Monday, September 3, 2018

Disruption looms at leading cigarette firms as workers vote to strike

Disruption looms at leading cigarette firms as workers vote to strike

Production at Philip Morris-Fortune Tobacco Corp. is set to be disrupted as a large majority of workers voted yes in strike balloting. In a vote conducted last Friday at Vigan, Ilocos Sur and Marikina City, some 73% of union members authorized a strike. According to the rules, an actual strike can be launched seven days after the vote was submitted to the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) last Saturday.

“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 Rene Magtubo, chair of Partido Manggagawa and former president of the Marikina union.

Tomorrow a mediation has been called by the DOLE and while it is ongoing, workers will hold a protest in Intramuros. Daily protests are scheduled at Marikina including a march around the city.

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 Magtubo.

This 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.

“Management told the union that the Vigan plant will be closed and sold to another entity. No other details were given. This raises the suspicion that this is another outsourcing program similar to the contractualization scheme at Philippine Airlines,” declared Gerry Rivera, president of the Philippine Airlines Employees Association (PALEA-TUCP) and head of the newly formed Kapatiran ng mga Unyon at Samahang Manggagawa. Both PALEA and PMFTCLU are members of the Kapatiran.

He declared that “We express support for the fight of PMFTCLU for job security and against union busting. Ang laban ng isa ay laban ng lahat.”

“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,” Magtubo elaborated.

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

September 3, 2018

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