Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts

Vol. VI, No. 35      Oct. 8 - 14, 2006      Quezon City, Philippines

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LABOR WATCH

At Cavite Export Processing Zone:
Wave of Violent Dispersals, Food Blockade vs Strikers

The Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) has enforced a wave of violent dispersals and food blockade against on-strike garment factory workers within the 276-hectare Cavite Export Processing Zone (CEPZ) in Rosario town in Cavite, leaving scores wounded and with almost nothing to eat.

BY DENNIS ESPADA
Bulatlat

The Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) has enforced a wave of violent dispersals and food blockade against on-strike garment factory workers within the 276-hectare Cavite Export Processing Zone (CEPZ) in Rosario town in Cavite (25 kms. south of Manila), leaving scores wounded and with almost nothing to eat.

 

Checkpoints, blacklisting and confiscation of IDs and zone passes were also set up near the picket lines.

 

Last Sept. 25, over 300 workers of Korean-owned Chong Won Fashion Inc. and Phils. Jeon Garments Inc. simultaneously launched their strike due to the managements' refusal to negotiate a first collective bargaining agreement with their unions despite being certified as "sole and exclusive bargaining agent" by the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE).

 

Molesting women

 

Officers and staff members of the Workers’ Assistance Center (WAC), a church-based non-government organization, said that at least ten strikers were badly hurt on the first assault by the PEZA police and Jantro security guards, which took place shortly after the workers erected the picket line at Chong Won's gates. They said the assailants were escorting scabs inside the factory to replace the strikers and run the production lines.

 

During the Sept. 27 attacks, 22 Chong Won strikers were punched and beaten up with wooden clubs in the morning while 13 from Phils. Jeon were mauled in the evening, two of whom sustained head injuries.

 

WAC also reported the victims, mostly women, complained being sexually-molested and suspected those who attacked them were "high on illegal drugs."

 

The next day, Rosario police arrested without warrant and illegally detained members of the militant labor group Solidarity of Cavite Workers (SCW), namely Rodel Amo, Josephine Bajar, Annalou Estremos, Gemma Lape, Glaiza Leysi, Lorna Reli, Ivy Villasan and Pablito Zapanta who were caught storing food for the strikers inside a warehouse.

 

WAC researcher Cecille Tuico told Bulatlat that although the eight were freed on Oct. 4, they still continue to face "trespassing" and "inciting to sedition" charges. Their captors also took away their sack of rice, mobile phones, cameras and other personal belongings, she said.

 

Mocking the law

 

Chong Won produces T-shirts, ladies blouses, polo shirts, pants/jog pants, sleepwear and other clothes. Among their buyers is U.S. retail giant Wal-Mart.

 

Phil. Jeon, meanwhile, is producing apparel and undergarments for firms such as Al Assel and Zico in Saudi Arabia, CNI in the U.S. and Dream Station in Japan.

 

The aggrieved workers held an indignation rally on Oct. 2 in front of the PEZA main office in Pasay City. In a joint statement signed by union presidents Resureccion Ravelo of the Nagkakaisang Manggagawa sa Chong Won (NMCW or United Workers in Chong Won) and Normelita Galon of the Kaisahan ng mga Manggagawa sa Phils. Jeon (KMPJ or Unity of Workers in Phils. Jeon), they denounced PEZA director-general Lilia de Lima for "her blatant disregard of our right to strike and to bargain collectively."

 

In August 2004, both unions won in their certification elections but their respective managements protested it. The DoLE, the National Conciliation and Mediation Board (NCMB) and the Court of Appeals (CA) have since issued separate decisions affirming their legitimacy. At least 66 workers have already been served termination notices.

 

"We follow the rule of law, yet our rights are being trampled and our bodies are being assaulted violently," the unions said in the statement. "Our Korean companies arrogantly mocked our law, yet they are not being clubbed to suffer head and body injuries but rather enjoy full protection and relentless favor from the government."

 

Support, local and abroad

 

Luz Baculo, secretary general of the regional labor center Pagkakaisa ng Manggagawa sa Timog Katagalugan (Pamantik or Unity of Workers in Southern Tagalog), says the grievances of the CEPZ strikers are legitimate. "Only an irrational and illogical being will have them dispersed after the unions won several favorable legal decisions from different labor and government institutions," she said. 

 

PEZA's assaults against on-strike workers have gained strong condemnation by labor solidarity groups abroad such as the Maquila Solidarity Network (MSN) in Canada, the US-based International Labor Rights Fund (ILRF) and the Workers' Rights Consortium (WRC) in the US and Thailand.

 

The ILRF and MSN are now petitioning Wal-Mart to pressure their supplier to respect its code of conduct and the country's labor laws. Bulatlat

 

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