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Philippines: Entire union executive sacked for not working on national holiday

7 May, 2014IndustriALL Global Union’s metalworker affiliate in the Philippines MWAP is fighting back against a mass sacking on 5 May of 24 union officials at NXP Semiconductors in Cabuyao, Laguna. Management and government is colluding to bust the union, one of the few that successfully organizes workers in the country’s Free Trade Zones.

Join the LabourStart campaign and write to NXP management and Philippine government.

IndustriALL stands firmly in support of its affiliate to fight back for the reinstatement of all 24 sacked activists.

Full update from MWAP:

The Metal Workers Alliance of the Philippines (MWAP) strongly condemns the management of the NXP Semiconductors Company in Cabuyao, Laguna for its illegal dismissal of 24 union officials effective May 5, 2014.

The dismissed officers, which include all members of the union Executive Board as well as the Shop Steward Council, were immediately put on a blacklist and were barred from entering the company premises.  All their benefits were blocked including the educational subsidy which is due to be released on May 15.

The move is obviously a malicious attack on the workers who are currently undergoing a struggle to conclude a new collective bargaining agreement package.  The dismissal of the officers is meant to weaken the bargaining power of the union.

In a memo dated May 5, 2014, the NXP management said the union officers “participated knowingly in illegal strike” and “are deemed to have lost their EMPLOYMENT status pursuant to law”.  It further said that “the officers were terminated for just cause … illegal strike on April 9, and other following holidays.”

The union clarified that the management was referring to the workers’ refusal to work overtime last April 9, 17, 19 and May 1, which are all public holidays.  April 9 was Araw ng Kagitingan (National Valor Day) while April 17 & 19 were Maundy Thursday and Good Friday which are widely-observed in this Catholic-dominated country.  As for May 1, which is International Labor Day, the union and the company has a standing agreement that all union members will be off from work and will participate in Labor Day activities.

Reden Alcantara, union president of the NXP Semiconductors Company Workers Union (NXPSCIWU) and concurrent national president of MWAP, said that the NXP management treated the absence of the workers on these particular holidays as concerted actions of the union in relation to their CBA fight.

“The termination of all union officials is yet another harassment of the NXP management to force us to give up on our just CBA demands to improve the lot of the workers,” said Alcantara.  “The management is trying hard to bust our union and the dismissal of the officers is meant to sow fear among the workers and threaten them against supporting the union,” he added.

Prior to the dismissal, Alcantara said that the management also harassed the peaceful concerted actions of the workers, such as the protest march in front of the gates of the industrial enclave.  Security guards were deployed in shuttle buses and the workers were barred from getting off from the buses to prevent them from participating in the union activity.  The workers were forced to jump from the windows of the buses so they can get out and join the protest-march.  In another incident, the workers’ peaceful concerted action was met by a heavy deployment of ERP personnel and a fire truck.

The CBA negotiation between the NXP management and union started in January this year and already had 23 negotiation sessions.  The union is demanding for an 8% increase in wages while the company stopped its offer at 3.5% increase, which is only half of the hike given to the workers in their last CBA. .  The management has twice declared a deadlock and decided to seek a 3rd-party negotiator.

Alcantara also hit the government for conspiring with the management.  He said that the Light Industry and Science Park (LISP) administration elevated the issue to the office of Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz in an apparent bid to pressure the workers to stop fighting for their rights.  On April 16, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) called for an emergency meeting between the NXP management and the union to discuss the alleged April 9 concerted action.  The union used the meeting to also raise the issue of the delay in the payment of wages of 1,700 contractual workers in NXP.   The contractual workers have not received their wages for two months already and the management is using the CBA negotiation as a reason for the delay in the release of wages.  But instead of resolving the issue, the union noted that the DOLE undersecretaries who sat in the meeting warned them that the union officials will be dismissed from work.

“The management, in collusion with the government, is working hard to bust our union, as it is one of the few unions inside the export processing zones and industrial enclaves.  They are hitting us hard because we were able to establish and strengthen our union despite the “no-union, no-strike” policy inside the EPZs and enclaves,” said Alcantara. 

“We will not allow them to take back this hard-won victory of the NXP workers,” vowed Alcantara.  He said that they will counter the management’s harassment by further educating their members and consolidating their ranks.  The union has already conducted shifting meetings today and held a protest march towards the gate of the industrial enclave.  The union called on their fellow workers to support their fight.

Meanwhile, the MWAP called for the immediate reinstatement of the 24 dismissed union officers.  It called on the management to stop harassing the workers and respect their rights to conduct peaceful actions.  It also urged the company to immediately sit down with the workers and resume the CBA negotiations.  MWAP expressed its full support for the union and said that it is prepared to launch a campaign on the NXP fight both at the local and international arenas.