Police violence against Manila Hotel workers

Submitted by petermurphy, Labour News Network, 17 February 2000

Feb 10–15

FEB 17 KMU, the national democratic alliance BAYAN, and the Manila Hotel Employees Association will lead a big indignation rally from 1.00 PM on February 17, to continue exposing the vicious labor dispute taking place at the Manila Hotel. They are calling for international support.

Workers at the prestige Manila Hotel launched a strike and picket over their Collective Bargaining Agreement and dismissal of union officers and union members on Thursday February 10, 2000.

Management retaliated brutally on February 12 and 14 with 150 police from the SWAT, the Western Police District and Central Police District assaulting the picket. On the 12th, the police struck 30 minutes after the 24-hour Return to Work Order imposed by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) lapsed. Scores of workers under the Manila Hotel Employees Association (MHEA) were hurt, and 12 strikers including union president Ferdinand Barles were arrested and charged with direct assault, and were held pending bail of P12,000 (A$480—two month's pay) each.

KMU reacted to this repression of a legal strike and picket by calling an indignation rally of the hotel workers union federation, GLOWHRAIN, other KMU federations and members of the national democratic alliance BAYAN on Monday February 14. KMU Chairperson Crispin Beltran, and BAYAN Secretary-General Teddy Casino were mauled and manhandled by police as they helped lead the indignation rally in front of the Manila Hotel. Beltran, CasiƱo, Peter Banatan of MHEA-GLOWHRAIN-KMU, and Arnulfo Seminiano of the San Miguel Corp Union (IBM-KMU) were arrested and detained. Scores of workers and sympathizers were also hurt during the melee—head wounds and arm bruises being the most prevalent as strikers of the Manila Hotel Employees Association (MHEA) and their supporters were hit with rubber-wrapped iron truncheons and thick wooden nightsticks. Beltran said that the Joseph Estrada administration should be held directly accountable for every bruise, cut, head wound and broken bone sustained by MHEA members and their strike supporters.

Instead of putting his foot down against Emilio Yap and Gen. Arnulfo Acedera for their infamous attacks against the strikers, Estrada maintains a silence that condones the violence. The skirmish that exploded yesterday was a direct result of his indifference to the plight of the workers, and his support for his good buddy Emilio Yap, Beltran said. Estrada has the power and the right to dismiss the Assumption of Jurisdiction order (AJ) laid down by the Labor Department against MHEA, and in the process help in the effort to resolve the strike and get the CBA negotiations underway; but he did nothing.

Beltran also condemned the hotel management's stubborn refusal to negotiate with the union. The workers only want to negotiate a CBA, it's a simple economic issue; but because of the management's viciousness, the fight has gained political color and it's now a national fight and we are holding Estrada among those directly accountable, he said.

Meanwhile KMU Secretary-General Elmer Labog said that KMU is also considering filing charges against the chiefs of the Philippine National Police (PNP), the Southern Police District (SPD) the Manila Hotel management and other instigators of the violence yesterday. Some KMU-affiliated unions in other five-star hotels have also declared that they will launch sympathy strikes if the dispute in the Manila Hotel remains unresolved.

Labog, also the national president of the Genuine Labor Organization of Hotels, Restaurants, and Allied Industries (GLOWHRAIN), said that the Manila Hotel strike is a tremendous inspiration to hotel workers. The KMU national leadership is determined to intensify its demonstrations and worker-led actions—primarily the strikes - because it is clear that there is no other way for workers to be heard but through these militant actions. Negotiations for the Manila Hotel CBA with the management, headed by General Arnulfo Acedera (former AFP chief of staff) and Emilio Yap, have been dragging for more than four months, and there have been no positive developments.

There are 820 union members at the Manila Hotel. Twenty-four regular employees have been terminated on shallow charges and not replaced. Two union officers were arbitrarily terminated on the mere suspicion of writing an anonymous grievance letter. Management asked for a moratorium on the CBA renewal negotiations. Management also filed a libel case against union president Ferdie Barles and three other union officers. The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) helped the management by handing down an Assumption of Jurisdiction order (AJ) on the day that CBA negotiations failed, November 24, 1999.

The union CBA demand is a salary increase of P2,000 (A$80) for the year 2000; and another P2,500 (A$100) for the following year, and year-end and mid-year bonuses of 1.75% of the basic salary for this year; and 2% of that expected in the year 2001. Management claims the hotel is incurring losses, but in the first week of February 95% of all the hotel rooms were occupied.

The union alleges that Emilio Yap and his coterie of congressmen and generals the like of Gen. Arnulfo Acedera, Gen. Edgar de la Torre, and Congressman Martin Isidro who run the hotel are virulently anti-union, and anti-worker and aim to bust the union and retrench the workers, keeping the workers on slave wages.

Please send solidarity messages and copies of protest letters to:

Ferdie Barles
Manila Hotel Employees Association (MHEA-GLOWHRAIN-KMU)
c/o KMU National Office 37-A Quinto's Compound,
Tomas Morato Avenue Quezon City, Philippines
Telefax :0011 63 2 725 6781
E-mail : kmuid@csi.com.ph

Protest letters to: