Workers to launch bigger strikes

Submitted by mluciano, Labour News Network, 10 March 2000


To drive home the point that workers will not tolerate the continued abuses of this anti-worker government in collusion with heartless employers and greedy capitalists, workers will launch bigger strikes that will erupt one after the after. KMU promises the Estrada government that there will be more strikes starting this quarter, and they will not only be involving manufacturing companies, but vital industries as well such as communications, banking and finance, transportation and electricity.

This was the statement of Crispin Beltran, chairperson of the militant Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) this morning during a presscon in Quezon City. Beltran said that KMU is gearing up for a big mobilization scheduled this coming March 30. It will be a mass demonstration against the vicious physical and law-sanctioned attacks being levelled against workers and their strikes. Labor laws in the country are as twisted as the general system of government: labor laws work against labor and condone the injustices of employers and capitalists. The law of the land is a law that protects the exploiters and further abuse the already exploited, he said. Beltran said that the scheduled rally will be the first big worker-led action for the year, and will serve as build-up for the even bigger labor mobilization on May 1.

The workers of the following companies are currently on strike : 1. Manila Hotel 2. Pepsi-Cola Muntinlupa and 5 other sales offices 3. Coca-Cola Calamba Plant 4. Engineering Cooperation Corporation of Asia (Echo-Asia) in Sto. Domingo, Bay, Laguna. 5. PVP Bus Liner 6. Electronic Telephone System Industries (ETSI) 7. Cardam's Inc. 8. Kapalaran Bus Co.

The following, meanwhile, have filed notices of strike at the labor offices: 1. Meralco Employees and Workers Association (MEWA) 2. Allied Bank Employees Union (ABEU) 3. PT&Temployees Union 4. Grand Boulevard Employees Beltran said that the attacks against labor have taken a more comprehensive form in the recent years. He said that the restrictions against the right to strike are numerous. The entire legal process on strikes is inherently restrictive. Despite the law's formal recognition of the right to strike, what is actually being implemented is a ban on strikes. The connivance between employers and the government cannot be denied—even before workers launch their strike, they have to submit a notice of strike to the DOLE. This means that the capitalist will be informed of the impending strike. There's an enforced 'cooling-off' period of 30 working days in the case of a bargaining deadlock, and 15 days if the case involves unfair labor practices (ULP). Workers are also obliged to conduct a strike vote, he said.

Beltran also clarified that when workers do succeed in launching their strike, it's easy for capitalists to get their hands on an injunction order from the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) because only two of every three commissioners are required to vote instead of the former 15. Other capitalists meanwhile have the audacity to go directly to the courts and purchase a restraining order.

The labor leader also expressed outrage at what he called 'the labor secretary's meddling' in labor disputes. He accused DOLE secretary Bienvenido Laguesma of intervening in labor disputes and strikes, but mostly to ensure the defense and rescue of capitalists. If Laguesma thinks that the 'national interest' is at risk in a labor dispute—nevermind if the case involves 'only' a small hotdog company, a cheese curls-manufacturer, or bread company—he settles everything in favor of the capitalist laying down an assumption of jurisdiction order (AJ), or he passes it on to the NLRC for compulsory arbitration, he said. Laguesma has a one-track mind, and it works in favor of the capitalists.

In almost all factories, including the small ones, the national interest clause is always cited to stop the strike dead on its tracks. It's ridiculous, and its unjust. There have also been documented strike cases when Laguesma has laid down an AJ order simply because the capitalist and the workers have been unable to come to terms, he added.

Beltran seethed against the commissioners and arbiters of the DOLE and said that most if not all are on the payroll of capitalists. The entire DOLE as a government agency is an instrument of capitalists to oppress workers. The DOLE interprets and mangles the law so that all decisions made will favor capitalists. The slogan 'graft-free NLRC' is nothing but that—a slogan. Behind that there's systemic corruption, buy-outs, and other shady, under-the-table negotiations between the arbiters and the capitalists.

Beltran also denounced what he said was the long, tedious, and long-winding process of deceiving the workers that ends at the Supreme Court. But before all appeals to the NLRC decisions go to the SC, it still has to pass through the Court of Appeals (SC decision September 16, 1998). The already tedious, and consequently expensive process is all the more attenuated, workers are the all the more burdened by the inconvenience of the having to follow and monitor the case. Then, the final blows comes when the SC upholds the decision of the NLRC, he said.

The worst case so far of an enforced AJ was that president Estrada himself laid down in the Philippine Airlines Labor dispute in 1998 which resulted in a 10-year moratorium on the employees' collective bargaining agreement (CBA).

Meanwhile, according to data from the Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR), from January to February 2 this year, some 4,479 workers in have already been victimized by trade union and human rights violations in 25 different incidents.

Finally, Beltran said that workers as one of two most oppressed sectors in society have the most reason to demand the ouster of president Estrada. He said that KMU will work diligently and conscientiously to strengthen the oust Estrada campaign, and it will spearhead industry-wide strikes and transport actions to express the workers' swelling discontent with the rotting system of government and the anti-worker, anti-poor system of law that stifles workers' right to strike and to launch other legitimate actions in defense of their wages, jobs, and job security.