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Violence on striking workers, workplace accidents and other forms of anti-union repression continue in Aquino’s fifth year

13 October 2015   From January to August 2015, the Center for Trade Union and Human Rights documented 103 cases of trade union and human rights violations affecting thousands of workers across the country. Long-term contractualization, dismissals, union-busting and violation of occupational health and safety standards are among the most glaring violations of economic rights. One union leader and an urban poor leader were killed this year, while others were harassed, intimidated, placed under surveillance. The CTUHR also recorded several cases of violence inflicted on workers in the picket line. Table 1: Civil and Political Rights Violations against Workers (Jan - Aug 2015)
Case Title        No. of cases        No. of Victims
Extra-juducial killings              2                2
Physical Assault/Injury (including mauling)              6               75
Threat, Harassment, Intimidation (including surveillance, coercion and other forms)              35              192
Grave Threat              8               27
Arbitrary Arrest/Detention              3               18
Fabrication of Criminal charges due to political belief or labor dispute              2               16
Destruction of property              4
Divestment of Property              4
TOTAL             64
  Table 2: Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Violation against Workers (Jan - Aug 2015)
Violation of the Right to Security of Tenure        No. of Cases       No. of Victims
Illegal Dismissal/Suspension    
   Retrenchment/Closure              7            3357
   Dismissal/suspension due to labor dispute              6             217
Long-Term Contractualization              6            1281
Unsafe Working Condition    
Death due to unsafe working condition              5           101 dead
Violation of Right to receive fair wages and benefits    
Underpayment of minimum wage              3             647
Non-payment/delayed payment of wage              1              30
Violation of the right for statutory benefits, social security and insurance              1             100
Violation of the Right of Collective Bargain    
Non-recognition of Union              1            120
Union Busting              4            870
Harassment of Unionist inside the workplace               
Interference of union affairs              1            250
Anti-Union Discrimination              4              41
TOTAL             39  
  Workplaces deaths and accidents CTUHR documented 5 cases of workplace accidents resulting in 101 deaths. This makes 2015 the year with the highest number of recorded workplace deaths in the Philippines. In these 5 cases of workplaces accidents, two cases happened in workplaces in the construction industry, another 2 from mining and one in manufacturing. In January 19, twelve workers died, including a minor worker and a pregnant woman. Five others were injured when the wall of the construction of a warehouse collapsed in Guiguinto, Bulacan. The contractor of the said construction site is Hoclim Co Construction Corporation owned by Number One Golden Dragon Realty Corporation. Few weeks after the Guiguinto construction tragedy, another construction accident occurred in Bonifacio Global City (BGC), when a portion of construction of the “The Suite” suddenly collapsed and the falling debris killed 2 construction workers and injured another 11. “The Suite” tower is a project of Ayala Land and the principal contractor of the project is the Makati Development Corporation.

Justice for Kentex Workers (Photo by Tudla Productions)

Nine workers died in the coal mining operation of Semirara Mining and Power Corporation (SMPC) in Semirara Island, Antique last July 17. SMPC is a subsidiary of DMCI Holdings Incorported. Another 4 miners died due to gas poisoning in two mining tunnels in Itogon, Benguet last August 25. The mining operations belonged to Baguio Gold. In Valenzuela City, 74 workers dead in the worst industrial fire in Kentex Manufacturing Company, producer of slippers (flip-flops), last May 13. Based on the fact finding mission conducted by CTUHR, Institute for Occupational health and Safety Development (IOHSAD), Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research (EILER), and other labor and solidarity groups, many violation on health and safety and labor standards were seen like: absence of proper fire exits, storage of flammable materials and lack of fire drill which resulted in the mass murder of workers. Strikes, contractualization and other attacks against workers’ rights Based on the government data, in the current total labor force of 41,800,000, only 1,915,133 (private and public sectors) or 4.7% are union members, and only 14.7% of the private union sectors are covered by the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). Despite the very low percentage of union membership, thousands of workers remain experiencing anti-union attacks and collective bargaining. One out of three workers are considered contractual and 48 percent of the establishment in the Philippines are hiring contractual from the agencies. These violations affecting thousands of workers are: 13 cases of illegal dismissal (including retrenchment, closure, work suspension and dismissals due to labor dispute) affecting 3574 workers, union-busting (4), long-term contractualization (6) among many others. Two hundred workers of GMA-7 Regional stations were retrenched due to “strategic streamlining” according to GMA Chairman and CEO Felipe Gozon, despite the networks income of P11.94 Billion in 2014. Also in GMA Network, the management dismissed 11 “talents” a few days after the Department of Labor and Employment made a favorable decision to the petition of 107 “talents” that they be recognized as regular employees of the GMA-7. Last January 2015, the management of Philip Morris Fortune Tobacco Corporation (PMFTC) also retrenched 640 employees due to “declining of market share” even as the said company controls 70 percent of the country’s cigarette market. There are also several cases of dismissals and suspension due to labor dispute. For example, in the case of Mabuhay Taxi Group in Davao City, 100 cab drivers were terminated without prior notice. According to the cab drivers, they were only requesting the management to reduce the rental fee of the cab from P1,125 to P1,025 but the management responded by terminating the cab drivers. In Sagara Metro Plastic Industrial Corporation (SMPIC) in Cabuyao Laguna, the management suspended 15 contractual workers on grounds of refusing to work overtime. But according to Liga ng Manggagawa para sa Regular na Hanapbuhay (LIGA), an organization of contractual workers in Region IV-A, it is only a form of harassment meant to cripple their ongoing struggle for regularization in SMPIC. Contractual workers formed an association called Samahan ng Manggagawa para sa Regular na Hanapbuhay (SAPAREHA) and last June, they filed a petition for inspection for Labor Only Contracting (LOC). Thousands of workers also suffered from work suspension due to government position and policies. In Philippine National Railways (PNR), 300 contractual workers were suffered in suspension of operation due to train accident. In DMCI Torre de Manila, 2,000 construction workers were suspended indefinitely from work. The work suspension of Torre de Manila is due to Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) issued by the Supreme Court in favor of the petitioner Knight of Rizal to stop the construction of the said building. CTUHR also monitored 4 strikes and 8 cases of violent dispersal of workers’ picket line. In Compostella Valley, workers of Sumifru (Sumitomo Fruits Corporation) under Nagkahiusang Namumuo sa Suyapa Farm (United Workers of Suyapa Farm or NAMASUFA) staged a strike after the management of Sumifru closed the Packing plant (PP) 90, and terminated 147 workers due to rent dispute between the landowner and the Sumifru management. But according to NAMASUFA President Vicente Barrios, the managements’ move is part of union busting. After the 9 days of strike, the company was forced to give in to workers and the workers were reinstated in their position. The workers of Nakayama Technology Corporation in Digos, Davao del Sur, a Japanese company which manufactures wall panels, roofing systems and other building and housing materials for export, launched as strike last August 2015 due to contractualization as 122 workers who refused to sign new contract placing them under the agency were sacked by the management. The strike was launched by Nakayama Organization of Workers- Southern Philippines Federation of Labor in support for the contractual employees who refuse to sign contracts.
Dispersal of Tanduay workers picketline (Photo from Pinoyweekly.org)

