Population: 85 200 000
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 - 87 - 98 - 100 - 105 - 111 - 138 - 182
At least 33 unionists were killed in an orgy of extrajudicial violence. The prevailing atmosphere of impunity further undermined any meaningful enforcement of the labour law, with many other trade unionists facing intimidation, abduction and even torture.
Trade union rights in law
The law recognises the right of Filipino workers to form and join trade unions. Public servants, with the exception of the military and police, are also allowed to exercise trade union rights.
Obstacles to trade union activity: A union must represent at least 20 per cent of the workers of a given collective bargaining entity in order to register. The law also requires unions to provide various documents for registration. This is deemed by unions as unnecessary and tedious, forcing them to risk exposing leaders to employer retaliation at a critical stage in a union’s formation. In 2003, unions succeeded in removing these restrictions, but in 2004 they were restored by the government in the implementing rules and regulations of the Labour Code. Unions have repeatedly appealed to the authorities for the immediate withdrawal or cancellation of these provisions.
Before a federation or national centre can be created, at least ten collective bargaining agreements must have been registered by its member unions. Trade union leaders must be employed in the same enterprise as the workers they represent. Foreign nationals may not establish or join a trade union unless there is a reciprocal agreement between their respective countries and the government of the Philippines.
Cumbersome delays in registration of new unions and collective bargaining agreements to be eliminated: In September 2005, the Department of Labour and Employment (DOLE) amended the existing implementing rules of the Philippine Labour Code. It shortened the period to one day for government action on a range of requirements: registering a collective bargaining agreement; processing an application for union registration; or handling an application from an existing union for change of the name of the union, affiliation, or merger and consolidation.
Right to strike: The right to strike is recognised under Philippine law. In order to obtain permission to strike, a trade union is required to give advance notice, respect mandatory cooling off periods, and obtain the agreement of a majority (50 per cent plus one vote) of its members. All avenues of conciliation must have been exhausted. If the Minister of Labour and Employment considers that the industry concerned by the strike is "indispensable to the national interest", he or she can impose compulsory arbitration and compel the workers to return to their jobs. The Labour Secretary also has the power to deputise the police and the military to enforce a return-to-work order under the Assumption of Jurisdiction Order.
Potentially heavy penalties for striking: The law prescribes heavy penalties for participation in an illegal strike. Trade union leaders are liable to prison terms of up to three years. Anyone who organises or directs any "meeting for the purpose of spreading propaganda against the government" is liable to life imprisonment or the death penalty. The term "meeting" covers picketing during a strike.
Abandoning labour inspection in favour of voluntary compliance: An order, promulgated in 2004 (the Labour Standards Enforcement Framework), essentially abandons the principle of government labour inspection for workplaces with more than 200 workers. Instead of a formal labour inspection, the order requires self-regulation of labour standards among large companies (to be undertaken at least once a year by an employer-worker committee of uncertain provenance, according to a government-issued checklist), and in companies where there is a union that has registered a CBA. Following the inspection, the completed checklist must be mailed back to the Department of Labour and Employment (DOLE) for evaluation by officials in the regional DOLE office. Spot-checks of factories can be authorised, but are not required. For workplaces with 10-199 workers, normal inspections will continue. The order provides that advisory services be made available for workplaces with less than ten workers and those registered as village-level micro-business enterprises, or BMBEs. Unions have insisted that sampling-based inspection of large companies must be undertaken to mitigate violations of core labour standards, since large companies are as guilty of violations as smaller ones.
Public sector workers: Despite the presence of a number of public sector unions, organising is still restricted in the public sector and strikes are banned. Public sector workers also have limited bargaining rights. The government’s Rationalisation Programme, purportedly designed to streamline redundant offices and posts and realign personnel, poses a further challenge to public sector workers.
Contract workers prohibited from joining unions: Under law, workers classified as ‘contract’ workers are not allowed to become members of a union. The law sets out a number of clear conditions limiting use of contract workers - including limits on time allowed in contract worker status and not allowing such workers to perform the functions of regular employees – but those conditions are commonly ignored by employers.
Trade union rights in practice
Administrative and legal obstruction by employers: Employers can and often do appeal against unions’ right to registration. This seriously hampers organising efforts as the appeal process can be very lengthy.
