Tuesday, February 14, 2017

DOLE asked to deputize unionists as labor and safety inspectors

(Photo from Cavite Provincial Government)

In the wake of a third fatality in the massive factory fire at the House Technology Industries (HTI) in the Cavite ecozone, the labor group Partido Manggagawa (PM) called on the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to deputize unionists as inspectors to ensure enforcement of general labor and occupational safety and health (OSH) standards. Cavite Governor Crispin Remulla confirmed the third death due to the HTI factory fire last February 10.

“We ask DOLE Secretary Silvestre Bello to approve the pending proposal that union officers be accredited as labor inspectors to beef up the labor standards enforcement system. With just a twist of Sec. Bello’s pen, labor leaders can be deputized, the number of inspections can be multiplied overnight, enforcement can be strengthened immediately, and workers lives and limbs can be saved as a result,” appealed Rene Magtubo, PM national chairperson.

He added that “We take exception to the opinion of Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) head Charito Plaza that HTI has no fault since the fire was caused by an accident. In OSH 101, it is a basic tenet that accidents are not acts of divine providence but are the result of unsafe acts that are preventable by strict enforcement of safety rules. Even if HTI is compliant according to inspection, obviously there are violations of safety rules that led to the recent fire and a previous 10-hour blaze in October 2012.”

Citing deaths of workers in HTI, Kentex in Valenzuela, Hanjin shipyard in Subic and in several construction sites natiowide, Magtubo argued “Government through the DOLE and PEZA must make policy changes regarding enforcement of labor standards and occupational health and safety so that workers do not die in vain.”

“The DOLE only has some 600 inspectors to cover around a million establishments nationwide. In 2013 just around 40,000 enterprises were subjected to inspections, self-assessments and visits. The numbers can easily be increased several fold by deputizing union officers as labor inspectors. Even if just 10% of the 17,000 local union presidents are accredited, this is already thrice the present number of inspectors,” elaborated Magtubo.

PM insisted that the DOLE already allows local government units to undertake technical safety inspections in order to complement its efforts and so there is no reason not to mobilize workers groups in labor enforcement. “All the DOLE has to do is train union officers in the labor inspection and enforcement process and then accredit them appropriately,” Magtubo added.

In the DOLE's Labor Standards Enforcement Framework, unions with collective bargaining agreements are given a role in self-assessment for their enterprises. “If unions play a responsibility in ensuring labor standards and occupational safety in their own workplaces, it does not take a leap of logic to allow them a task in inspecting other enterprises,” Magtubo argued.

February 14, 2017

Monday, February 13, 2017

PALEA appeal for presidential action on 5-year endo dispute with PAL

Members of the Philippine Airlines Employees Association (PALEA) went back to Malacanang Monday to seek presidential intervention to their 5-year old dispute with the Philippine Airlines on the issue of contractualization.
This is the second time PALEA is seeking the intervention of the President on the issue of PAL’s outsourcing program.  The first was in 2011 when PALEA asked former President Benigno S. Aquino III to reverse the decision made by his labor secretary Rosalinda Baldoz allowing the implementation of PAL’s outsourcing program that affected some 2,600 workers.  Unfortunately, President Aquino took the side of Lucio Tan by denying the petition of PALEA twice. 
PALEA members stood their ground in opposing the outsourcing program by establishing an extensive protest camp at PAL’s In-Flight Services until a Settlement Agreement was reached with the management in 2013. The Settlement Agreement provided for the compensation for the remaining number of workers and their re-employment to PAL as regular employees.   
PALEA President Gerry Rivera said PAL has deliberately reneged on their commitment especially on re-employment which is the most important provision of the Settlement Agreement.
“Kaya po kami bumabalik sa Tanggapan ng Pangulo ay dahil baka po may tsansa pa na maituwid niya ang baluktot na nagawa ng nagdaang administrasyon at maitawid kami sa tulay ng hustisya na limang taon na naming inaasam,” appealed Rivera.
PALEA made this appeal in a march to Malacanang where a dialogue was supposed to happen between the President and labor groups on the issue of endo.  The meeting unfortunately was moved to another date later this month.
Nevertheless, PALEA members and their supporters decided to push through with their march to voice out their urgent concern to the President.  Rivera also hoped that the scheduled dialogue materializes the soonest time possible so that measures on how to effectively end endo is finally threshed out. 
“Kami po ang naging poster boy ng problemang endo dito sa bansa.  Kaya’t kung sakali, baka ang resolusyon sa aming kaso ay maging kaparehong paraan sa ganap na pagtigil sa kontraktwalisasyon na siyang pangako ng Pangulo.  Dahil pareho sa aming lahat ang problema – ito ang pagtatalaga ng aming mga buhay at kinabukasan sa  mga  kontraktor o middleman, ” said Rivera.
PALEA is a member of Nagkaisa, a labor coalition that is campaigning for the prohibition of all forms of contractualization and fixed-term employment.

Philippine Airlines Employees Association
February 13, 2017

Advisory: Duterte asked for presidential intercession in PAL endo dispute

President Rodrigo Duterte is being asked by workers of Philippine Airlines (PAL) for intervention in the long-running dispute over outsourcing. They are holding a rally this morning at Mendola to call out for presidential intercession. The PAL workers union PALEA is calling on Malalcang to intercede for the implementation of a 2013 agreement that provides for the re-employment of some 600 outsourced PAL workers.