Dispersal of Tanduay workers picketline (Photo from Pinoyweekly.org)

Violent dispersal, trumped-up cases were also inflicted on striking workers resulting in detention, injuries, destruction and divestment of properties. Last July 15, 2015, the picket line of workers of Golden Fortune Techno-built Inc in Binondo Manila was suddenly attacked and demolished by several men led by a certain Fernando Logo and Jaime Depedro who introduced themselves as employees from Manila City Hall. These goons poked their guns and deadly weapons and stole some important things, including P3,000 from the collection box of the workers. This harassment on workers was repeated last September 6. In the case of Silver Star Bus Line, the strike of drivers, conductors and maintenance of Silver Star Shuttle and Tours Drivers, Conductors, Workers Union (SSSTDCWU) were disturbed by the Philippine National Police Region 8, when 16 strikers were illegally arrested and detained due to trumped-up charge of car-napping last May 13 and May 24 in Tacloban City and Sta Margarita, Samar. The case was dismissed and 16 strikers were freed after a month of struggle due to lack of probable cause. They are now reunited with their fellow strikers in San Pedro, Laguna. In Tanduay Distillers Inc. in Cabuyao, Laguna. Contractual workers led by Tanggulan, Ugnayan, Daluyang Lakas ng Anakpawis ng Tanduay (TUDLA) staged a strike last May 18 for regularization. From the onset of the strike up to this date, Tanduay workers experienced 6 incidents of violent dispersals, including the midnight dispersal last August 2. Over-all 72 individuals were injured in all incidents of violent dispersals. 397 workers or 90% of total workforce in Tanduay are contractuals and under the agencies HD Manpower Cooperative and Global Pro Manpower Cooperative. These agencies have been proven practicing “labor only contracting” based on the latest decision of the labor court. Tanduay is owned by 4nd richest Filipino business tycoon, Lucio Tan. 2 killed, scores of unionists under attack As the government pursued its counter insurgency program “Oplan Bayanihan”, the climate of impunity remains. One union leader and an urban poor leader were killed this year. Last March 8, Florencio “Bong” Romano found dead in in Soro-soro Village in Batangas City. In May 22, Benilda Santos was shot dead by a village security. Romano is a longtime labor leader and provincial coordinator of National Coalition for the Protection of the Workers’ Rights in Southern Tagalog (NCPWR-ST), while Santos is known leader of Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap in Brgy. Commonwealth, Quezon City. Threat, harassment and intimidation against leaders of public sector unions and staff of national offices of trade union centers heightened. Unionists and labor activists have been placed under surveillance by suspected intelligence agents of the military. In the latest report, 26 members and leaders of Confederation of Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employee (COURAGE) experienced various forms of harassment and put under surveillance. At least five other staff members of Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) also experienced similar forms harassment. They are being tagged as communists and some experienced threats that they need to submit themselves “before it’s too late.” The Aquino administration’s shining record of TUHR violations even as it is already at the dusk of its term only demonstrate that the administration’s notion of industrial peace is contrary to the workers demand for just, decent, and free working conditions.###