It remains common practice for employers to file administrative and criminal charges against union leaders and activists. This involves, for example, filing charges of theft of company assets and products; forgery of union registration documents; fraudulent union documents; and libel cases for making labour claims against the company. Among the tactics seen frequently during the year to frustrate the formation of unions were: physical isolation of union officers and activists; physical prevention of union certification elections, despite lawful orders and the presence of officials from the DOLE; and instant court-issued temporary restraining orders (TROs) alleging damage to the enterprise if workers are allowed to voice their choice. Employers, taking advantage of the Labour Code provision that worker-owners of cooperatives are prohibited from forming or joining unions, heavily promoted labour-management councils and bogus workers’ cooperatives as alternatives to unions. Employers also resorted to using internal company e-mail and communication systems, flyers and t-shirts to urge workers not to support the union.
Intervention by the higher courts (Supreme Court and Court of Appeals) on labour cases (e.g. issuance of TROs against certification election; election of officers and other labour cases), were additional obstacles used to block workers in the exercise of freedom of association and resolution of disputes.
Undermining the right to strike: Both employers and the government take advantage of the restrictions in the law in order to obstruct the right to strike. The requirement to give advance notice to the Ministry of Labour gives employers ample opportunity to divide workers and, in most cases, to organise reprisals against them. If the workers still go ahead with the strike call, the employers can request that the National Commission on Labour Relations issue an injunction against the strike. Instead of playing an impartial role, the government tends to interfere in labour disputes to the benefit of the employers.
The Labour Secretary has assumed jurisdiction on a number of cases clearly outside the "industry indispensable to national interest" criterion. This does not comply with the ILO definition which restricts intervention to "essential and indispensable to national interest".
Export processing zones (EPZs): The zones are known for low wages, punishing working hours, breakneck production rates and strong repression. Overtime is the norm, and the factory gates are often locked to prevent workers leaving before their tasks are finished or their quotas filled.
Trade union activity is strongly discouraged in the EPZs. The officials who govern the zones try to block organising by maintaining a "union free, strike free" policy. They claim to have the right to carry out their own labour inspections. There have been many cases where workers who form or join a union, or take union action, have been dismissed. Employers have refused to recognise unions, refused to negotiate, or have set up their own "sweetheart" unions. The DOLE has proved unable or unwilling to enforce labour legislation in the EPZs.
There were a number of cases in 2004-2006 where companies closed as soon as unions were organised, or when unions formally proposed collective bargaining demands to the company. The closures were clearly an attempt to thwart union organisation and collective bargaining, because in many cases, the same company would then reopen under a new name, but with the same owner/s.
Unemployment and sub-contracting: High unemployment rate and the widespread use of contract labour are both obstacles to union organising. Although the government has promised to create ten million more jobs, so far most new jobs have been low paid, contractual, part-time or temporary work. Under-employment is a serious problem, and in past years, has averaged almost three times the unemployment rate. This gives a clear indication of the low wages being paid, and the low quality of jobs that are being created.
The government’s goals and policies on employment matters, as defined under the country’s medium term development plan (MTDP), recognise flexible work arrangements (sub-contracting, flexi-work, flexi-wages) as a central strategy, resulting in significant outsourcing of production by businesses. This has a negative impact on unions’ ability to effectively bargain good contracts.
Violations in 2006
Background: The Government of the Philippines significantly expanded its efforts to crush the outlawed Communist Party of the Philippines (CCP) and its armed wing the New People’s Army. Facing popular protests against her rule and citing a conspiracy to overthrow the government, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo declared a temporary state of national emergency on 24 February, leading to widespread arrests of labour leaders and other opponents of her regime. While the state of emergency was lifted on 3 March, a clear atmosphere of impunity for those committing violent acts against labour leaders prevailed throughout the year.
Extrajudicial violence and killings – Philippines as the new "Colombia of Asia": The Centre for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR) reported through its field investigations that 33 union leaders, union and party list organisers and supporters were killed during 2006. Furthermore, CTUHR documented 130 incidents (affecting a total of 220 individuals) of trade union and human rights violations during the year. According to the Centre, almost all victims of extrajudicial violence reported they were subject to prior surveillance and monitoring by unknown individuals who they believed were connected with the authorities and/or employers.
Almost all the attacks involved shootings by motorcycle riders wearing helmets, ski masks, or other face coverings to frustrate identification of the perpetrators. In several prominent cases, such as the attempted assassination of Gerardo Cristobal (former union president of Yazaki-EMI) and the harassment monitoring of the Pro-Labor Legal Assistance Center (PLACE), representatives of government security forces were unmasked as the culprits. These cases serve to buttress the widely held belief that it is members of the Philippines National Police (PNP), the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), and their auxiliary militias, which are primarily responsible for the attacks on trade unionists.
