The picketing workers asked: why did the labor department issue an injunction order against their supposed strike, when the company has locked them out in the first place? The workers said they are not on strike but in protest of their illegal lockout.
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By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA — Marivic Aldezin, mother of three, turns 29 this Sunday, June 23. But instead of celebrating with husband and children, she is spending her birthday, and most other days with her entire family, at the Pentagon Steel workers’ picket line at Apolonio Samson village in Quezon City. Majority of the steel firm’s workers – from machine operators, welders, carpenters, drivers, delivery men, to maintenance staff – have been maintaining 24/7 a picket at the company’s gates in protest of its alleged illegal lockout. The company supposedly closed down last April 12, but the workers pointed to various signs the company is actually bent on continuing operations, minus the regular workers. Hence, the workers’ charge that what the Pentagon steel company is doing is an “illegal lockout,” and consequently, illegal dismissal of most of the workers.
Aldezin’s husband was not one of the 134-plus newly dismissed workers. He is one of those whom the company allegedly routinely dismissed without due process, the union said. He has been dismissed for nearly a year; he has been challenging that in the labor department since then. His wife, Marivic, said that since he was dismissed, his co-workers had given him start-up funds. “We cook meals for the Pentagon workers, they buy their lunch from us,” Marivic says.
That is how their family has survived the husband’s dismissal. Marivic said her husband has not stopped supporting the union despite being out of Pentagon. Now, more than 134 workers are also protesting their summary dismissal, implemented in the guise of a lockout.
“Monster” police, questionable labor commissioners
Last Wednesday June 19, almost a hundred members of the Philippine National Police including the heavily armed SWAT reportedly swooped down on the picketline and shoved the workers around. The police came bearing an injunction order from the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC). They also escorted a jeepney-load of scabs, said the protesting workers.
The police also escorted the Pentagon firm’s hired delivery men who carted out of the workplace some of their remaining finished steel products inside.
Police cars and some policemen were spotted near the picketline again on Sunday, as deliveries of steel materials were trucked into the factory.
Apparently belying the company claim of shutdown and lockout, the Pentagon steel company has been reportedly pushing for renewed production, using scabs and workers who would allow themselves to become contractuals, said Jerico Canciller, 41, a machine operator for 13 years in Pentagon. Canciller is one of the hundred-plus union members manning the protest picket.
Early on, the Pentagon workers’ picket has exposed the unchanged police brutality against workers under President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, as the police were used by the Pentagon owners to try to demolish the workers’ picket. The police have arrested and jailed some of the unionists.
“Our kids have lost their respect for the police,” said Helen Dagdagan, 39, wife of a protesting Pentagon Steel worker who also stays at the protest picket after seeing to their child’s needs.
Dagdagan’s husband has been with Pentagon Steel for more than 20 years. She told Bulatlat.com that children of protesting workers have taken to calling the police as “monsters.”
“The monsters are here again, Mama,” the kids at the protest center would say. Pentagon workers and parents have no one to leave their child to, besides, they said, the police and the military are supposed to be 50-meters away from any workers’ picket.
Canciller shared that the labor officials are also behaving rather “suspiciously.” For one, the picketing workers asked: why did the labor department issue an injunction order against their supposed strike, when the company has locked them out in the first place? The workers said they are not on strike but in protest of their illegal lockout. They said they have no desire to stop working – that they would in fact go back to work, but after signing a Memorandum of Agreement with the Pentagon management.
Canciller and other workers at the picketline told Bulatlat.com that they are tired of Pentagon management’s broken verbal promises. “Twice the Pentagon management has given us verbal assurances, but they always reneged,” Canciller said. Now the workers will no longer have that. “We don’t want a repeat of that.”
On June 25 they are to have a hearing at the NLRC with the Pentagon management. The workers are demanding an agreement where they are to go back to work without retaliation; the Pentagon must retract the cases it filed against the workers; and the management should no longer resort to previous habitual discrimination, illegal transfers, dismissals of workers, among others, the protesters said.
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