“It appears that the kind of ‘industrial peace’ being promoted by the government is unjust, and is actually opposed to workers rights and freedoms.” – Center for Trade Union and Human Rights
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – Two weeks before observing Labor Day, a steel workers’ union complained of being violently attacked on orders of the company management while they were holding a picket-protest to demand for safe working conditions and a “transparent collective bargaining agreement.”
Pentagon Steel Corporation manufactures nails, G.I wires and other steel products at Bgy. Apolonio Samson, Quezon City. The workers’ union here is affiliated with PTGWO, a labor federation under the government-backed TUCP. Some unionists are saying their leadership had been “exposed as pro-management.” They shared that they voted for a new set of union officers during their local union elections held in 2010. But the former leadership continued “to connive with the management,” preventing the newly elected union leaders from taking over.
Frustrated, the steel workers of Pentagon reportedly worked harder “for a more transparent collective bargaining agreement and better working conditions.” In their workplace in Quezon City, workers have long reported numerous cases of accidents. Considering the extreme heat generated by their production processes, they also demanded for ventilation at the work site. The steel company employs at least 240 workers.
No respect for the union
After violating the union’s democratic processes and disregarding its election results, the management of Pentagon Steel next reportedly violated the provisions of the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) it had signed with the union. The workers then held various protest actions condemning Pentagon management’s non-implementation of certain provisions of the CBA. But instead of resolving these, Pentagon resorted to attacking the workers’ job security, especially of those visibly opposing the management’s non-implementation of the CBA.
“Many workers were put on floating status, put on preventive suspension, suspended, transferred to another department without due process, and were subjected to reduced work days,” said Elmer “Bong” Labog, chairman of Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU).
Last week (April 12), Pentagon dismissed from their jobs 129 workers following a protest action inside the factory. The dismissal forced the workers to hold a series of protest actions outside the factory. They are now calling for their reinstatement, too.
Violence from Pentagon Steel Corp. goons, police
Violence erupted at the picket-protest of workers of Pentagon Steel Corporation in Barangay Apolonio Samson in Quezon City at 11:30 a.m. last Monday (Apr 15), when “management goons” reportedly began to punch the workers and use electric shocks against them. Six workers were taken to a police detention facility in La Loma, Quezon City while one was brought to a hospital after being hit with handcuffs in the head. Workers said the “management goons” did not have their nameplates on and they carried guns while harassing the picket-protest.
Arrested and detained were Gilbert Garcia, 35, Jerry Mira, 47, Bautista Unggaya, 35, Arnel Pandungan, 38, Angelo Pandungan, 41, and Nestle Gabriel, 36. The six workers were charged with grave coercion and resistance and disobedience. The following day, 6 p.m. of April 16, they were released. The charges against them were referred for further investigation as the policemen who arrested them had violated the guidelines in conducting a warrantless arrest and because the reason for their arrest stems from a labor dispute, said Arman Hernando, coordinator for documentation of non-government labor rights advocate CTUHR.
According to reports of the Center for Trade Union and Human Rights, 129 workers of Pentagon were peacefully conducting a protest action on April 15 when eight men in civilian clothes, who turned out to be police officers, began pushing the workers away from the company gate. These men reportedly showed their pistols to the protesting workers and threatened to use it if the workers pushed closer to the company gate. Workers were reportedly hit with metal handcuffs while others were electrocuted by stun guns. Amid the violence, policemen from three police vehicles arrived. But according to the workers, instead of stopping the armed men from harassing the workers, the policemen helped in breaking up the workers’ protest. It was during the inquest proceeding that the workers learned the eight armed men who initially harassed the protesters were police officers from La Loma PNP.
“The latest incident in Pentagon Steel Corp. shows how the government blatantly collaborates with capitalists to ensure a ‘peaceful’ industrial climate at the detriment of workers’ rights,” Hernando of CTUHR concluded. He noted that the environment for workers’ freedom is getting worse despite the government’s claim that there is industrial peace. “It appears that the kind of ‘peace’ being promoted by the government is unjust, and is actually opposed to workers’ rights and freedoms,” Hernando added.
“Capitalists like those of Pentagon are emboldened to inflict violence on their workers by the Aquino government’s servility to capitalist interests,” Labog said in a statement. He noted that “Capitalists continue to cause physical harm to workers at no cost under the Aquino government.”
Labog also quoted the Pentagon workers who blame for this police violence against workers the Pentagon management and Mr. Pablito Alcover, head of the steel company’s human resources department. Pablito is reportedly the brother of known anti-communist crusader Jun Alcover of ANAD Partylist.
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The Company , Management and police with no nameplates, in my opinion, are guilty of violating workers’ right to a safe and healthy workplace environment, violation of the collective bargaining agreement, violation of the right of workers to peaceful assembly and protest, assault with the intention to inflict harm.
The police involved in harassing, assaulting the workers and using their police issued taser guns and equipment acted as goons and abused their authority. It is the duty of the police to protect the workers from those who would harm them not the other way around.
The management and the company should be fined for violation of Health and Safety Regulations (If there are) in the Workplace.
It should be the management, company representatives and the police who used violence against the workers that should have been jailed and charged in court not the workers. What is the Justice Department doing in the Philippines?