During the year, senior government officials and AFP officers publicly identified trade union leaders and civil society representatives from legal progressive movements as "communists" and "enemies of the state" as a means of justifying the violence perpetrated against them. Reflecting a view that is widely shared by international trade unionists, human rights advocates, and representatives of the UN, Amnesty International observed that "…the killings…constitute a pattern of politically targeted extrajudicial executions taking place within the broader context of a continuing counter-insurgency campaign."
Facing widespread national and international pressure, President Arroyo set up Task Force Usig to investigate the killings. However, counter-insurgency strategies continued unabated and little was done to denounce or take action against suspected involvement of police and army officials in the continuing extrajudicial killings and violence. At the end of 2006, not a single person had been convicted of any of the extrajudicial killings of hundreds of persons, including dozens of trade union leaders and activists, since 2001. In an effort to try and deflect continued international pressure, President Arroyo appointed a commission in August to investigate the killings and make recommendations. Chaired by Supreme Court Associate Justice Jose Melo, the commission found evidence to suggest that "elements in the military" were involved in a number of the killings.
Shooting and killing trade union leaders in Cavite: On 28 April, Gerardo Cristobal, the union president of Yazaki-EMI, was parked in his car in Anabu village waiting for a companion when three men in a passing vehicle opened fire on him, seriously wounding him in the stomach, hip and hand. Cristobal, who had a legally registered firearm with him, returned fire, injuring his attackers as they fled. One of the injured attackers was subsequently identified as Senior Police Officer Romeo Lara, the chief of the intelligence division of the Imus, Cavite police force. After the fact, senior PNP commanders in Cavite accused Cristobal of initiating the ambush. Without undertaking a thorough and impartial investigation that examined Cristobal’s claim of self-defence, the PNP proceeded to file fabricated charges of attempted murder against him. Christobal was a vocal chief opponent of Cavite Governor Ireneo Malikisi’s policy to actively discourage union organising and strikes in order to promote labour peace and facilitate foreign investment.
In the early morning of December 11, 2006, Jesus Buth Servida, the union president of Yazaki-EMI and a leading member of the coalition of trade unions known as the Solidarity of Cavite Workers (SCW) was shot and killed as he and two worker colleagues were waiting in a truck outside the Yazaki-EMI factory. The killer approached the truck in broad daylight, fired on Servida and his colleagues with a handgun, and then fled unimpeded. Joel Sale, a union activist and worker accompanying Servida, was grievously injured with three gunshot wounds to face, back and torso, while another worker, Kenny Mari Severo, was shot in the head. Both miraculously managed to survive. Servida, who was fighting a management termination order, had taken over the union president job after the shooting of Gerardo Cristobal. The PNP investigation of the killing of Servida exemplified some of the key problems regularly found in police investigations of the extrajudicial killings. The PNP did not interview Servida’s wife, his union colleagues, or other key witnesses, and failed to maintain the integrity of the crime scene – resulting in evidence either being ruined or not being collected.
Attacking the church – the killing of Bishop Alberto Ramento: A prominent supporter of workers rights in the Cavite EPZ and Hacienda Luisita, Bishop Alberto Ramento of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) and Chair of the National Council of Churches of the Philippines (NCCP) played an important role in bringing attention and pressure to the cases of workers harassed, attacked and killed for exercising their labour rights. In addition to his prominent position in the church, Bishop Ramento served as the Chairman of the Board of the Workers’ Assistance Center (WAC), a labour rights NGO providing support for union organising in Cavite.
Following a call by the IFI Supreme Council of Bishops for President Arroyo to resign because of her failure to control the wave of extrajudicial killings, Bishop Ramento received renewed death threats for his activism.
In the early morning of 3 October, unidentified intruders broke into Bishop Ramento’s convent in Tarlac and fatally stabbed him seven times. His body was discovered on the second floor of his residence. Ramento’s family reported that the Bishop had told them that "I know they are going to kill me next. But never will I abandon my duty."
However, the PNP decided within hours that the killing was simply a blundered robbery and investigated on that basis. Several days later, the PNP arrested four suspects (all with prior criminal records) in Tarlac and pronounced the case "solved."
Based on its investigation, the IFI denounced the PNP investigation as "haphazard" and concluded "Bishop Ramento was killed while sound asleep by someone who intended not just to rob the convent but precisely to kill him." Despite national and international calls for a truly professional and impartial investigation, no new investigation of the crime had been initiated by the authorities by year’s end.
