[Urgent Appeal] Reprisals on another illegally dismissed workers four years after their reinstatement to work -AHRC

ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION – URGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME

Urgent Appeal Update: AHRC-UAU-012-2013

5 April 2013

[RE: AHRC-UAC-173-2008: PHILIPPINES: The complicity of the Labour Department in unlawful acts deprives sexually abused workers from creating a union]
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PHILIPPINES: Reprisals on another illegally dismissed workers four years after their reinstatement to work

ISSUES: Freedom of association; freedom of assembly
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Dear friends,

Asian Human Rights CommissionThe Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has been informed that the workers who were illegally dismissed but reinstated after we issued our appeal have once again been repressed by their employer. In September 2008, the shoe company reinstated the workers they had illegally dismissed after they went on strike and filed complaints of sexual abuse. The company agreed to all the workers demands; however, they repressed them by imposing forced leaves, delay in paying their salary and threatening to close the shop.

UPDATED APPEAL: (Based on the documentation by the Defend Job Philippines and the Center for Trade Union and Human Rights)

In August 2008, we issued an appeal about the illegal dismissal and sexual abuse of factory workers at the Bleustar Manufacturing and Marketing Corporation (BMMC), a manufacturer of the branded footwear Advan. After issuing our appeals, the workers were reinstated and the company signed an agreement on September 22, 2008, at the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC), agreeing to all of the workers’ demands. For details, read: AHRC-UAC-173-2008.

However, four years on the company is effectively abrogating from the agreement it signed with the workers in front of the government’s labour arbiters by imposing policies undermining the workers’ employment security and protection. They imposed forced leave, delayed payment of their salaries and even though it has already agreed to recognize the union to collectively bargain with the workers, it refuses to talk to them. The company is also not giving their social benefits on time.

Also, to suppress the workers and to weaken their demands, they threatened to close their company on the pretext of bankruptcy. The recent example for this is in Bacolod City, Negros. For details, please read: AHRC-UAU-008-2013. In the Philippines, these repressive policies and threats that the workers could lose their jobs are used in a widespread and systematic manner to deliberately dismantle labor unions.

We are publishing below the appeal of the workers. It gives details how the workers and their families suffered as a result of the repressive policy that their company imposed after they were reinstated into their work:

Urgent Appeal of the Advan Shoe Workers to Stop the Forced Leave and No work Policy!

We, the workers of Advan Shoes under the banner of our union Bleustar Workers Labor Union denounce the forced leave or no work policy of the management of Bleustar Manufacturing Corporation that is implemented to all workers in the factory.

The management continued to use the effects of Habagat, claiming that they are deeply indebted and has no capacity to buy raw materials, pay for electricity bills and to have full operations in the production leaving two hundred ten (210) workers jobless and our families in dire situation.
Since October 2012 up to February 2013, the workers have worked for only sixty nine (69) days in the rainboots department and forty seven (47) days in the Shoes Department or one and half (1 and ½) to two (2) months to a total of five months working period. Nevertheless, we produced a total of 407 550 pairs of rainboots and shoes amounting to P95.7 million. In addition, even we are under forced leave from October 2012 to February 2013, we have an estimated output of 79 950 pairs of rainboots and shoes amounting to P20.13 million.

We understand that on August 6- September 2012, the factory has been closed because of the floodwaters inside the company. Yet the factory can still deliver finished goods to our customers. This is because, starting from January 9 to August 5, 2012, we are put on overtime work producing an additional 50% production output everyday or an estimated 42 000 pairs of rainboots and 67 200 in the shoes department in seven months. The overtime output produced can supply for the demand of the customers for three and half (3 & ½) months. Also, in the rainboots department which has the biggest demand in the market and employs only 12 workers continue the production since October up to present.

It is also not true that there is no demand in the market for rainboots and shoes. In a survey that we conducted on January 2013 in 6 major malls and departments stores, all of the merchandisers that we interviewed said that Advan Shoes and Rainboots are in demand.

We believe that this is another flexible working arrangement of the management which only ensures their profit and their own security while we and thousands of our family members are hungry. We also believe that this is an intensified move of the management to weaken the resolve of our union since we are demanding for new provisions in the renegotiations of Collective Bargaining Agreement this year. In fact, we are also threatened of the possibility that the factory in Muntinlupa will be closed and will transfer its production in other places to get rid of our union and get back all our hard won victories.

As enshrined in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, “The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right to work, which includes the right of everyone to the opportunity to gain his living by work which he freely chooses or accepts, and will take appropriate steps to safeguard this right. Thus, we call on the Philippine Government, to act promptly on our call to stop the forced leave and no work policy of the Beleustar Management and to fully normalize the production of the factory.

We also call to our fellow workers, women and human rights advocates to:

1. Have discussions/dialogues between your group and the workers of ADVAN, to share our common problems and aspirations.

2. Visit our factory, union office and workers community, to see how we live and struggle.

3. Send letters to the media and concerned government agencies, to expose our condition and express your solidarity.

4. Send financial or material support to our union and workers.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION (From the workers):

The company is owned by Mr. Jimmy Ong, a Filipino-Chinese businessman. Most of the workers in the factory are women, comprising 80 percent of over 200 workers. The union, Bleustar Workers Labor Union (BWLU), was established on October 2007, as a result of workers’ demand to end sexual harassment and improved working conditions.

For 19 years, the workers have seen how the company has grown out of our labour-power. But in the past 20 years, the workers remain poor and oppressed receiving wages below the statutory minimum wage.

In September 2008, the 43 retrenched workers were reinstated. The company agreed to: recognized their labour union, agreed commenced a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with them, to pay for their bonus and stop the sexual harassment on the workers. The union succeeded when the company signed a Memorandum of Agreement with them on September 22, 2008 at the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC).

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Desk
Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) (ua@ahrc.asia)

AHRC Philippines page: http://www.humanrights.asia/countries/philippines

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