Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts
Vol. IV, No. 33 September 19 - 25, 2004 Quezon City, Philippines
Goes on for San Miguel’s Retrenched Workers
Miguel Corporation, which has been yearly landing on the SEC’s list of
top 10 corporations, has closed down its warehouses in Sta. Mesa, Manila;
Cubao, Quezon City; and Caloocan City. A union official of the company
believes the shutdown is a case of contractualization.
Alexander Martin Remollino
Rosario goes home to his wife and three children only once a week these
days. The last weekend he went home before this writing, his three
children told him: “Tatay (father), your fight looks very hard
on you. You’re so thin already. Looks like there’s nothing coming out
40, is one of the San Miguel Corporation (SMC) warehouse workers who lost
their jobs last June 12. The food and beverage company’s warehouses at
Pureza Extension, Sta. Mesa, Manila; Caloocan City; and Cubao, Quezon City
were closed down that day.
says that it was only on June 12 itself when company officials announced
the retrenchment. Without being given a 30-day notice, 191 SMC warehouse
workers were laid off, says Rosario who is also a vice president of the
SMC Employees Union.
Labor Code of the Philippines requires employers to notify workers of a
business establishment’s shutdown at least 30 days before the date of
closure. The striking workers are demanding that they and their co-workers
letter sent to the workers by the SMC management mentions three reasons
for the shutdown: that warehousing will henceforth no longer be part of
SMC’s core business, that SMC is affected by the competition spawned by
globalization, and that the company has to undertake cost-cutting
does not find the second reason credible. SMC’s biggest business
interest, he says, lies in beverages, and the only competition it faces in
this area is that from Lucio Tan’s Asia Brewery.
visit any restaurant,” he says, “or beerhouse for that matter, and you
are almost sure to see nothing else but San Miguel products. In its main
field of business, San Miguel is unrivalled.”
has been landing in the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)’s list
of top ten corporations every year – a feat unmatched by Asia Brewery.
third reason – that SMC supposedly has to undertake cost-cutting
measures – is the reason Rosario thinks is closest to the truth.
have found in the present state of the economy a justification for
cost-cutting measures,” he says.
they can’t cut down on production costs, because the quality of their
products would deteriorate,” the union official adds. “So the only
thing left for them to cut down on is the cost of labor. Thus they have
apparently decided to reduce the workforce.”
regards the warehousing no longer being part of SMC’s core business,
Rosario argues that warehousing is the final step in beer production.
union official, meanwhile, recalls a statement from the SMC management
that the closure of the warehouses would only be temporary – to buy time
for the entry of private contractors. “So it appears that the management
intends to remove all of us regulars and replace us with contractual
employees,” he points out. “And when you are a contractual worker, you
have no benefits and you don’t have to be paid all that much.”
the end, he says, contractualization is more “profitable” for
tried to contact the SMC management to get its side on the issue. This
reporter was referred to Donnie Gutierrez of the human resources division,
who subsequently referred him to Jane Francisco of the public affairs
division. Francisco has not been answering calls to her telephone.
company has offered the retrenched workers a separation package amounting
to P1.6 million ($28,571.43 based on a $1:P56 exchange rate) each. Many of
the workers who at first manned the picket lines have accepted the
can’t really blame them,” Rosario admits, “considering the hard
times we are in right now.”
18 of the original 191 strikers are staying put. According to Rosario, the
pickets at Cubao and Caloocan have been reduced to one striker each – so
the warehouse in Sta. Mesa, Manila where he used to work has become the
strike’s gravitational center. The remaining strikers at Cubao and in
Caloocan now “report” to the picket line in Sta. Mesa.
that Rosario has three children – two of whom are still in school –
what makes Rosario stay in the picketline?
40 and I’m still good for another 20 years or so,” he says. “If I
can go on working for another 20 years, I can see all my children finish
with the P1.6 million – what with the high cost of living these days –
that money is not going to last very long,” he adds. “It’s not going
to last 20 years. So I choose to fight for my job.”
And because he has chosen to fight for his job together with 17 of his co-workers, he has been going home to his wife and children very seldom these days. He doesn’t want to see his children taking pity on him - or hear them talking him into taking the offered separation package. Bulatlat