Another union leader killed at Hacienda Luisita: On 17 March 2006, Tirso Cruz, a member of the executive board of the United Luisita Workers’ Union (ULWU), was shot nine times in the back by two helmeted men riding on a motorcycle. According to Cruz’s father, who was walking with Cruz, the attack occurred approximately 100 meters from a military encampment but no soldiers intervened as the culprits made their get away. Union colleagues reported that Cruz had been consistently receiving death threats since November 2004 when he became involved in the leadership of the strike at Hacienda Luisita (see Survey 2006). Ernesto Cruz, the victim’s brother, stated that soldiers had previously visited Tirso Cruz at home to intimidate him, and pressure him to say that he was a surrendered NPA guerrilla, but Tirso Cruz denied their accusations. At the time of his death, Cruz was a leading member of a ULWU campaign to press for de-militarisation of ten villages in the Hacienda Luisita through withdrawal of soldiers stationed in those villages.
Meanwhile, little appreciable progress was made during the year to bring to justice the killers of Ricardo Ramos, the president of Central Azucarera de Tarlac Labour Union (CATLU) which represents Hacienda Lusita sugar workers, who was shot dead in October 2005.
Abduction and killing of Rogelio Concepcion: After a period of intensive monitoring of his movements, and surveillance of his household by unknown individuals presumed to be connected with the military, Rogelio Concepcion, the union president of the Solid Development Corporation Workers' Association (SDCWA) was abducted by armed men on a motorcycle near his factory on 6 March. Concepcion had played a major role in the union and led the union’s strike against management in May 2005 over the refusal of the employer to recognise and bargain with the union despite a DOLE order stating the SDCWA was the legally designated bargaining representative of workers. Concepcion’s body was later found bearing marks of torture.
Trade union advocates reported that the killing of Concepcion was the culmination of an apparent campaign to systematically destroy the union and its leaders. In November 2005, soldiers entered the factory compound of Solid Development Corporation (a thread making factory located in Ildefonso, Bulacan province) and set up a command post. Soldiers then conducted a census of union members and began a campaign of harassment of union leaders and activists. This campaign prompted the previous union president, Ador Vasalio, to flee from the factory fearing for his life because he allegedly had been targeted by the AFP as an insurgent sympathiser.
Killing of trade unionist Roberto de la Cruz: Roberto de la Cruz, an executive board member of the Workers of Tritran Bus Lines Union (WTU) and the Vice-Chair of Alyansa ng mga Manggagawa ng Bus Company (AMB; Alliance of Bus Workers) was shot nine times by two unidentified men who arrived on a motorcycle and entered his family’s restaurant in Lucena City, Quezon, on the evening of 25 January. De la Cruz was a leading member of the union which was contesting Tritran Bus Lines’ dismissal of approximately 1000 workers in 2004 (most of whom were WTU members). Shortly before his murder, he was accused by the AFP of involvement with the NPA insurgents – and in order to clear his name, had voluntarily gone with police officers to the headquarters of the Intelligence Service of the AFP in Lucena City, and made official statements denying any involvement with the NPA.
Assassination of civil servants trade union leader Paquito Diaz: Paquito "Pax" Diaz, the chairman for Eastern Visayas of the Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (COURAGE), an umbrella organisation of progressive public sector unions, was shot dead by two assailants on a motorcycle in the early evening of 6 July in front of his home in Tacloban City. Before his death, Diaz held the position of municipal agricultural officer, and had reported receiving death threats on his mobile phone. He had a long record of leadership in union struggles of government employees in the region. PNP formed a special task force to investigate the murder, but made little progress as no eye witnesses were either willing or able to identify the assailants, who wore helmets to frustrate identification.
Killing of labour leader Crisanto Teodoro: Crisanto Teodoro, a union organiser for the Association of Democratic Labour Organisations (Kilusan Mayo Uno - KMU) who was closely involved in several transport workers associations in Bulacan, was shot and killed on the evening of 10 March. He was driving a car with his wife by his side when their vehicle was approached by two men on a motorcycle that pulled up to their vehicle and opened fire on them.
Government assault on KMU leadership at national, regional and local levels: On 25 February, 73-year old Crispin Beltran, Chair of the KMU national labour congress and an elected member of Congress from the Anakpawis Party (Party of the Toiling Masses) was arrested without a warrant, and charged with sedition. On 27 February, two senior leaders from the Alliance of Nationalist and Genuine Labour Organisations (ANGLO-KMU) were arrested while leading a protest and negotiation to seek access to Beltran. Dennis Maga, the Secretary-General and Marcial Dabela, Vice-President, were detained for several days before being released. Beltran continued to be held under arrest at a hospital, reflecting his declining health.
