Frustrated by the continued refusal of Nestle management to implement the Supreme Court’s decision by beginning the negotiations with the union, workers and their relatives marked their five-year strike by erecting a barricade blocking two gates of the factory.
BY DENNIS ESPADA
Cabuyao, Laguna – Five years have passed when over 600 employees of Nestlé Philippines Inc. here went on strike to claim their retirement benefits. The labor union said that the Supreme Court’s (SC) decision in their favor has failed to render justice as the Swiss-owned multinational food company continues to defy the high court’s decision.
Since January 15, the strikers and their families have been holding a barricade that blocked the two main gates of the factory “to compel the (Nestlé) management to comply with the court ruling” as regards to the protracted labor dispute.
“For the nth time, it (Nestlé management) is making another attempt to ignore the decisions of the highest court of the land,” says Noel Alemania, president of Union of Filipro Employees-Drug, Food and Allied Industries Unions (UFE-DFA).
Meanwhile, Bulatlat learned that a Philippine National Police (PNP)-Calabarzon official ordered the strikers to lift their barricades at Gate 2. A weighing scale being used by container vans carrying goods that go out of the premises is located at the said gate. The entire factory is guarded by at least 50 fully armed PNP personnel.
“From this alone, we can evidently see whose interests the policemen are working for,” the union president said.
In a 41-page ruling promulgated on August 22, 2006 by the SC’s First Division headed by Associate Justice Minita Chico-Nazario, the high court affirmed the Court of Appeals’ (CA) decision which found the retirement plan as a valid issue to be negotiated in the collective bargaining agreement (CBA).
But the high tribunal acquitted Nestlé of committing unfair labor practice and reversed the CA ruling that found former Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) Secretary Patricia Santo Tomas guilty of gravely abusing her discretion by assuming jurisdiction over the CBA ground rules.
By acquitting Nestlé of unfair labor practice, Alemania warned, the SC ruling may serve as prelude to “pro-capitalist” jurisprudence which would allow foreign investors to violate existing laws which safeguard workers against exploitation and unfair treatment.
“Sa pinakahuling desisyong ito, pinatunayan muli na makatwiran at makatarungan ang ipinaglalaban namin (In this latest decision, it again proved that our struggle is reasonable and just.),” he said. “Nguni’t sa kabila nito, hindi kaya ng korte na papanagutin ang maneydsment sa mga kasalanan nito…hindi pa rin ibinigay ang katarungan para sa mga manggagawa (But despite this, the court is unable to hold the management accountable for its sins…it did not give justice to the workers.).”
At all costs
In January 2002, the union voted to strike when Nestlé (management) insisted that retirement benefits be excluded from the CBA negotiations arguing that this benefit is subject to the discretion of management.
The UFE-DFA praised the SC’s ruling in February 1991 which stated: “The Court agrees with the NLRC’s (National Labor Relations Commission) findings that the Retirement Plan was a collective bargaining issue from the start (p. 109, Rollo) for the improvement of the existing Retirement Plan was one of the original CBA proposals submitted by UFE on May 8, 1987 to Arthur Gilmore, president of Nestlé Philippines…”
Instead of negotiating with the workers, Nestlé (management), led by its former president Juan Santos, appealed the case. The labor-management conflict was consequently marked by violent dispersals of workers’ pickets by the police and military resulting in 14 strike-related deaths, and the murder of union leader Diosdado “Ka (comrade) Fort” Fortuna on September 2005.
The strikers said they would hold their ground at all costs. They said the best thing the police could do is to enforce the court decision and oblige the management to implement it. (Bulatlat.com)