A Korean-owned garments factory at the largest publicly managed export processing zone in the Philippines is attempting to bust the union formed by its workers. Jisoo Garments Manufacturing Corp., located in the Cavite Economic Zone, supplies to global garments brands Marubeni of Japan, Cross Plus also of Japan, Vuarnet of France, Michael Bastian of the US and Tomato.
A union was formed last year by workers in order to resolve issues of low wages, long hours of work and lack of benefits. The union lost the certification election in April 2018 due to blatant management interference such as harassment of unionists and threats of closure. However, the workers persisted in maintaining the union and was getting ready for another try this April when a new certification election can be held again.
To pre-empt the certification election and bust the union, last month Jisoo management offered to separate its regular work force. The separation package was supposed to be voluntary but instead workers were called for one-on-one meetings in management offices and cajoled into accepting the offer.
In a sign that the separation offer was just a maneuver to bust the union ahead of the certification election, all workers separated will be rehired but only as contractual workers and therefore not eligible to participate in the union election.
In this way, almost all of the 350 regular workers were terminated and only a handful of union officers remained who resisted the offer. Recently, the union president was denied overtime as a way to harass the remaining holdouts.
Since all workers just receive the minimum wage of PhP 373 (USD 7.50) per day, overtime is a means for workers for increase their take home pay. Denying overtime and mandatory leaves to union officers and active unionists is thus a union busting maneuver.
The union is calling out the Labor Department which is supposed to promote regularization of workers. Out of the 1,000 workers of Jisoo, only 350 were regular and the rest are contractual. But after the separation offer, almost all of the workers are contractual yet doing the same job as before.
The union is also appealing to customers of Jisoo to remediate the freedom of association violations of its suppliers.