The KMU reported that it was identified as an enemy of the state in the power-point presentation "Know the Enemy" being distributed and presented by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to troops in the field as part of the Oplan Bantay Laya national counter-insurgency campaign. AFP confirmed to the Melo Commission that this presentation existed and was regularly used.
Abduction: Detention, interrogation and intimidation, and disappearances of trade union leaders were also reported by the KMU during 2006. For example, on 8 January, the KMU reported that Rafael Tarroza, the Regional Chairman of the National Federation of Labour Unions (NAFLU-KMU) was abducted by masked military men from the 8th Infantry Division and interrogated on his alleged links to the NPA. He and his family were threatened with harm, and he was only released after agreeing to cooperate with authorities.
Surveillance: Romeo Legaspi, the union president of Lakas Manggagawa Nagkakaisa sa Honda (United Workers Strength in Honda) in Southern Tagalog and the current National President of the Organized Labor Association in Line Industries and Agriculture (OLALIA-KMU), faced continual threats during the year, prompting him to stay away from his home, and move constantly between residences to avoid possible retaliation for his trade union activities. On 19 February, his family reported that two armed men on a motorcycle visited his home, asking if Legaspi was in the house. Two days later, on 21 February, an unidentified man entered their home, asking whether the family had broken equipment in their home. The KMU reported that surveillance of the Legaspi home continued throughout the year.
Torture: On 3 July, the KMU reported that seven members of PISTON, the transport union affiliate of the KMU, were abducted in Pampanga, Central Luzon by a group of heavily armed men who were allegedly a joint AFP-PNP task force. Those taken were Central Luzon PISTON leader Emerito Gonzales Lipio and his colleagues Jose Ramos, William Aguilar, Jav Francisco Aquino, Fernando Poblacion, Jose Bernardino and Archie De Jesus. PISTON stated that the seven were tortured and stripped of all their possessions during an interrogation before they were brought to the PNP headquarters in Angeles. Three were later released outright, while the remaining four unionists, including PISTON leader Emerito Lipio were reportedly charged with possession of explosives.
Missing: The KMU reported that Benigno Mateo, the President of the Magnolia Workers Union in San Fernando, Pampanga, in Central Luzon was abducted in the mid-morning of 2 August in front of the Magnolia Poultry Dressing factory. He remains missing at the time of writing.
Military intervention: On 11 and 12 October soldiers stationed in Pampanga detained the President of the KMU-affiliated union at the Coca-Cola factory in Pampanga, interrogated and threatened him with grievous violence, and ordered his union to disaffiliate from the KMU or facing listing as an "enemy" by the AFP. Soon thereafter, similar tactics were reportedly used against union leaders in two divisions of the San Miguel Corporation Brewery in Pampanga.
The KMU also reported systematic military intervention on a number of plantations where agricultural unions operate, including Robina Farms and Console Farms in central Luzon. At Console Farms, anti-government graffiti reportedly prompted military forces to set up a presence on the farm and conduct a census of union members. Soldiers forced union leaders to undergo repeated interrogations, during which they were threatened and intimidated, and told to disaffiliate their unions from the KMU.
In November, the KMU filed a comprehensive complaint with the ILO against the Philippines Government, alleging systemic violations of Conventions 87 and 98.
Campaign of violence and intimidation at banana corporation: The leaders and workers of the union that organised Japanese-owned Sumitomo-Fresh Banana Agriculture Corporation (FBAC)-Sumitomo Packing Plant 90 in Compostela Valley, Davao, faced a gauntlet of company and AFP intimidation and violence that finally resulted in the wounding of the union president and killing of a member of the rank and file. On the early morning of 15 December, unidentified gunmen opened fired on Vicente "Boy" Barrios, the President of the Nagkhahiusang Mamumuo sa Suyapa Farms (NAMASUFA) union as he and his fellow workers traveled in a convoy of motorcycles to work. Barrios and three of his co-workers – Jerson Lastimoso, Aldren Cortez, and Donie Glen Sondon – were grievously wounded in what the human rights organisation Karapatan termed a "frustrated massacre." On 17 December, Jerson Lastimoso died from his wounds, but Barrios and the others later recovered.
