Gabriela Women’s Party Representative Emmi De Jesus said it is about time Congress end the prolonged suffering of the Filipino working class by passing the Regular Employment Act or House Bill 4396.
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – On the 10th day of their strike, the workers in the Lucio Tan-owned rum company’s plant in Cabuyao, Laguna shared what they describe as a bit of positive news – they finally got a copy of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) regional office’s decision stating that the company and two agencies supplying it with workers are resorting to labor-only contracting (LOC) which is illegal. It confirmed the workers’ complaints, and they hope it would be followed up soon with a correction beginning with their regularization on the job under their actual employer, Tanduay Distillers Inc.
TUDLA is Tanggulan Ugnayang Daluyang lakas ng Anakpawis sa Tanduay Distillers Inc., or literally, Defense, Linkages and Channel of Workers’ Strength in Tanduay Distillers Inc., a labor group duly registered with the labor department. It was pushed to hold a strike since May 18 after the company refused to regularize its members despite having worked there for five to 11 years now.
The strikers also got a boost Thursday, May 28, from a progressive partylist legislator. Speaking at a press conference in Quezon City called by trade unions and cause-oriented groups, Gabriela Women’s Party Representative Emmi De Jesus said it is about time Congress end the prolonged suffering of the Filipino working class by passing the Regular Employment Act or House Bill 4396. The bill seeks to remove a Labor Code provision allowing employers such as Tanduay to keep workers under repeated contracts instead of as tenured employees.
Tanduay workers were on the 11th day of their strike when their leaders met with De Jesus in the press conference. This followed a week of picketing at gate 2 of Asia Brewery Complex in Cabuyao, Laguna, marked by frequent harassment of workers by Lucio Tan’s alleged “hired goons”.
The strikers sent a delegation to hold a picket in front of the national headquarters of the labor department in Intramuros, Manila on the 10th day of their strike. They followed it up with a rally at the Mendiola (Chino Roces) bridge near Malacañang, and then with a picket in front of the business offices of Tanduay at Ayala in the Makati business district.
The strikers expressed their gratitude for the support of workers from neighboring factories, communities around the Tanduay factory, organizations from nearby regions and lawmakers from the Makabayan bloc.
Supporters have been visiting the Tanduay workers’ picketline, giving strikers food and drinks, money and medicines, cheering them on with speeches, street plays, even songs and murals. They also join the strikers in holding picket protests at various locations.
In all these protest actions, the strikers denounce contractualization and call for their regularization on the job.
Contractualization in the Philippines happens through labor-only contracting or LOC, which is illegal, or through a similar scheme called job contracting, which is allowed by law. This poses a big problem, the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) said in a statement early this week. It cited the gutted Kentex slippers factory in Valenzuela as the latest biggest showcase proving that there is no real distinction between legal ‘job contracting’ and illegal ‘labor-only contracting.’.
“It shows that ‘labor-only contracting’ can be undertaken by capitalists under the guise of ‘job contracting’ and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) would only find out when it’s too late and many workers have already died,” said the KMU.
A week after a seven-hour fire in Kentex killed 72 workers, with survivors saying the dead maybe close to 200, DOLE declared CJC, the labor agency employing majority of the fire victims, as engaged in labor only contracting (LOC).
A week also after Tanduay workers went on strike, the DOLE regional office in Southern Tagalog gave them a copy of its decision revealing that it agreed with TUDLA, the labor organization leading the strike, that the two agencies (one claims to be a cooperative) “employing” the Tanduay workers, and the Tanduay Distillers Inc., are doing LOC, the strikers told Bulatlat.com.
Specifically, in separate copies addressed to these agencies and the plant manager of Tanduay Distillers Inc., the labor department said the concerned companies are guilty of “Non-compliance with Department Order No. 18-A,” and the DOLE listed the violations showing how the agencies and Tanduay are engaged in LOC.
These agencies are the Global Pro and HD. They received their copies of the DOLE decision on May 5.
The decision did not get implemented on the contractual workers. Instead, the agency-hired workers, some of whom are members of TUDLA, reported how since then, they were harassed by their agencies’ coordinators and Tanduay management.
De Jesus noted that the labor department issued the workers a copy of this decision “only after strikers and their civic supporters picketed government offices.” The Gabriela lawmaker praised the collective action of workers and the pressure it generated toward defending their picket line and prompting the labor department to come up with a decision.
She said such collective action is indeed the most effective tool for workers to assert their rights. Even as she is urging her fellow lawmakers to swiftly pass the Regular Employment Act or House Bill 4396, she said the workers’ collective action is “better” at fighting for their rights.
Meanwhile, as Gabriela pushes for the workers’ regularization bill in Congress, the KMU called attention to the ongoing discussions in the House of Representatives over another bill, this one by a partylist group long identified with the Aquino administration. KMU warned the workers against Akbayan’s and Sentro’s Security of Tenure Bill.
While the workers and the Gabriela’s bill are pushing for a complete ban of contractualization, that of Akbayan and Sentro “are offering their own definitions of “contractor” and “subcontractor” and both are within the framework of allowing contractualization to remain legal,” the KMU warned.
“Contractualization should be banned completely, whether in the guise of ‘job contracting’ or in the blatant form of ‘labor-only contracting.’ It would be of no use to workers, and it would even be used against us, if attempts are made to retain contractualization in the guise of making it look as if it is ‘pro-worker,’ said Joselito Ustarez, KMU vice-president.
Lucio Tan’s Tanduay company operating one of its plants inside his Asia Brewery Complex in Cabuyao, Laguna is the maker of Tanduay 5 years, Compañero, Boracay rum lite, Tanduay white, Tanduay ESQ, Jamaica, 165, London gin, Asian Rum gold and silver, Island Mixer, Island lite, Gin Capitan, Embassy, Extra strong, Vino Agila, Supremo, Superior, Cocktail strawberry, mojito, cappuccino, daiquiri, margarita, may tai, Tanduay Ginebra, among others.