The Center for Trade Union and Human Rights condemned the successive arrests of Pentagon workers and their supporters who are protesting a lock-out exercised by the management of Pentagon Steel Corporation against more than one hundred workers of the said company.

On June 24, Camilo Cuares, Deputy Secretary of the Alliance of Nationalist and Genuine Labor Organizations-Kilusang Mayo Uno (ANGLO-KMU) and a supporter of the Pentagon workers, was arrested by members of the Quezon City police as the picketing workers tried to block scabs from entering the company premises. Cuares was then charged with slight physical injury and grave coercion.

Four other workers, Ricardo De Vera, Melwin Noval, Joe Fontiveros, and Alfredo Bautista, have been previously arrested on two separate occasions last week, June 19 and 20, while the picketing workers have also been trying to prevent scabs from getting inside the steel factory. De Vera, Noval and Fontiveros, were arrested on the 19th and were consequently charged with “grave coercion” and “resistance and disobedience to a lawful order of the police authority”. Charges were dismissed “for further investigation” on June 20 following a quick response team (QRT) dispatched by CTUHR and other labor groups. Bautista was arrested on June 20, but was immediately freed together with the three others.

Arman Hernando, CTUHR coordinator for documentation, condemned the series of arrests saying that such acts “utterly violate the workers right to protest” and called on the police to drop the charges filed against Cuares. “Charges against Cuares must be dropped because these are without basis and are obviously meant to harass workers and unionists who are supporting the fight of the Pentagon workers,” Hernando said.

In an earlier statement, the group already expressed concern over the apparent “collusion” of the Pentagon management and the police as the latter acted as though they were the company’s private security. (See related story)

Lock-outs amidst union disputes

Hernando further explained that the case of Pentagon is not the first illegal lock-out case they have documented in the past year. According to Hernando, CTUHR has documented three cases of illegal lock out which were committed against organized and unionized workers who are in a brewing strike or an ongoing conflict with the management. These cases included workers of Philsteel in Cabuyao, Laguna, Bluestar Manufacturing and Marketing Corporation in Muntinlupa and Pentagon Steel Corporation in Quezon City.

“There seems to be a trend wherein companies are just suddenly dismissing their workers, particularly unionized workers, while there is an ongoing collective bargaining or a labor dispute. Unfortunately, in such cases, the workers are always at the losing end especially when the labor court decides to issue an injunction order and the workers are unable to invoke their right to strike precisely because the strike has been preempted by the lock-out. As a result, the union is undermined and the workers are left jobless.” Hernando said.

“We strongly condemn this sly tactic of the capitalists against workers and we are calling on the Department of Labor and Employment to act on these cases for the benefit of the workers and their unions.” Hernando added. ###