Barrios and NAMASUFA members had been subjected to continuous harassment, surveillance, and threats which were extensively documented by the International Labour Solidarity Mission (ILSM). NAMASUFA was active in organising protests by workers against FBAC’s practice of designating farm contractors as the "employer" of the workers – thereby allowing FBAC to shirk its responsibility to pay legally mandated rates of pay and benefits. DOLE investigated and ruled in favour of the union and ordered FBAC to make back payments to the workers, which the company refused to do.
There were a series of attacks and intimidation leading to the final action against Barrios and his colleagues. On 10 June, a masked armed man forcibly broke into the Barrios’ home and threatened Barrios and his family while his armed accomplice stood lookout outside the house. Then Barrios was ordered to report to the 28th AFP Battalion in September where he was interrogated and accused of organising workers for the NPA, a charge which he strongly denied. As workers’ protests against the company’s failure to comply with the DOLE order intensified, officers of the 28th Battalion ordered all workers to attend a meeting in mid-September at the factory – and formally "red-labeled" the union, accusing the NAMASUFA organizing for the NPA.
Anti-union campaign at electronics factory: When workers organised at M.A. Technology, a Filipino-Japanese manufacturer and suppliers of sensors, computer remote controls to Epson and Sharp based in the Cavite EPZ, management posted notices throughout the factory stating that one of the company’s buyers (Sharp) was not in favour of allowing a union at M.A. Technology. Management stated that if the workers supported the union in the 20 January union certification election, the factory would likely lose orders, and would have to shut down. The Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) further reported that management threatened union members that they would be blacklisted from the Cavite EPZ if the company was forced to cease operations because of the union. The company’s anti-union campaign effectively intimidated the workers, and the union lost the certification election. Following the election, the TUCP reported that the company systematically harassed 13 of the workers identified as leaders of the organising effort, and forced their departure from the factory in March.
Army surveillance and intimidation of legal aid organisation: During the year the lawyers and staff of the Manila office of the Pro-Labor Legal Assistance Center (PLACE), a major national legal aid organisation, reported receiving death threats and facing intensifying surveillance by unidentified persons. A number of PLACE personnel went into hiding to ensure their safety.
PLACE handles a number of controversial labour cases, such as those of the Chong Won factory workers, Nestle Philippines, and the unions involved in the Hacienda Luisita strikes. PLACE also represents many of the KMU affiliated unions in their legal cases.
Finally in early October, staff contacted the local PNP office about a man who was observed to be regularly monitoring the office, and on 5 October, the police detained the man. Under police questioning, the man revealed that he was Military Intelligence Pfc. Rommel Felipe Santiago and he was following orders to closely monitor the activities of Attorney Remegio Saladero, a labour lawyer at PLACE. Attorney Saladero was the lead counsel for the family of murdered union leader, Diasdado "Ka Fort" Fortuna (see Survey 2006), and also represented the striking employees of the Nestle Cabuyao Factory. Santiago was subsequently released, and PLACE employees report that local police were powerless to stop the surveillance of the office which was still continuing at the end of the year. PLACE filed a complaint with the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) but this had little effect.
Chong Won Fashion: A litany of violence and abuse against workers: The management at the Chong Won factory (now renamed C. Woo, Inc.), located in the Cavite EPZ, conducted a systematic and vicious anti-union campaign which included violations described by the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC) as "among the most egregious and persistent" it had ever seen. Since the workers voted overwhelmingly in August 2004 to support the union Nagkakaisang Manggagawa sa Chong Won – Independent (NMCW-Ind) as their sole bargaining agent, management has engaged in a campaign of systematic harassment, intimidation, and retaliation against NMCW-Ind leaders and members. The factory management totally ignored the union’s efforts to enter into bargaining with them, and instead filed no less than eight legal appeals, seeking to overturn the August 2004 election and/or challenge the legal status of the union. All the company’s legal appeals have been denied by DOLE officials and the courts. WRC’s investigation concluded the company has "abused the legal system…as a means to evade its obligation to recognise and negotiate with the workers’ chosen representative." Chong Won continued to defy a legally binding order by the DOLE (which was upheld in August 2005 and April 2006 as lawful by the Court of Appeals) to bargain with NMCW-Ind.
On 5 July, the union filed a notice of intent to strike with DOLE, demanding that management recognise the union and bargain, reinstate two fired union officers, and cease all anti-union discrimination. Following the filing of this notice, management started a campaign of retaliation, and over the course of the following weeks placed almost all union members on forced leave, giving their work to newly-hired contract workers. On 19 July DOLE ruled the strike as lawful. On 11 August, a strike vote was taken by the union and was overwhelmingly supported by the members.
