(photo courtesy of LMNH-OLALIA-KMU)

Labor rights group, Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR) slams the aggressive use of violence by police forces, against protesting workers and strikes over series of illegal job dismissals, non-compliance to labor department orders and discriminatory retrenchments.

On Tuesday, July 3, the workers of an American-owned corporation, Middleby Philippines who are on a sit- down strike inside its factory in Laguna Technopark were violently dispersed by combined elements of PNP- Binan, Laguna and Zone security guards. Laguna Technopark, a private special economic zone is under the administration of Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA). Seven (7) workers were arrested, while thirteen (13) more were injured. The workers were eventually released in the evening of the same day, after Middleby agreed not to file cases against them.

One hundred thirty one (131) Middleby workers went on a sit-down strike last May 10, when the management threatened to terminate them, defying the Department of Labor and Employment’s (DOLE) order to regularize for the company to regularize them. Since May, the striking workers experienced different forms of intimidation and harassment from the company security guards, the local and zone police. PEZA authorities and the local PNP imposed food blockade, shut off electricity, threatened to disperse them with tear gas and arrested striking workers in an attempt to paralyze the strike and resume business operations.

“It is already too much that this government failed miserably in fulfilling its promise to end contractualization. Its attempt to fool the workers with its ‘new’ Department Order (DO 174) and Executive Order (E0 51) is like pouring salt to the wound. It is now more evident, as capitalists are using these ‘new’ policies to terminate workers en masse, instead of regularizing them. It is appalling how this government completely betrayed the workers and is now using and condoning violence through the PNP and other state elements to pacify the growing disgust of workers against its policies,” said Daisy Arago, Executive Director of CTUHR.

Middleby Philippines, which is under the U.S.-based Middleby Corporations, supplies oven conveyors, fryers, and fry tanks to top fast food chains in the Philippines and abroad. The company employs more than 300 workers but only 82 have regular status. Contractuals earn a measly wage of P378/day and they often experience “forced overtime.”

Last April, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) in Region IV-A ordered the regularization of Middleby’s contractual workers under two (2) manpower agencies, but Middleby shamelessly refused to abide by the order.

Arago noted how the DOLE is being inutile and helpless in the midst of widespread labor rights violations and trade union repression, “It has becoming a trend that DOLE releases orders to regularize workers but companies and employers ignore and blatantly resist to implement them. Worse is that the department remains silent when companies respond with mass layoff and use of violence. If such government agency cannot execute its orders, where else can the workers go? Definitely, not the President who has already failed the workers in many fronts!”

The case of NutriAsia in Marilao, Bulacan is similar. DOLE released a compliance order to regularize over 900 workers and when the workers fought for what they deserved, they were illegally dismissed. They launched a legitimate strike and gained mass support. The management in connivance with PNP and the regular court employed violence to break the strike, arrested some workers again in an attempt to resume operations in the factory.

“DOLE and Malacanang’s silence and inaction amidst widespread job dismissals, violence against protesting workers, shrinking workers meager income and livelihood as well as commodity price hikes resulting from TRAIN law’ are clear manifestations of how this government chooses to serve big businesses and capitalists over the toiling workers and masses,” Arago ended. ###