“What they demand is just and proper. But it seemed like the government forgets that enough wages, proper benefits and the right to form a union are our constitutional and labor rights.”
By ALYSSA MAE CLARIN and JOHN AARON MARK MACARAEG
CABUYAO, Laguna — Multisectoral groups held a caravan July 9 to express their solidarity with the striking workers of Pepmaco and NutriAsia.
The contingent led by Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) first joined Pepmaco workers as they staged a protest in front of the factory. They marched from the workers’ picket line toward the front of the Pepmaco factory where guards have barred the entrance to the company.
Two weeks ago, Pepmaco workers were violently dispersed by goons at one o’clock in the morning, forcing them to move their picket line behind the factory. Twelve were injured.
Brenda Ebero, one of the workers, said, “After we went on strike, we got fired from our jobs.”
Despite this, the group of workers continued their protest.
“They (workers) refuse to stop their protest because they know they are fighting for what is right!” said Jerome Adonis, Kilusang Mayo Uno secretary general in his speech.
Pepmaco workers have been working 12 hours a day, with only three 15- to 30-minute breaks, and with no regular day of rest for the past months.
They reported how they have been handling hazardous chemicals with their bare hands because the company refused to provide them with gloves and face masks.
Christine Gudoy, Pepmaco workers’ union secretary, recounted how the company’s guards even barred the entrance of their supporters who only wanted to bring them food.
“Where is your humanity?” asked Gudoy, turning to the security guards, “We are all workers here!”
The workers’ union of Pepmaco is fighting for regularization, as well as the right for more humane working conditions.
When asked for how long are they willing to pursue their demands, Ebero said they will continue the fight for as long as it takes. “We’ve already sacrificed so much, we will stay until we get what we want,” she said.
NutriAsia workers detained for trumped-up charges
The delegation then proceeded to Cabuyao City Hall, where 17 Nutri-Asia workers are being detained after they were arrested last July 6.
It was the first day of the NutriAsia workers’ strike when policemen and security guards dispersed the workers using a bulldozer.
The giant condiments company filed several criminal cases against the workers, including malicious mischief, grave coercion, theft, robbery, arson, serious and slight illegal detention and direct and indirect assault.
“What they [arrested workers] demand is just and proper. But it seemed like the government forgets that enough wages, proper benefits and the right to form a union are our constitutional and labor rights,” said Adonis.
He condemned how easily the government could brand labor rights leaders and union members as terrorists for demanding basic labor rights.
“It is high time for workers to unite, and fight the injustice of capitalists and the current administration.”
Supporters have called for a boycott of Pepmaco products such as Champion detergent powder, Calla fabric conditioner and Systema toothpaste and of NutriAsia products such as Datu Puti, Mang Tomas, Jufran, among others.