Two days after being mauled by the Hotel’s security guards during a peaceful picket protest, the workers of Hyatt Regency Manila is now on strike!

At exactly 2:30 this morning, 210 rank and file workers of the plush Hotel in Pasay City went on strike in response to the Hotel management’s unjustified mass lay-off. The workers, belonging to the National Union of Workers in Hotel Restaurant and Allied Industries (NUWHRAIN-APL-IUF), asserts that the mass lay-off is merely a pretext to bust the union since the Hotel management has yet to prove its claims of financial losses and has started hiring contractual workers. There is widespread suspicion that this is the Hotel’s way of getting back at the Union for demanding at least 1.3 million undistributed service charge collections from 1999 to 2001.

Last 5 May 2002, the Hotel sacked 48 regular rank and file workers. Yet the very next day, the Hotel hired 60 contractual employees through 3 manning agencies. Meanwhile, the Hotel management insists on filling up positions previously vacated by regular employees with casual workers.

As early as January of this year, the Union, in the absence of any evidence of financial losses, has strongly registered its opposition to the Hotel management’s plan of reducing regular rank and file employees from 248 to 150. The fact is, in 1999, the Hotel earned P35 million pesos while in 2000 it earned P39 million pesos. Suspiciously, the Hotel continues to ignore the Union’s repeated demands for its financial statement in 2001. The Union believes that despite the political crisis, the Hotel profited in 2001.

To make matters worse, the Hotel also ignored the Union’s offer to take what amounted to pay cuts to avoid retrenchments so long as management can show proof of financial losses. The Union’s proposal for cost saving measures even included taking 30-day vacation leaves without pay and a 5-day working period

Failing to arrive at an amicable settlement, the Union filed a Notice of Strike (NOS) last 12 April 2002 for unfair labor practices, including CBA violations.

The mass lay-off is a clear violation of the Hotel’s Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) with the Union which specifically prohibits the contracting out of jobs occupied by regular employees. Article IV, Section IV of the CBA states that:

“The Hotel shall not contract out services being performed by the regular rank and file employee when the same will interfere with, restrain or coerce employees in the exercise of the right to self-organization.”

It should be noted that Article 248 of the Philippine Labor Code also covers this prohibition.

Obviously, the mass lay-off has no basis. The Hotel is not operating at a loss and it appears that it is even in need of more workers! This begs the question: Why would management resort to illegally terminating its regular workforce? The answer is simple: to bust the Union which has uncovered at least 1.3 million undistributed service charge collections from 1999 to 2001!

The Labor Code stipulates that 85% of all service charge collections shall be distributed to the workers while 15% shall be used to cover breakages and losses. In the case of Hyatt Regency, the CBA provides that 95% shall be distributed to workers while 5% shall cover breakages and losses.

The strike in Hyatt Regency Manila is a struggle not just to prevent the illegal termination of 48 regular rank and file workers but to defend the worker’s constitutional right to self-organization!

It is for this reason that the Union enjoins the general public, especially the Hotel’s valued guests, to refrain from patronizing Hyatt Regency Manila until all the illegally terminated workers are fully reinstated.

The Union urges Jose Mari Chan, President of Hotel Enterprises of the Philippines, Inc. (HEPI), owner of the Hyatt Regency Manila, to direct the Hotel’s management to heed the rightful demands of the Union.

Finally, the Union urges the Secretary of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Patricia Santo Tomas, to restrain from assuming jurisdiction over this labor row especially if such an action would not result to the immediate physical reinstatement of all illegally terminated workers.

NUWHRAIN is a founding member of the Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL) and is affiliated to the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations (IUF) based in Geneva, Switzerland.

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