The rally will also ask the President to stand fast on his promise to end contractualization. The promise to end endo will be the main topic of a planned dialogue between Duterte and labor groups later this month.


9:00   am assembly at Morayta 
10:00 am program at Mendiola

Friday, February 10, 2017

Months-long Cavite EPZA labor dispute settled

After more than three months, the labor dispute surrounding the closure of the biggest garments factory at the Cavite economic zone was finally settled. As the massive fire at the factory of the House Technology Industries burned last week, the management and union of Faremo International Inc. signed an agreement at the Cavite ecozone administration office to end the labor row.

“The deal provides for the rehiring of the workers if the factory reopens, a substantial financial assistance on top of the separation pay and the grant of several sewing machines for a livelihood project of the displaced employees. It was a resounding win for the workers,” declared Rene Magtubo, chairperson of Partido Manggagawa (PM).

PM assisted the Faremo workers in their months-long picketline inside the Cavite ecozone. Last October 26, some 1,000 workers of Faremo, majority of them women, were laid off when the factory closed down allegedly due to lack of orders. However, one of its customers, a major global garments brand, admitted that orders were increased not cancelled. This disclosure emboldened the resistance of the workers and bolstered the accusation of the union that the closure was illegal and meant to bust the union and break the collective bargaining agreement.

“Illegal closure is a weapon of last resort by employers in their union busting bag of tricks. Faremo is not the first and probably not the last. Last May, the Cavite ecozone electronics firm Seung Yeun Technology Industries Corp. filed for shutdown when its workers unionized but is still operating under a new name. The same modus operandi was done by the Mactan ecozone factory Blaze Manufacturing Corp. in 2011 to bust the two unions of its regular and contractual workers. We have reported these violations to the International Labor Organization Direct Contact Mission (DCM) that is in the Philippines at the moment,” Magtubo clarified.

The ILO DCM is a follow up to the High Level Mission conducted in 2009 to investigate the Philippine government’s violations of Conventions 87 and 98 on freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining. The ILO DCM is holding a briefing this afternoon in Manila.

Jessel Autida, president of the Faremo labor union, said that “We owe this victory to the determination to fight of our members, and the solidarity of fellow trade unions and international labor rights advocates. We also thank our management for granting the demands of the union and even Labor Undersecretary Joel Maglungsod whose office patiently mediated the dispute until it was resolved.”

Autida revealed that the union will continue to exist as an organization for mutual aid and protection and to manage the garments production that they will undertake as a livelihood project. “We are asking the Department of Labor and Employment to help us in our garments making project. This is one way to sustain the livelihood of former Faremo employees and other displaced garments workers in the Cavite ecozone,” he explained.

The union has dismantled its picketline outside the Faremo factory and also withdrawn its pending cases at the National Conciliation and Mediation Board and the National Labor Relations Commission as part of the settlement agreement.

February 10. 2017

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Transparent, tripartite probe asked of Cavite EPZA factory fire

With the massive factory fire at Cavite EPZA finally put out, the group Partido Manggagawa (PM) asked for a transparent probe and the participation of labor organizations as part of the tripartite system.

“Given the conflicting reports from government officials on the number of workers missing after the fire, it is imperative to conduct an investigation that is open and inclusive. It is also necessary to verify numerous eyewitness accounts of workers trapped inside the burning factory,” stated Dennis Sequena, PM-Cavite coordinator.

He noted the fact that yesterday Cavite Governor Crispin Remulla said six workers of House Technology Industries (HTI) were unaccounted for while Philippine Export Zone Authority (PEZA) Director General Charito Plaza mentioned only one.

PM members trooped to the Cavite EPZA last Thursday morning to call for immediate aid to HTI workers and justice for the victims. The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) later announced financial assistance for HTI workers.

“We call on DOLE and PEZA to form a Task Force Cavite EPZA that includes workers groups. The Task Force Valenzuela convened in the wake of the Kentex industrial tragedy is a good template to follow,” Sequena elaborated.

After the Kentex fire that killed 72 factory workers, the DOLE formed the Task Force Valenzuela to conduct unannounced inspections to ensure compliance with labor, occupational safety and other standards.

Sequena also took to task PEZA head Plaza for pre-empting the probe by announcing that she does not expect any fatality to be uncovered. He argued that “The PEZA head must be more circumspect in her statements given that it is her agency that has jurisdiction over economic zones. What happens if the police and fire personnel uncover facts contrary to Plaza’s declaration?”

PM is also asking for clarification on the compliance certification issued to HTI. “Is HTI’s compliance based on an inspection by DOLE or based on self-assessment by the company? If it was self-assessment, were workers involved and were they handpicked by management given that HTI is not unionized? Regulations allow self-assessment if the establishment has more than 200 workers. Self-assessment however means that the DOLE is allowing the wolf to guard the sheep and thus we should not be surprised that the sheep gets slaughtered,” insisted Sequena.

He averred that despite HTI’s compliance certification, there are apparent occupational health and safety issues since there was a previous fire at HTI in 2012. A 10-hour fire started at the boiler department of the HTI factory in October 19, 2012 and lasted up to early the next day.

February 4, 2017