March 11, 2004
ABOUT 600 workers, mostly women, were locked out without prior notice on March 8 – the International Women’s Day – for trying to organize a union in a garments factory in the Philippines that makes products for transnational corporations.
Workers reporting for the 7 a.m. shift were rudely prevented by security guards from entering the premises of Advance Fashion Inc. located at the Sterling Industrial Park in Meycauayan town in Bulacan, a province north of Metro Manila.
Advance Fashion is a subsidiary of Philippine Luen Thai Holding Corp., a TNC, and a subcontractor of international brands of clothing like Liz Claiborne, Calvin Klein, Polo, Nautica, Chaps, and Alex Canon.
This company has been imposing high production quotas for each worker who only receives a measly P228 or about US$4 daily wage. Those who fail to meet the quota are suspended for 15-30 days.
Although there is an incentive scheme, it is practically useless as the production requirement is constantly kept at a very high level, the union said.
The Pinag-isang Tinig at Lakas ng Anakpawis or Piglas, a trade union federation that helped organize the Advance Fashion workers, said that their efforts to form a union is the only reason for the management’s lockout. (The federation’s name is roughly translated as Unified Voice and Strength of the Working Class, and its acronym is a Filipino word for “struggle.”)
Various forms of management harassment against the workers followed after the filing last March 2 of a petition for certification election or PCE, which would allow them to vote for the formal establishment of a union.
The company has intensified its moves to stop the growing support for the union when the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) agreed to hold the first PCE hearing on March 18.
Workers were ordered to withdraw their support for the union drive and a large number of them were arbitrarily suspended. This prompted the union to file a notice of strike on March 5, Piglas reported.
Apparently to thwart the union clamor and the impending strike, management has reportedly transferred 10,000 cut goods and some machinery to a factory inside the Reproductive Center, an industrial park in Concepcion town in Tarlac province.
This Concepcion firm, the Golden Dragon Apparel, is allegedly owned by Willie Tan, a Hong Kong-based Filipino-American-Chinese and one of the Advance Fashion owners, who also include a British and three Filipino businessmen in Tarlac.
Piglas is an affiliate of the Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL), a Philippine labor center of formal and informal workers, and the International Textile, Garment and Leather Workers’ Federation (ITGLWF).
The workers in Advance Fashion as well as Piglas and APL have vowed to fight these blatant and illegal union-busting actions of management. To make it more effective, they are also asking for support from the global labor and social movements to pressure the company and its TNC business partners to respect the labor and trade union rights of the Advance Fashion workers.