfere with, restrain or coerce employees in the exercise of their right to self-organization; …”
Further, in the letter-reply, it is declared that “3rd week of August – TCCI’s [Taifini] Human Resources (HR) Department got hold of all the registration documents submitted by the Union to DOLE. As part of HR’s responsibility, these documents were scrutinized mainly for verification and to ensure adherence to set rules/laws in the formation of the Union… After the receipt of the documents and thus a confirmation of the Union’s registration, news of its formation spread among the workers… As a consequence, there was confusion…”
The only conclusion one can arrive at here is that management itself spread the news of about the union formation. Once more this is confirmation of the union’s complaint that management personnel such as supervisors and managers talked to workers about unionization and harassed them to refrain from joining or to resign from the organization. No doubt, it created confusion, as Taifini’s own statement averred.
And as a last but very important point, it is unlawful for the company through its human resources department (HR) to verify and scrutinize the formation of the union for adherence to the law. This is the responsibility of the State through the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE). For management to do so constitutes interference in the freedom to associate.
Article 2(1) of the ILO Convention No. 98 mandates that organizations of employers and workers are to enjoy “adequate protection against acts of interference by each other or each other’s agents or members in their establishment, functioning or administration.”
Taifini management will no doubt try to explain away each of these instances and even contend that in each case it was motivated by good intentions. But all these instances taken together, alongside other cases of harassment, using the “totality of conduct doctrine” leads to no other conclusion than that Taifini management did interfere in the freedom to associate and is trying to bust the newly formed union.
Aside from these instances of unfair labor practice, Taifini undertook other concrete steps as part of a campaign of retaliation and harassment. Management stopped overtime work for workers resulting in a reduction in take home pay. In the same Article 248 of the Labor Code, it is clearly spelled out that it is unfair labor practice “(e) 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.”
Also the president of the union was also demoted from his position as machine operator to mere helper, without just cause and without due process. Likewise, management sent two of its HR personnel to file a protest during the hearing of the union’s pending petition for certification as bargaining agent.
To redress the transgression of the freedom of association of Taifini workers, the union demands first of all, that the company issue a memorandum to be posted in two conspicuous places inside the factory stating that:
1. It respects the right of its employees to unionize;
2. It prohibits management personnel such as supervisors and managers from discussing unionization with workers, including joining or resigning from the union;
3. It upholds the code of conduct of its customers, specifically compliance with workers right to organize a union.
The union likewise calls for the customer code of conduct provision on respect for freedom of association to be similarly posted in the factory premises.
September 16, 2016