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Timberland workers in the Philippines strike over union busting

6 February, 2019Workers at Pulido Apparel Company Inc in the Philippines, which supplies global brands including Timberland, UGG, The North Face and J-Crew, have been on strike since 21 January after the company temporarily shut down its main factory to break the workers’ union. 

Pulido Apparel closed its San Luis facility in Batangas in December blaming financial difficulties. However, less than a month later, Pulido started rehiring workers at the same factory on two-month contracts, while blacklisting union officers and members. 

The strikers are demanding the re-instatement of all workers, including activists who have participated in the strike and picket, and for collective bargaining negotiations to take place as soon as possible. 

Pulido Apparel, a Philippines subsidiary of the U.S. based leather gloves and fashion accessories manufacturer, Fownes Bros & Co, has around 450 employees at three facilities in San Luis, Bauan and Lipa City.

Workers at Pulido Apparel created their Rank & File Local Union TF-2 in June 2018, which is affiliated to IndustriALL Global Union through the textile and garment federation, TF2/FFW Kilos Damit. The Pulido Apparel workers’ union was subsequently certified by the Ministry of labour as the sole and exclusive bargaining agent with all the rights and privileges as legitimate labour organization. 

On 8 November, a week before collective bargaining was about to begin, the company informed the union that the San Luis factory would be closing. It also dismissed union leaders and union members.

Pulido then ordered the San Luis workers to claim their redundancy pay and sign a document saying they had quit the company, according to the union. 

In early December, Pulido began hiring selected San Luis machinists on a three-month contract at the new factory site in Lipa City. However, all union leaders and active supporters of the union were banned in rehiring. 

On 3 January, the San Luis factory resumed operations, and by the end of January at least 61 workers were employed on two-month contracts. All union leaders and supporters remain banned and blacklisted at the company. 

In an effort to resolve the dispute, the union has filed for a preventive mediation to the labour court. However, company management failed to attend the latest hearing of the National Conciliation and Mediation Board, where notice of strike was filed by the union. 

Valter Sanches, General Secretary of IndustriALL, stated in his letter to Pulido:

“These actions constitute a blatant violation of workers’ rights as guaranteed by the Constitution of the Philippines, as well as international core labour standards such as Convention 87 on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize and Convention 98 on the Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining of the International Labour Organization (ILO), which the Philippines has ratified.”

Aileen Panuelos, local union president of Pulido Apparel, said:

“We are determined to pursue this struggle inflicted to us by Pulido management and their cohorts. We exist because we want to exercise and protect our legitimate rights as workers and human beings. We will bring this fight whenever and wherever it takes together with our allies here in the Philippines and abroad.”

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