When 200 members of the NMCW-Ind formed a peaceful picket in front of the factory on 25 September, which they stated would continue until management sent representatives to bargain, management brought in approximately 500 contract workers as strike breakers. When the union refused to disperse the picket Antonio Felismino, the Production Manager, brought in approximately 20 Philippines Export Zone Authority (PEZA) police officers, and 50 security guards hired by PEZA from the Jantro security company. Despite lacking any authority under law to do so, the PEZA police ordered the picket to disperse, and again the union refused, stating that only DOLE could order a strike illegal and disperse a picket line. The PEZA police then ordered the Jantro security guards to attack the strikers with bamboo clubs and more than 40 workers were injured, including 14 seriously, yet the workers maintained the picket. The next day, the Jantro security guards blockaded both ends of the street leading the factory, preventing union members from reinforcing the picket or providing food and water to the strikers. PEZA also revoked the ‘zone passes’ of the strikers, effectively barring union members from re-entering the Cavite EPZ once they had left. PEZA police arrested eight workers from the Solidarity of Cavite Workers (SCW) labour group for "trespassing" and "incitement to sedition" when they discovered them storing food for the strikers at a nearby warehouse – they were released on 4 October, but the charges were still pending against them as the year ended.
On 27 September, a combined force of PEZA police and Jantro assaulted the striking workers with clubs and injured 22 and escorted strike breakers into the factory – effectively breaking the picket line and the strike. Thirteen union members who maintained a symbolic picket were again assaulted on 19 October by a combined force of Jantro guards, PEZA police, and PNP local police, led by Antonio Felismino, who tore apart the strikers’ camp and confiscated their banners and placards. Security guards from Jantro and the factory regularly harassed, confiscated food and personal items, and shouted abuse at the remaining unionists. Chong Won management has also fabricated charges and filed legal cases against workers, alleging unionists used violence on the picket line, as another harassment tactic.
Management fired 116 striking workers on 30 September, alleging they were involved in an illegal strike. In October, factory management was directly involved in creating a yellow union, a so-called "Caretaker Committee" purporting to represent the union, which then claimed it had dismissed the strikers from membership. In fact, the Committee was led by factory supervisors, received direct support from management, and used intimidation tactics to compel workers to sign petitions establishing the Committee.
Chong Won workers joined their colleagues at Phils Jeon factory (see below) in filing a complaint with the Commission for Human Rights against PEZA on 23 October. However, at the end of the year, there had been no resolution of the issues, and the factory continued to operate using contract workers, who are barred by the labour law from joining a union.
Phils Jeon Garments strikers attacked: The Korean-owned Phils Jeon factory located in Cavite EPZ adamantly refused to bargain with the Kaisahan ng mga Manggagawa sa Phils Jeon union (KMPJI-Independent), despite a final ruling by DOLE on 21 April that determined the union was the sole legitimate bargaining agent of the workers and ordered management to enter into negotiations immediately. Starting in July, union members held regular protests calling on management to cease efforts to undermine the union, and enter into good faith bargaining. On 12 August, factory management responded by fabricating misconduct charges against union president Emmanuel Bautista and terminating him. When the union finally decided to go on to strike on 25 September, on the same day as Chong Won, a combination of PEZA police, PNP officials from Rosario, and Jantro security guards attacked the Phils Jeon picket line, savagely beating the strikers. Phils Jeon strikers were also blockaded in the same manner as Chong Won, and subjected to the same types of systematic harassment by PEZA security officers. A renewed attack by security officers against KMPJI-Independent’s picket line on 27 September resulted in 13 workers being injured.
Police violently disperse labour marchers on International Women’s Day: On 8 March, a peaceful march by women of the Alliance for Progressive Labour (APL) to commemorate International Women’s Day was attacked by police wielding batons and truncheons. Police arrested Josua Mata, the Secretary-General of the APL, and Risa Hontiveros, a member of Congress from the leftist political party Akbayan (Citizen’s Action). Mata was subsequently charged with organising an illegal assembly, and released on bail.
DOLE supports a yellow union at Toyota – TMPCWA continues to resist: The Toyota Motor Philippines Corporation (TMPC) continued to ignore a Supreme Court order to recognise and enter into bargaining with the TMPC Workers' Association (TMPCWA). It also continued to refuse to reinstate workers dismissed in 2001 for taking part in peaceful protests over the company's refusal to recognise the union. The government failed to implement a recommendation by the ILO to amend its legislation to allow for " a fair, independent and speedy certification process", and to "make every effort to ensure that the TMPCWA and Toyota Motor Philippines Corporation negotiate in good faith in order to reach a collective agreement.
