This story was taken from Bulatlat, the Philippines's alternative weekly newsmagazine (www.bulatlat.com, www.bulatlat.net, www.bulatlat.org).
Vol. V, No. 12, May 1-7, 2005


 

LABOR WATCH

New Trade Secretary Has Blood In His Hands, Unions Say

Labor unions in Laguna are opposing the confirmation of new Trade and Industry Secretary Juan B. Santos by the Commission on Appointments. In a sworn statement, they want Santos to account for the death of at least 10 workers at Nestle which he headed in 1987-2003.

By Dennis Espada
Bulatlat

CALAMBA CITY -- Militant labor groups here are sporting their thumbs down as a sign of protest against the appointment of Juan B. Santos as the new secretary of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

They want Santos to account for the “violent dispersals” of strikes at the Nestle Philippines’ Cabuyao factory which resulted in the death of at least 10 workers and injuries to several others.

The new trade and industry secretary served as president and chief executive officer of Nestle Philippines, Inc. (NPI) from 1987 to 2003 and was commended in 1994 as "Management Man of the Year" by the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP).

In a joint affidavit filed last March before the Commission on Appointments (CoA) by the officers of Union of Filipino Employees-Drug, Food Allied Workers-Kilusang Mayo Uno (UFE-DFA-KMU), labor leaders argued that with Santos' record as president and CEO of NPI and in connection with the bloody dispersals at the company's Cabuyao factory picketline, he "does not deserve to be appointed" to the DTI post.

The CoA, chaired by Senate President Franklin Drilon, has yet to confirm the appointment of Santos, who assumed the post last February 15.

Union-buster

In 2003, the Court of Appeals in 2003 ruled as valid the Nestle workers' stand in holding that the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) provision on retirement benefits is a negotiable item. The Supreme Court had previously upheld the unions’ position in 1991.

Apparently, Nestle ignored the court rulings thus precipitating a series of strikes during the period and until today.

To date, the strikers have experienced three violent dispersals in their picketline enforced by security guards, police and the military. As a reprisal to the strikes, the management
filed criminal cases against 200 workers which led to the arrest of 28 strikers, with three of them detained. At least 10 workers have died in various strike periods, union leaders said.

In their March statement, the Nestle workers said that in 1987 the company management sent one of its ten-wheeler trucks to ram the workers’ picketline in Cabuyao. The workers were able to evade the attack but a new medical graduate and two by-standers were killed.

Then on Jan. 20, 1989, the president of the worker's union, Meliton Roxas, was shot dead in cold-blood in front of the factory gate. Workers believe that the NPI management, led by Santos, was responsible for the killing.

The union officers also charged Santos of bankrolling the expenses of Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) Secretary Patricia Santo Tomas for her chauffeur's service from Geneva, Switzerland to Italy and back on June 15 to 16, 2002. The company had a case then pending before the DoLE.

Labor-only contracting

The Nestle workers also said that with Santos at the helm of NPI, Nestle employees began to lose their right to security of tenure through the implementation of subcontracting, outsourcing, retrenchment and redundancy programs.

Noel Alemania, spokesperson of the Cabuyao Workers' Alliance (CAWAL) and one of the oppositors, said that the management has hired more than 20 co-packers while 5,400 contractual workers have taken over the functions of regular employees in the company.

"Because they're hired for only five months, contractual workers lack the expertise and dedication to produce high quality products," Alemania told Bulatlat. "The co-packing scheme clearly violates the Labor Code which prohibits labor-only contracting
(LOC)."

One co-packer firm -- Antonina Industrial Corporation located in Santa Rosa, Laguna -- is long engaged in the repacking of instant coffee, noodles, seasoning and iced tea products.

Alemania underscored that labor must oppose the LOC scheme because it threatens workers’ security of tenure and also pave the way for the repression of trade unionism in the country.

"Kung naisagawa ni Santos ang LOC kahit siya'y nasa private sector pa nang di man lang kinokondena o iwinawasto ng DOLE at gobyerno, lalo na ngayong siya'y secretary ng DTI kung saan malaya niya itong maipapatupad sa lahat ng mga kumpanya" (If Santos was able to enforce LOC while in the private sector without the DoLE and government condemning or rectifying it, how much more now that he is the DTI secretary and is free to implement the scheme in all companies), Alemania said. Bulatlat

 © 2004 Bulatlat  Alipato Publications

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