Workers of Express Coat Enterprises Inc., a Quezon City-based manufacturer of laminated posters and notebook covers, staged a strike on Wednesday, March 19, on grounds of unfair labor practice after management dismissed 24 workers, including 2 union officers, at the height of collective bargaining negotiations.

The temporary dismissal of the 24 workers, 21 of which are union members, took effect on March 1. Management explained that the retrenchment was due to the shutdown of one of its factory plants following an order made by the local government of Quezon City. The company reportedly violated a city ordinance prohibiting the operations of a factory in a residential area.

Judy Alonzo, the local union president, however feels suspicious about the real motive behind the shutdown and consequent dismissal of workers as it was done while  CBA negotiations was going on between the union and management.

Since its inception in 2008, the union has been denied CBA negotiations as the company questioned the former’s legal status before the court. In 2013, the Court of Appeals finally decided in favor of the union and upheld the latter’s legal status and right to negotiate with the management.

CTUHR expressed support to the workers of Express Coat and urged the company to bring workers immediately back to work and recognize the workers’ right to bargain.

The group also echoed the local union’s opinion that the timing of the retrenchment casts doubts on the actual intent of the company for indefinitely dismissing union members and officers.

“Workers employed by Express Coat Enterprises Inc, reportedly have been working on rotation for three separate companies owned by Mr. Jerry Lee. Thus, even if one of the factory plants have been shutdown, the dismissal remains suspect of malicious motives,” Arman Hernando, CTUHR Documentation Coordinator said.

Hernando explained that retrenchment during CBA negotiations is a common tactic by management to undermine the union’s bargaining power if not totally bust unions. In 2013, CTUHR documented four cases of union busting that occurred while there were ongoing negotiations. ###