16 October, 2017532 activists and members have been fired from Amertron Incorporated Philippines after forming a union.
The workers are members of IndustriALL Global Union affiliate, Associated Labor Unions (ALU). Amertron is semiconductor and optoelectronics producer, producing technology for smartphones, the auto industry and aircraft. Major clients include Hewlett-Packard, Siemens and Osram. The Malaysian-based parent company, Inari Amertron Berhad, has production facilities in Malaysia, the Philippines and China.
There are two factories in the Philippines, Clark and Parañaque. The Parañaque plant has been in operation since 1988, and employs around 700 people, about 550 of whom are women. The Clark factory was opened in 2012 in the special economic zone of Clark Freeport. It employs about 2,000 workers.
There have been ongoing issues at Parañaque with poor wages. The majority of workers have ten or more years of service, but receive only US $10 per day. To represent their interests, workers at Amertron formed a union, the United Amertronians Organization (UAO) in January 2017. In June, the company announced its intention to shut the Parañaque plant and transfer production to more modern facilities at Clark, 120km away, by 2019.
Workers were given the option to transfer their employment to Clark, or accept a standard severance package, in line with Filipino labour law.
In July, the UAO affiliated to the ALU and submitted registration documents to the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE). To improve their bargaining position and achieve a fair severance package, on 15 August, the union filed a request with DOLE to be recognized as the sole bargaining agent at the company.
At this point, the company began harassing union officers and members. Workers were called into one on one or department meetings, and threatened with blacklisting and losing their severance pay if they didn’t leave the union. Union officers were offered bribes to leave the union, and two officers were suspended for distributing union leaflets.
When the union filed a complaint with DOLE of unfair labour practice and union-busting, the company responded with the mass layoffs of union members. On 21 and 22 September, around 300 workers were laid off. Although the company claims this is due to shifting production to Clark, that process is only due to be completed in 2019. Production at Parañaque continues, with the company hiring agency labour to replace the fired union members.
The company has now terminated a total of 532 union members, who have been denied access to the workplace. The workers are holding regular protests outside the company premises.
IndustriALL general secretary Valter Sanches wrote to the CEO of Amertron, saying:
“We are extremely concerned and outraged to learn of Amertron Incorporated Philippines’s gross violation of trade union rights, including sheer acts of intimidation and harassment committed by management to weaken the resolve of the workers to form a union to better their working conditions. Instead of heeding the call of ALU to respect workers’ rights, your subsidiary served notices of termination to all union officers and members, and abruptly barred workers to enter the premises due to alleged factory closure.
“Therefore, I strongly urge you to reinstate right away all the unfairly dismissed union officers and members, stop harassing the workers, and respect the right to organize and bargain collectively.”