While the TMPCWA's campaign for recognition continues, a new yellow union supported by management – the TMPCLO (Toyota Motor Philippines Labour Organisation) - was organised, and immediately filed a petition for certification election. Management's deliberate intransigence and refusal to bargain in good faith with TMPCWA has prevented an agreement for five years, opening the door to a certification challenge. DOLE officials oversaw the certification vote on 16 February, and neither TMPCWA nor TMPCLO received a majority of the votes. The TMPCWA then filed a petition with the DOLE to nullify the election -- and not surprisingly, the TMPCLO, with the support of management, opposed the petition.
TMPCWA pushed forward with demands to re-start collective bargaining negotiations and seek reinstatement of the remaining 136 workers fired since 2001, but these demands were rejected outright by management. In April, DOLE rejected the TMPCWA's petition, and subsequently proceeded to certify the TMPCLO as the legal bargaining representative, despite the fact that it had not received a majority of the workers’ votes. The International Metalworkers Federation (IMF) launched a global campaign to pressure Toyota to reinstate the fired TMPCWA members.
On 16 August, security guards at DOLE headquarters used violence to try and prevent TMPCWA members from entering the DOLE compound, and fired shots in the air to intimidate workers. TMPCWA members succeeded in gaining entry to the DOLE but subsequently 21 trade unionists, including TMPCWA President Ed Cubelo, were arrested by the police. The unionists were detained for three days before finally being released.
International labour rights campaigners black-listed: Brian Campbell, an attorney with International Labour Rights Fund who played an important role in supporting the Workers Assistance Center (WAC) and the Chong Won workers, was denied entry to the Philippines on 6 December. He had been scheduled to attend a remembrance ceremony for Bishop Ramento that was organised by the WAC and the workers of Cavite EPZ. Most observers believe that the black-listing of Campbell was due to his participation as a member of the International Labour Solidarity Mission which visited the Philippines in May to investigate the extra-judicial killings of scores of trade unionists. Campbell’s role in raising concerns about the killings among foreign companies and persuading seven major international retailers to issue a joint statement to President Arroyo were seen as the rationale for his exclusion from the country. Immigration Commissioner Alipio Fernandez publicly confirmed to the media that Campbell was on a government ‘blacklist.’
Government office retaliates against union whistle-blowers: Annie Geron, the Secretary-General of Public Sector Labour Independent Confederation (PSLINK) Philippines and other union members faced a severe anti-union campaign for exposing corruption in the Technical Education Services and Department Authority (TESDA). The retaliation was in direct response to the PSLINK union complaint made in September with the Presidential Anti-Graft Commission against Boboy Syjuco, the Director-General of TESDA, accusing him of embezzlement and other corrupt practices. When Geron gave a radio interview on 10 October, outlining the charges made in the complaint, the Director-General called in Geron’s husband (also a TESDA employee) on 11 October and threatened to terminate him and sue Geron for libel. On 16 October, punitive transfer orders were issued for Geron and other TESDA union leaders to send them to remote parts of the country, but later were rescinded. The unit in TESDA which Geron had been leading was also disbanded in an attempt to further diminish her authority. PSI responded by sending letters to the Philippines government and launching a global campaign of solidarity for Annie Geron and the TESDA workers.
At the end of October, the Director-General proceeded with administrative charges against Geron and her colleagues, accusing them of "gross insubordination." Geron and her colleagues in the leadership of the union (Rafael Saus and Mitz Barreda) were placed on 90 days "preventive suspension". TESDA management then issued circulars to TESDA staff warning them they would disciplined if they participated in any mass protests. TESDA security guards broke up a lunch-time PSLINK rally inside the TESDA building on 8 November, seizing placards and blocking entrances to prevent other workers from joining the demonstration. The TESDA administration took photographs of demonstrators, held meetings to intimidate those involved, and threatened disciplinary actions against those found to be active in the protest.
PSLINK filed an appeal of the suspensions, and on 28 November, the Philippines Civil Service Commission ordered the Director-General to lift the suspensions, which he did the next day. However, on 30 November, Ramon Geron, the husband of Annie Geron, was terminated after 30 years of service with TESDA. During the first week of December, the Director-General filed a libel case against Annie Geron in another clear case of harassment. The dispute was ongoing as the year ended.