Saturday, April 25, 2020

Workers ask factory to be reopened to make facemasks

In reaction to the statement of Trade and Industry Ramon Lopez yesterday that several companies are repurposing their facilities to produce personal protective equipment (PPE), workers of a garments firm that has been shuttered for the past four months are asking the government to reopen the factory to produce facemasks. In yesterday’s address by President Rodrigo Duterte, Lopez announced that at least 10 manufacturing companies agreed to repurpose and produce PPE’s, face masks and ventilators.

“We call on Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello to facilitate a social dialogue for the reopening of Sejung Apparel so it can produce wearable facemasks and also put hundreds of workers back to gainful employment,” Jopay Odchimar, president of the labor union of Sejung workers.

Sejung Apparel Inc., a Korean-owned firm in the First Cavite Industrial Estate (FCIE) in Dasmarinas, shutdown in December last year. Last April 10, officials of the FCIE padlocked the factory gates.

“Reopening the factory will put 315 employees back to work to make PPE’s that are desperately needed at this time. We want to help others even as we lift ourselves by our own efforts. The government should not think twice about our appeal to reopen the factory and retool it for making washable facemasks,” Odchimar explained.

The DOLE has rejected the application for assistance to Sejung workers since the factory closure was not due to the covid quarantine. Ironically, the Sejung workers are also not qualified for the social amelioration for informal workers since they are technically still employed by the company.

Sejung workers have been embroiled in a long-running dispute since last year. The labor dispute is due to non-payment of 13th month pay, last salary and union busting.

Sejung declared temporary shutdowns several times. The first shutdown in October last year occurred just one week after the union submitted a collective bargaining proposal and just three weeks after the union won a certification election. The company reopened but once more closed in December 12 and has remained shutdown since then.

“For more than four months, the DOLE provincial and regional offices did not act on a clear case of labor standards violation despite undertaking an inspection in December 19. The case has dragged on for so long that the covid pandemic and the resulting quarantine further aggravated the sufferings of workers,” Odchimar explained.

April 25, 2020
Contact Jopay Odchimar @ 09755769603

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