Thursday, September 6, 2018

Cigarette firm on brink of strike as workers march in Marikina today

The leading cigarette firm in the country is on the brink of a strike as the mandated seven-day notification period is about to lapse. This afternoon a big march of workers and their supporters will proceed from the Marikina factory to the Concepcion Church to advocate their cause to city residents and to build up support for the strike.

The Philip Morris Fortune Tobacco Labor Union (PMFTCLU-NAFLU) submitted last Saturday the results of the strike vote to the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE). Some 73% of workers in Vigan, Ilocos Sur and Marikina City voted to strike.

“It is not too late for the company to resolve the dispute. We call on management to heed the workers’ demand for the reinstatement of 184 workers terminated as a result of the sudden closure of the Vigan redrying plant and the mass layoff at the Marikina factory,” stated Rey Almendras, union president of PMFTCLU-NAFLU.

The countdown to the strike began last Tuesday with workers holding a picket while DOLE convened another mediation hearing that ended without any resolution. There were protests at the Marikina factory every change of shift yesterday.

The labor dispute at the leading cigarette manufacturer is part of a rising wave of workers unrest. Scores of notices of strike have been filed and strikes are erupting in various companies. Last week employees of the big Japanese pharmaceutical firm Takeda Healthcare Philippines in Rockwell, Makati went on strike over a deadlock in collective bargaining negotiations.

“The Constitution mandates that workers receive their fair share of the fruits of production. But at PMFTC, retrenchment was the company’s reward for increased labor productivity and workers meeting key performance indicators,” argued Almendras.

Last month the Lucio Tan Group announced a P3.63 billion total income for the first quarter of this year. Some P2.35B or 65% of the total income of the Lucio Tan Group came from its tobacco business.

The PMFTCLU is alleging unfair labor practice over the closure and retrenchment. The union slammed the bad faith and deceit attending the so-called right-sizing plan of management. The group believes that union busting is the real agenda as the non-union sister factory in Sto. Tomas, Batangas just regularized 100 contractual employees. In contrast, the Marikina and Vigan plants are both unionized factories.

“PMFTC management has been absolutely opaque behind the misnamed right-sizing plan. When management first discussed the plan before the union, they withheld the names of workers affected, they did not disclose how the termination process will proceed and finally they did not give any solid basis for the closure and redundancy. And then just hours after the meeting with the union, management unveiled its surprise gift to unsuspecting workers who were cajoled into signing separation without the presence of union officers who barred from entering the factory,” Almendras elaborated. ###

Photos of the protests can be accessed at PMFTCLU’s Facebook page:

September 6, 2018

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